Winning the Battle of the Middle-Age Bulge
Winning the Battle of the Middle-Age Bulge
Written by Larissa Banting Staff

If you’re feeling like the numbers on the scale are creeping upwards despite your workout routines and healthy eating, it’s not you, it’s your hormones, assures Alicia Jones, certified fitness and weight loss coach for women over 50. Not all routines and dietary plans are equal, especially as your body ages, and the wrong workout coupled with a change in hormones can frustrate even the most loyal of gym-goers.

“The most important thing you can do is work with the body that you have at this moment,” Jones explains. “What worked for your body when it was 20 years old isn’t going to be effective for your 50-year-old or 70-year-old body. This is the problem I see over and over, with women starting fitness routines or meal plans that may have worked for them when they were younger, then getting frustrated that it’s not working for them anymore.”

Jones holds her degree in Kinesiology and traces her interest in helping women over 50 with fitness to her grandmother. Being a time when smoking was popular, her grandmother was a smoker and unfortunately, developed a host of health problems due to her habit, including emphysema. Jones’ mother, however, was the picture of health, working out regularly while living a clean lifestyle. The vast difference in energy and health she witnessed between the two ladies encouraged her to help other women get the most out of life by being fit, regardless of their age or abilities. 

The Skinny on Hormones

As women age, they begin to experience hormonal changes, the main one being a drop in estrogen, which then triggers the adrenal glands to try to make more estrogen which ends up taxing the body. 

“People think that doing long, high stress and intense workouts are the way to lose weight and get fit,” she explains. “But for older women, this is counterproductive, as you may end up increasing or deregulating your cortisol levels, which cause even greater hormonal imbalances, making the body hold more fat, especially around the waist.”

The results of these imbalances? 

“You may become more prone to insulin resistance and hormonal fluctuations, which can cause a host of other health problems, “ Jones notes. “You want to make sure your workouts are tailored for where your hormones are right now so that you can balance them.”

Lowered estrogen levels also affect bone density, which can lead to osteoporosis. While studies show it’s difficult to increase bone density as you age,  weight-bearing exercises can have minimal improvements. Weight-bearing exercises also prevent bone loss, to stave off further bone loss. Jones recommends compound weight-bearing exercises that move multiple joints at the same time and see the muscles pulling on the bones for maximum benefit. 

Let’s Get Physical

So what kinds of exercises should women over 50 be doing and for how long? She notes that you want to go for quality over quantity, as “going hard” can severely tax some hormones such as cortisol levels. Jones recommends 45 minutes or less of exercise where you’re definitely breaking a sweat and getting the heart pumping but you’re not struggling to get through it.

“High-intensity interval workouts (HIIT) are a great option,” she notes, “since you’re increasing your heart rate but for a short time, which will help burn fat faster without overtaxing your body. An example would be going for a walk and then picking up the pace as you climb a hill for a minute or so, then returning to the more relaxing pace.”

Weight training should be part of every woman’s workout routine. If you’re short on time, you can incorporate high-intensity interval training into your weight training workout. That could be as simple as doing one squat and lift exercise for 30 seconds to a minute non-stop, resting for the same amount of time, and then repeating.  

Jones states that the key is to listen to your body. “If you’re suffering from knee or back pain, have arthritis or prolapse issues, avoid jumping as doing so can exacerbate your condition.”

You Are What You Eat

Nutrition is an integral part of the fitness puzzle so no discussion about getting into shape would be complete without talking about food. She notes that cutting out food groups completely can be detrimental to good health (unless otherwise recommended by your doctor). 

“Currently a lot of people are cutting out carbs from their diets, which can cause hormone imbalances. Our bodies need complex carbohydrates to balance certain hormones such as those in your thyroid,” Jones clarifies. 

Aging bodies need more protein than what they consumed earlier in life to help counteract the loss of lean muscle. Increasing lean muscle with protein has the added benefit of burning fat faster. Foods like fish are easy to digest while beans and legumes pack an important fiber punch. She also recommends Greek and Icelandic yogurts which are very high in protein. Not only does protein keep the muscles lean and strong so they can burn fat faster but it fills you up so you’re less likely to overeat.

Top 3 Tips to say Bye-Bye to the Bulge

  1. Include weight training in your routine as well as high-intensity interval workouts (HIIT)

  2. Increase your protein levels and keep complex carbohydrates in your diet

  3. Decrease your sodium intake to ensure you’re not retaining water and avoid bloating 

Most importantly, notes Jones, is to make sure whatever you decide to do fits in with your lifestyle so you can make fitness an integral and consistent part of your daily life. The battle of the bulge can be won but it takes a slow and steady approach that focuses on the changing needs of your body. 

For over 16  years, Alicia Jones has helped transform the health and the lives of women over 50 through her fitness and weight loss strategies. She has a B.A in Kinesiology and adds many certifications to her list of qualifications, including National Coach of Canada (NCCP), Advanced Sport Nutrition, Certified Group Fitness Instructor, Personal Training Specialist: Canfit-pro, and many others.

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