“Older women need 1-hour workouts to fend off flab” Really?

A while ago, the headline in the local newspaper stated: “Older women need 1-hour workouts to fend off flab”  Wow!

The first time I heard about it, someone merely mentioned that there was an article about a study that said that middle-aged women have to workout 1 hour per day to be able to keep their weight constant. The more I heard about it, the more dramatic and gloomy it got. By the end, pretty much if you were a woman 54-years and older, you would have to workout like a maniac for 1 hour per day or be doomed to a future of constant weight gain. Who has time to workout that much? I don’t think I can do that! Well, I might as well don’t bother!…..Panic!!!

Neverfear… Of course I couldn’t help myself but dig a little deeper, find the actual research paper, read the findings from the source itself and find out if the results of this study really that drastic.

So here are my findings:

The actual research paper, Physical Activity and Weight Gain Prevention, was published 24 March 2010 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study was conducted over 13 years and involved 34 079 healthy US women with a mean age of 54.2 years. The goal of the study was “to examine the association or different amounts of physical activity with long-term weight changes among women consuming a usual diet”

Physical activity was defined as recreational activities to include walking, hiking, jogging, running, bicycling, aerobic exercise, dance, use of exercise machines, yoga, stretching, toning, tennis, squash, racquetball, and swimming. There is no mention of what “usual diet” means, so one can make an educated guess that it consists of the USDA’s dietary guidelines, but as I said, the research paper does not specify.

There are two main findings of the study:

(1) The rate of weight gain in this study was 2.6 kg (roughly 5 lbs) over 13 years. (I don’t want to take away from the importance of minimizing weight gain, but the impression I got from the hearsay, was that unless you workout for 1 hour per day, your weight will be out of control. 5 lbs over 13 years is definitely not out of control)

(2) Physical activity (consisting of 60 min/day of moderate-intensity physical activity) was associated with less weight gain only for women with a BMI of <25. For overweight participants, physical activity was not associated with less weight gain. (Translation: those women that took care of themselves before their 50’s had much more success)

So what does that mean for you? Are you doomed to endless weight gain unless you become an exercise fanatic? Absolutely not!!

Short version:

The key is how you treat your body throughout life not at a specific age! Eat healthy and don’t wait until 54 to start exercising! J If you take care of yourself throughout your life and incorporate good health behaviors into your daily life, you have nothing to worry about.

The slightly longer version:

–       Weight gain happens when more calories are consumed than used, no matter the gender and age. With age, activity levels tend to decrease, which demands a decrease in caloric consumption. If that doesn’t happen, you will gain weight!

–       Age-related loss of muscle, also called sarcopenia, affects everyone and causes our metabolism to slow down. Less muscle = less calories burned. This highlights again the importance of resistance training in combating muscle wasting and keeping your body working as efficient as possible.

 

Healthy nutrition and regular physical activity are a MUST –

No matter your age or gender!

Be good to your body and it will be good to you!!!

 

 

Reference:

Lee, I-M., Djousse, L., Sesso, H.D., Wang, L., Buring, J.E. (2010). Physical Activity and Weight Gain Prevention. JAMA, (303)12; 1173-1180.

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