It’s easy as we reach middle age to find that weight gain creeps up on us, especially as we go through menopause. And as that happens, it can become become oh so tempting (and easy) to leave exercise behind, especially if we become obese.
That’s the finding from a new study out of the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In this study, researchers found that women who are chronically obese often participate in progressively less routine physical exercise.
This study involved more than 250 middle-age women who lived in the Mountain West region of the United States. Approximately half had been identified as obese.
These women were then asked to wear belt-strapped accelerometers, which measured the movement of various accelerations and intensities. The study participants wore these straps throughout their days, with the exception of when they were going to be bathing or otherwise be in water. Thus, the women ended up wearing the accelerometers for approximately 14 hours out of a 15-hour daytime period between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., allowing researchers to track whether they participate in light, moderate or vigorous physical activity.
The researchers also assessed the participants’ body composition at the start of the study and then 290 months later. Following the second assessment, women were asked to again wear the accelerometers for a week.
The researchers found that physical activity among obese participants dropped by the equivalent of 28 active minutes per week, which resulted in an eight-percent overall during the 20-month study period. In comparison, women who were not obese did not have a decrease in their physical activity routines.
"Our study suggests that obesity likely increases the risk of reducing physical activity levels in women," said Dr. Jared Tucker, a senior epidemiologist at the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital and the study’s lead researcher. "Therefore, it appears that physical inactivity and obesity may be involved in a feedback loop, in which lower levels of activity lead to weight gain, which then leads to lower levels of activity."
However, being obese (having a body mass index of 30 or higher) or overweight (having a body mass index of 25 or higher) have been ties to increased risks of a number of conditions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these conditions include:
- Coronary heart disease.
- Type 2 diabetes.
- Endometrial, breast and colon cancer.
- Hypertension (high blood pressure).
- Dyslipidemia – This is when the levels of lipids (which are fats that together with proteins and carbohydrates make up living cells) are too high. The most common types of this condition, according to the Hormone Health Network, are high levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL or the bad form), low levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL or the good form), or high levels of triglycerides.
- Liver and gallbladder disease.
- Sleep apnea.
- Respiratory problems.
- Osteoarthritis, which is a degeneration of cartilage as well as the underlying bone within a joint.
- Gynecological issues, such as abnormal periods and infertility.
The CDC notes that being obese or overweight is caused by an energy imbalance in which too many calories are eaten and not enough calories are expanded through physical activity. Body weight can be caused by a variety of factors, including genes, metabolism, behavior, environment, culture and socioeconomic status. However, as the study I mentioned earlier points out, behavior plays a large role in a person becoming overweight and obese. Environment also is a factor. Therefore the CDC believes it’s important to create environments (such as your home and workplace setting) where it’s easy to engage in physical activity and eat a healthy diet.
There are lots of programs that are out there to help you lose weight, so obviously feel free to do your research about whether one is right for you. But I think the take-away from this sharepost is that physical activity needs to be part of every older woman’s life if she wants to remain healthy.
Primary Sources for This Sharepost:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012). Overweight and obesity.
Hormone Health Network. (2010). Dyslipidemia.
MedlinePlus. (2013). Obesity does slow people down, study confirms.
Published On: April 11, 2013