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Stopping the weight gain: Middle-age spread

Is increasing age an excuse for middle-age spread or is it a reason?

Most of the belt-busting hot spots seem weighted towards women, but it would seem men do some catching up when it comes to middle age (mid-40s onwards).

Most of us now have a picture in our mind of the pot-bellied, beer swilling gentleman, for which I apologise. Not only is this unattractive, but also unhealthy. Gaining weight around the stomach is associated with greater health risks because the fat is collecting around vital organs such as the heart, liver and kidneys. Diabetes, heart disease and stroke are far more common amongst these 'apple-shaped' individuals, than in 'pear-shaped' women who accumulate extra fat on the hips and thighs.

But is increasing age an excuse for middle-age spread or a reason? In theory, this is an age at which to be content, having found your direction in life and become financially secure (for those with dollar-sapping children leaving home). In a similar way to the early days of marriage, contentment carries kilos.

Energy-burning night-clubbing has been replaced with energy-dense dinners and enjoying the finer things of life. Creaky joints and less willing muscles make exercise more of an effort, but more of an effort is just what's needed. The rate at which we burn off energy is reducing with increasing age, so keeping active is more important now than ever before. You can no longer 'get away with it'. Find an activity you enjoy. Walking, swimming, cycling, gym sessions – they are all accessible to any age group.

Pumping iron may not usually be associated with women at this age, but research in the US has found weight training beneficial in reducing body fat, particularly for those women collecting some of their fat around the usually male domain of the stomach.

Don't go it alone though, starting any exercise programme should be done with advice – from a strapping young fitness instructor perhaps?

  • Choose carefully when dining out. Enjoy two courses rather than three. For more information on choosing healthy meals when dining out, read The secrets of eating out healthily: Restaurants and cafés.
  • Gone are the days of needing to glaze vegetables with butter or heavy sauces. Cream is no longer the expected norm with dessert. Enjoy the simplicity of modern-day food styles.
  • Your days of competitive sport need not be over yet, but if you have been forced to hang up your boots, find another activity you enjoy. It is essential to burn off the excess kilojoules to prevent that waistband getting tighter.
  • Look at those of the same age around you. There'll be those you admire for how well they've 'aged'. Be inspired; if they can do it, so can you.

Date modified: 3 April 2017
First published: Feb 2007


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