Researchers at the University of Missouri may have figured out one reason why women gain weight after menopause. It’s not necessarily because they’re eating more. It’s because they’re exercising less.
Why the decline in motivation?
And that lifestyle change may reflect the influence of the lack of ovarian hormones on the brain’s pleasure center. Motivation for exercise is lodged in the pleasure center, the researchers explain, and they have shown a loss of ovarian hormones has an effect on physical activity, at least in rats.
They studied highly fit rats that spent a lot of time on running wheels in their cages. When the animals’ ovaries were removed, they became less inclined to exercise. This change correlated with a reduction in dopamine signaling levels, an indication that the brain’s pleasure center was involved in the rats’ motivation to use their running wheels.
Lead researcher Victoria J. Vieira-Potter said the findings support previous evidence in both humans and rodents that post-menopausal weight gain is likely due to decreased physical activity rather than eating more. She suggested that the study’s findings may lead to interventions to restore women’s motivation to exercise after menopause.
My take? There’s no question that many women gain weight after menopause, but the problem may have more to do with age than hormones. As we get older, we need fewer calories because there’s a shift from lean muscle mass to fat, and a consequent slowdown in metabolism.
Women who want to maintain an ideal weight after menopause need to cut back their food intake by about 200 calories per day. The notion that the lack of ovarian hormones sap women’s motivation to exercise is interesting, but we’ll have to wait and see whether or not it leads to a practical solution.
Meanwhile, there’s little doubt that most women who prudently cut back on calories and exercise regularly can manage to maintain their pre-menopausal weight.
The increased fat deposits at menopause are often related to excess oestrogen, known as oestrogen dominance. There is no doubt that a sensible diet and some exercise will make a big difference, as will getting hormones back in balance.
A Little Exercise = Bigger Benefits For Midlife Women
The Diet To Help Beat Oestrogen Dominance