A thicker waist is inevitable as we age, right? Not necessarily. Here’s how to help stop a barrel belly…
It’s an infuriating milestone, the day you look down and notice a growing spare tyre, even though you haven’t been doing anything differently.
Blame your Hormones.
As their levels fall, so does your metabolism, meaning you burn less energy and store more fat. Thanks to falling oestrogen and progesterone levels leading up to and after menopause, that extra fat is stored around your middle.
Falling hormones also lead to a reduction in muscle mass, because muscle tissue burns glucose in your body, a reduced amount means more glucose being stored as fat around your tummy.
It’s not just how it looks that matters. Excess barrel belly fat has been linked to an increased risk of some cancers, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. So, what can you do?
Cardiovascular exercise (which leaves you slightly breathless) is crucial in helping to burn belly fat and tone muscle. Try walking, running, swimming, cycling, dancing or racquet sports for 30 minutes at least five times a week. Incorporate ‘intervals’, where you change the pace from moderate to high intensity, to increase the calories burned.
Even simply moving around more can help. Take the stairs instead of the lift, walk to the shops instead of taking the car or simply stand up and pace when you’re on the phone instead of sitting down. Every little helps.
Make sure you do some muscle building exercise, too. It’s increasingly important as you age and your muscle mass falls. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn even when you’re not moving. Try some light weightlifting three times a week.
You don’t need to join a gym although that can be helpful. You can use mini weights (or cans of food) at home.
Or use your own body weight try squats or push ups (against a wall if against the floor is too challenging). Try 12 repetitions for each exercise. If you’re looking to use the optimum hand weight for your strength and ability, you should comfortably manage the weight for eight repetitions but be suitably exhausted by the time you’ve completed the full 12.
You may find that you need to adjust the amount you eat to counteract your slowing metabolism. Watch your portion size, advise doctors. Use a smaller plate and fill it with more veg, pulse, wholegrains and fewer fatty/sugary foods. Check labels of menus if you’re eating out.
Don’t forget about alcohol: a single 175ml glass of dry white wine contains around 160 calories!
Try cutting back on carbohydates, especially refined ones, such as white bread, pasta and rice as well as pastries and cakes. Increase your intake of protein (fish, nuts, dairy and lean meat) as you need it to build muscle.
Aim to include protein at each of your daily meals.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) can help reduce abdominal fat and improve sleep by replacing hormones lost around menopause, but there can be health risks associated with certain types, including breast cancer, stroke and blood clots. So talk to your GP about your personal situation and potential risks.
As stress levels rise, so do levels of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, which provide you with glucose for the ‘fight or flight’ response. In our modern day lives, stressful situations are more likely to involve things like getting stuck in traffic, rather than anything that requires sudden intense activity, so the excess energy isn’t burnt up. These stress levels are elevated over longer periods, this results in the fat settling around your tummy. Plus, when we’re stressed, we’re more likely to make poor food choices, such as refined carbs and sugar, or drink too much alcohol. Managing stress levels is key to avoiding the release of too many stress hormones. Try relaxation techniques, such as mindfulness, yoga and tai chi. Research in the States suggests that doing yoga for just 30 minutes a week can help prevent middle aged spread.
Research suggests that getting less than seven hours’ shuteye a night raises the risk of obesity and disrupts the body’s circadian rhythms. These regulate biological and behavioural processes, affecting appetite, metabolism and how you lay down fat.
As we age, we become less efficient at producing sleep-inducing chemicals such as melatonin, so getting enough sleep may become problematic.
Experts say, you may need to think more about your bedroom environment and lifestyle choices to boost sleep quality and quantity! They advise you to:
* Keep your bed for sleep and sex, no phones or TV.
* Have a set ‘winding-down’ routine nightly.
* Switch off electronic devices at least an hour before bed.
*Go to bed and get up at the same time each day.
Try 12 repetitions of each of these. if you struggle to complete them all, start with less and build up to 12.
1. SIDE CRUNCH
Lie on your right side, propped up on one elbow, aligned with the same shoulder. Put your left hand behind your head and bend your knees, feet off the floor. Draw your knees and left elbow towards each other. Hold for a second then release. Do a set of 12 before swapping sides and repeating.
2. BEAR CRAWL
Get on to all fours (legs Straight, only hands and toes touching the floor). With a straight back, looking at the floor, take 12 crawling steps.
3. TWISTING KNEE LIFT
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your arms up and out to your sides, fingertips touching your temples. Twist your body to the right and raise your right knee. Return to your starting position then repeat on the other side. Do a set of 12 repetitions on each side.
Just remember: consult your doctor or a physiotherapist before doing any new exercise routine.
E281 – Diabetic Avoid A Middle-Aged Barrel Belly! – www.diabetic.today