Women’s Health Research Review, Cont.

Last month, we discussed various ways on how early intervention by healthy eating and consistent physical activity can improve overall health against certain health issues. In this month’s NewsShaper, we will finish our discussion with weight gain after menopause and strength training adherence.

What is the best way to minimize or prevent postmenopausal weight gain?

Reported in Geriatric Nursing, researchers studied the evaluation of intervention in weight reduction in postmenopausal women. Postmenopausal weight gain is of great concern with females 50 and older. The prevalence of obesity has increased significantly over the past few decades with a very steep increase in women before, during and after menopause. Moreover, as women age, overweight and obesity are serious risk factors for heart disease and diabetes.

Researchers assessed the pros and cons of weight loss interventions in postmenopausal women. From an exhaustive research evaluation of 120 articles, the research team found 15 that met the strict inclusion criteria.

Overall, the research showed that a dietary intervention of meal replacements, reduced fat intake, reduced saturated fat and cholesterol consumption, and lower daily caloric consumption, when combined with increased physical activity, produces the most health benefits. The combined interventions led to decreases in BMI, fat mass, waist circumference, systolic blood pressure, triglycerides, glucose, leptin and cortisol, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Losing weight also reduced plasma C-reactive protein, a strong marker for cardiovascular disease.

The authors reported that weight-bearing exercise produces positive weight loss and maintains or increases bone mineral density in postmenopausal women. The scientists noted that even low-intensity exercise improves cardiorespiratory fitness and reduces body weight in obese postmenopausal women. However, progressively increasing to a moderate-intensity exercise is the eventual goal for optimal management of metabolic risk variables (such as insulin resistance) during and after menopause.

Take-home message: This research review confirms that a combination of varying levels of cardiovascular exercise intensity, weight-bearing exercise (resistance training), dietary interventions with lower caloric consumption, and healthier food choices leads to the best health and weight management results for post-menopausal women. ACSM recommends 250-300 minutes/week of moderate-intensity exercise for greater weight loss and prevention of weight gain.

What prevents older women from getting the strength training they need?

The adherence to a strength training intervention in adult women was studied and reported in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health. Strength training plays an essential role in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The evidence is clear that resistance training can enhance musculoskeletal fitness, resulting in prominent health improvements and reduce risk of chronic disease and disability. Longitudinal investigations have revealed that women (and men) with high levels of muscular strength have fewer functional limitations and lower incidences of chronic ailments such as coronary artery disease, diabetes, stroke, arthritis and pulmonary disorders.

Despite the benefits of strength training, many women have trouble adhering to a training routine. According to researchers, only 17.5 percent of women engage in a strength training program two or more days per week, the recommended minimum suggested by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). Authors also noted that very little is known about what motivates premenopausal women to stick with resistance training.

The researchers sought to address the adherence question in a 2-year, twice-weekly weight training intervention involving 164 sedentary, overweight and obese pre-menopausal women (aged 25-44). The intervention included both supervised and unsupervised exercise instruction. For the first 4 months, participants worked out in a program supervised by certified fitness trainers, meeting twice a week for 60-90 minutes per session. The beginning of the regimen included cardiorespiratory exercises and exercises for the abdominals and lower back. Subjects then started their strength training workout, which consisted of three sets of nine exercises performed at 8-to 10-repetition maximum (i.e. the women attained momentary muscular fatigue between 8 and 10 reps).

The next phase of the study (months 5-24) was unsupervised. Subjects continued the workout regimen but on their own or with a friend. During this time, they could decrease their sets to two per exercise. In this unsupervised period, researchers offered “booster sessions” every 12 weeks, where groups of two to six participants met with a personal trainer to learn new exercises and ensure they were performing all exercises correctly. These sessions also provided encouragement to the women. Each subject could schedule an independent booster session once a week with a trainer if she so desired.

The study found the women adhered to the supervised (95.4% adherence) workout program much better than the unsupervised (64.5% adherence) program. Findings also revealed that married women had better adherence (75.4%) than unmarried women (36.4%). However, mothers noted that being a parent was a challenge to scheduling exercise time.

This study objectively demonstrates the value of the exercise professional’s role in educating and motivating female (and male) clients to stick with resistance training exercises.

If you need help getting started with your exercise program give us a call. We have a variety of options for women to help them get strong and reduce the risk of diseases.

Resource: IDEA Fitness Journal

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