Aging Overweight Women Need More Exercise to Maintain Weight

Overweight women who are past menopause have a harder time keeping off extra pounds than their thinner counterparts, research shows.

A new study conducted by Harvard Medical School finds that more exercise may be needed for overweight women to shed unwanted pounds than previously thought.

Researchers analyzed the data of 34,079 women who were a part of the long-term Women’s Health Study. The average age of the participants was 54, and each reported her body weight and level of physical activity every one to three years between 1992 and 2007. Participants were also required to note any matter that could result in a change between the link of physical activity and weight gain, like alcohol use, diet, or smoking.

The women were separated into three groups based on their reported level of physical activity per week, in order to determine how much physical activity was needed to prevent long-term weight gain when they ate a normal diet.

Overall, women gained an average of 5.7 lbs. throughout the 13 year study. The only women who were able to keep their weight increase within five pounds were those who exercised an hour a day, and started with a healthy weight. Surprisingly, women who were heavier at the start of the research gained more weight, regardless of how active they became.

Lead researcher I-Min Lee, M.B.B.S., Sc.D., of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, said, “If you’re a healthy weight and you want to prevent weight gain over time, you need to be physically active at least 60 minutes a day.”

The study also suggests that the federal recommendation for 150 minutes of physical activity per week is not enough to prevent older women from gaining weight if they are not also cutting calories. The authors noted that in women who are already overweight after menopause, reducing their caloric intake and exercising for more than 60 minutes each day is the only way to shed excess pounds and maintain a healthy weight.