For many women going through menopause, weight gain can be incredibly frustrating. No matter how many salads they eat or walks they take, the number on the scale keeps creeping upward. What is it about a woman's changing metabolism that increases her tendency to put on weight? Is it just the fact that we are getting older or does menopause itself play a part in weight gain?

Essentially, a woman's tendency to put on weight during menopause is the result of decreasing estrogen levels. Estrogen loss causes several different health problems, one of which is a decrease in muscle mass. Since muscle burns more calories than fat, losing muscle means that fewer calories are burned doing the same amount of exercise. The harder it is to burn calories, the easier it is to put on weight. Since decreasing estrogen levels are one symptom of menopause, the resulting weight gain is also very common.

While decreasing estrogen levels definitely play a major part in menopausal weight gain, there are other factors involved. Many additional changes occur during this time of a woman's life that can also contribute to weight gain. Lives get busy, stress levels rise, and finding time to exercise may become difficult. Sixty percent of adults aren't active enough, and this number increases with age. The more active you are, the less likely you are to put on pounds during menopause. Exercise also helps reduce stress, keeps joints and muscles strong, and may help relieve symptoms of depression. Combine cardio building forms of exercise like walking or riding a bike with light weights and resistance work to help build muscle mass.

Remember that calories are burned whenever we are doing physical activity. A formal workout is only one way to work off extra calories. Park farther away during your next shopping trip and get a few more steps into your daily life. Washing the car, vacuuming the house, and going for a walk all burn calories and may fit into your schedule better than trying to find time to go to the gym. Exercise moderately for at least 30 minutes most, if not all, days of the week.

Make sure to talk to your doctor about your new exercise routine. Get his or her OK before starting anything strenuous. If you lack in motivation, look for a workout buddy and see if anyone wants to exercise with you a few days a week. Also, make sure you invest in a good pair of workout shoes and warm up properly to avoid injury.

While weight gain is certainly common in menopausal women, there are ways to fight those inches around the waistline!

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