By Dr. Kate Gregorevic

For most women in their forties and beyond, life is a juggle between kids, aging parents and work while occasionally managing to see a friend. And when your own health ends up at the bottom of the to-do list, it’s no wonder that those pesky pounds just keep creeping on. Right in the middle of this comes the hormonal changes of menopause, but does menopause actually cause weight gain?

Women in their forties gain an average of 0.5kg per year, but this is actually not related to menopause. In a study of 16,000 women in the USA weight gain was actually no different whether women were pre or post menopause, meaning that it was other factors in life contributing to weight gain. So if it’s not menopause causing this weight gain, what is it?

In one really interesting study of female identical twins where one twin weighed significantly more than the other, physical activity was associated with a lower weight. It’s important to note that in this study, physical activity and weight were measured at the same time, so it doesn’t prove causation. This correlates with other studies that also show that physical activity drops off.

The changes in hormones and drop in oestrogen are associated with changes in fat distribution changes from being on the buttocks and hips to the abdomen. Since abdominal fat has different metabolic properties, this may explain why women’s risk of heart disease and diabetes goes up after menopause.

Another change that occurs from our forties and beyond is that with ageing, muscle mass starts to decrease, so even if weight is stable, body composition is changing. This loss of muscle mass can cause serious problems in older age because it is linked with a decline in strength that is essential for day-to-day tasks.

The problem with a weight loss program at this age is that without doing resistance training, losing weight usually means losing muscle, which can mean losing strength. If the weight lost is muscle, being lighter won’t necessarily mean being healthier. This is why we have created an exercise and health program for women in their forties and beyond that is all about function and strength, rather than numbers on a scale.

Project Three Six Twelve is a twelve week resistance training, mindfulness and wellbeing course created by Dr Kate Gregorevic, a doctor with a specialisation in aging, and Cassandra Smith, exercise physiologist and leading researcher in muscle and bond changes with age. At Project Three Six Twelve we have created a space where we focus on what women can do rather than weight.

Our course focuses on building strength and lean muscle mass, within a holistic approach to health. Our program has three components with at home resistance training, tai chi for moving meditation and education. We have an approach to nutrition that is about using delicious food to feel well, rather than restriction.

We are getting ready to launch in January, so to find out about our special offers for founding members, sign up to our facebook page or join our weekly newsletter. We would love to see you in our community!

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