Change: You Start Losing Muscle
Some of the weight gain that occurs with age is natural. Starting in your late 30s, you begin to lose muscle tissue, the body’s chief calorie burner. It’s replaced by fat, a relative freeloader. “Muscle burns about three times as many calories as fat, even at rest,” says John M. Jakicic, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist at the University of Pittsburgh. And, with age, muscle tissue simply doesn’t work as efficiently, for reasons not well understood. As a result, you’re not able to exercise as hard as you could in your 20s and you have less muscle mass to burn off last night’s cheesecake.
The metabolic downtick from these changes in body composition is fairly small, about 1 to 2 percent a decade. Still, burning several hundred fewer calories a week adds up over time.
Solution: Pump Iron
Few things fight the loss of muscle mass better than strength training with hand weights, resistance bands, or even your own body weight. It not only increases muscle tissue but also strengthens bones, which helps you stay active longer and work out harder. Many studies have shown that postmenopausal women who do strength training have an easier time staying active in their daily lives―walking, carrying groceries, climbing stairs―and this activity helps prevent further weight gain.