Preventing weight gain in women as they age

March 23, 2010 3:51:29 PM PDT
For many women, going into middle age also means going into a heavier weight class and competing in the battle of the bulge. Fighting it means commitment, according to a new study.

Ask a woman at 50 if she would like to keep additional weight off, and most likely she will say yes. However, most women gain weight as they age. One Harvard professor set out to find how to avoid it.

Dr. I-Min Lee looked at the role of physically activity in preventing weight gain in women.

"If you want to prevent your weight gain over time, you need to be physically active at the level of 60 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity," Dr. Lee said. "So the equivalent of one hour a day of brisk walking or 30 minutes a day of jogging or running."

Most classes geared toward women over 50 attempt to fulfill that daily 60-minute requirement.

"I would be willing to do it if it was going to maintain my weight and keep my health," gym-goer Jane Davern said.

Dr. Lee, from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and co-authors studied more than 34,000 women starting at an average age of 54, following and updating their activity level for 13 years. The women were divided into three groups - those exercising 60, 30 and less than 30 minutes daily.

"These two lesser activity groups of women were significantly more likely to gain weight compared to the most active group of women," Dr. Lee said. "The women who were overweight or obese, physical activity, with the range done in the study, was not sufficient to control their weight."

"I have to watch what I eat, and I am trying to lose the weight and exercise," Debbie Reppucci said. "Diet and exercise, that what my goal is."

The study is published in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association. For women who were heavier to start with, the 60 minutes of daily exercise might not the enough to keep pounds away. They might also need calorie control. But they should still be encouraged to start or continue to exercise at this level. Exercise is also important in lowering risk for diabetes, cancer and heart disease.