How Much Exercise Do You Need to Prevent Middle-Age Weight Gain?

It creeps up on you slowly, but most people eventually have to contend with age-related weight gain, at least to some degree. Usually the extra pounds find their way to the hips and abdomen during the third decade of life, giving rise to the dreaded middle-age spread. The average woman gains about 1.5 pounds yearly from her late 20’s to her early 60’s. That’s a lot of weight. But is it inevitable? Can exercise and a healthy diet prevent middle-age weight gain?

Preventing Weight Gain with Age: How Much Exercise Do You Need?

Being active and exercising even for short periods of time may reduce the risk of some diseases, but to ward off middle-age weight gain, you’ll need to work a little harder.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the average woman needs to work out at a moderate intensity for at least an hour a day. Sound like a lot? There’s more bad news. Women who are already overweight need to exercise an hour a day - as well as cut back on calories to avoid weight gain with age.

Middle-Age Weight Gain and Exercise

This study implies that a woman of normal weight needs at least an hour of moderate-intensity exercise a day, but recent studies show that shorter, high-intensity workouts actually burn more calories and fat.

High-intensity exercise increases the production of fat-burning hormones such as growth hormone and epinephrine better than moderate-intensity exercise does. Instead of doing an hour of brisk walking, a woman would do thirty minutes of “interval training” - alternating one minute of walking with one minute of jogging or running. This may ultimately be better for minimizing weight gain with age than an hour of exercise at a more moderate pace.

Strength training using weights or resistance bands is also important for keeping those unwanted pounds at bay. Strength training causes the body to pump out more fat-burning hormones - and it boosts metabolism by increasing lean body mass. A woman who lifts weights won’t get bulky; she’ll just get firmer with less loose, flabby tissue.

Weight Gain with Age: The Bottom Line?

If you don’t change your diet and don’t exercise, you may end up 40 pounds heavier in your early sixties than you were at thirty. That extra fat is not only hard to carry around; it increases the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and even Alzheimer’s disease. So put on your exercise shoes and pack a punch against middle-age weight gain.


Medical News Today. “The Exercise Files: Gender Differences in Exercise”
UVA Today website. “U.Va. Study: High-Intensity Exercise Best for Improving Body Composition”