Exercise and weight loss after menopause

Regular exercise is a good New Year resolution

A study carried out in 1997 at the University of Colorado shows that exercise can play a vital part in achieving and maintaining weight loss during and after the menopause. Therefore, making resolution, whether for the New Year or at any other time, to keep up a program of regular exercise is a valuable contribution to keeping post-menopausal weight gain at bay.

Resolve to exercise and lose weight after menopause

This postcard from 1909 sums up the fate of many New Year resolutions. However, if you keep one, make it the one to exercise regularly.
(Public domain image: the publication date means any copyright has expired.)

Metabolic rate decreases as women get older

The authors started from the known fact that women tend to put on weight and increase their proportion of body fat as they get older, especially after the menopause. This is partly due to a decrease in physical activity. However, the resting metabolic rate also decreases as women get older. This is the rate at which the body burns calories when a person sits or lies quietly.

The resting metabolic rate uses 60-75% of the total amount of energy that is used for all activities. Women who exercise regularly tend not to put on weight as they get older, nor does their percent body fat increase. The authors therefore decided to test what effect regular exercise has on the resting metabolic rate, especially after the menopause.

They compared premenopausal women aged 21-35 with postmenopausal women aged 50-72. In the younger group, 12 women did no exercise and 13 did distance running. In the older group, 15 did no exercise, 15 did distance running and 10 did endurance swimming. Half of the postmenopausal women were on HRT.

In the non-exercising group, the average resting metabolic rate of the older women was 52 calories/hour about 10% lower than than of the younger women, which was 57 calories/hour. This meant that if the older women did not compensate for their lower energy use by eating less, they would put on approximately 9 lbs in weight every year!

Women who exercise keep their youthful metabolism and stay slimmer

However, there was no real difference between the resting metabolism rates of younger runners (59 calories/hour) and older runners or swimmers (57 calories/hour in both cases). There was also no real difference between the resting metabolic rates of younger women who did not exercised and those who ran.

As well as all the other benefits it provides, regular exercise will help in achieving and maintaining weight loss after the menopause simply by its effect on resting metabolism. Women who exercise in their 50s onwards will not have to compensate for decreased metabolism by eating less of the things they like.

For a low-impact activity that provides one of the best cardiovascular workouts, you cannot beat Nordic walking.


Regular Exercise and the Age-Related Decline in Resting Metabolic Rate in Women
by Rachael E. Van Pelt, Pamela P. Jones, Kevin P. Davy, Christopher A. DeSouza, Hirofumi Tanaka, Brenda M. Davy and Douglas R. Seals
published in: The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism October 1, 1997, vol. 82 no. 10, pages 3208-3212

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