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How much exercise is needed to prevent disease, weight gain in menopausal women?

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minimal exercise is all you need, yay!

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We're all about being realistic and honest with ourselves. So here it is: not everybody enjoys the idea of exercising, never mind the notion of vigorous exercise. Unfortunately, you can't really get around it. Being physically active is just as important as eating a healthy, balanced diet — regardless of how old you are. It's especially true for menopausal women. Exercise is crucial to helping them better regulate insulin, maintain metabolic function and help prevent significant weight gain.

But if you've undergone menopause and are still not sold on the idea of having to devote countless hours a week working out like a maniac, then we have some good news for you.

New research from the University of Missouri says that minimal exercise may be all it takes for postmenopausal women to lower their risk of developing certain diseases and putting on excessive weight. These findings suggest that women may not need to increase their physical activity dramatically to see significant benefits from exercise.

"Diseases and weight gain associated with metabolic dysfunction skyrocket after menopause," said Vicki Vieira-Potter, assistant professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at MU. "The intent of this research was to determine what role exercise plays in protecting women, specifically less-active women, metabolically as they go through menopause."

Vieira-Potter's research team compared how exercise training maintained metabolic function in sedentary rats versus highly active rats. The rats were provided a running wheel which they could use as much or as little as they wanted. The sedentary rats only ran one fifth of the distance as the highly active rats did; yet, the limited physical activity still maintained their metabolic function and normalized insulin levels. Moreover, the previously sedentary rats saw a 50% reduction in their fat tissue as a result of that small amount of exercise.

"These findings suggest that any physical activity, even just a small amount, can do wonders in terms of maintaining metabolic function," Vieira-Potter said. "This is significant for postmenopausal women as they deal with weight gain associated with menopause as well as the increased risk for disease."

Vieira-Potter says sedentary women can be proactive as they enter menopause by:

  • Going on regular walks with friends.
  • Taking the stairs rather than the elevator.
  • Joining fitness programs for beginners.
  • Monitoring physical activity through use of fitness trackers.

So, yeah, you still should go on brisk walks, but you don't have to worry about doing a billion squats and burpees at the gym. It's a pretty neat compromise, no? 

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