SummaryRead the full fact sheet
- At menopause, many women experience weight gain, particularly around the abdomen.
- Contributors to weight gain at menopause include declining oestrogen levels, age-related loss of muscle tissue and lifestyle factors such as diet and lack of exercise.
- Treatment options include a healthy diet, regular exercise, strength training and menopausal hormone therapy.
- See your doctor for information and guidance if you haven’t exercised in some time.
What is menopause?
Many women think that gaining weight is part of menopause. But it’s more likely due to ageing and lifestyle changes.
Causes of weight gain in midlife
On average, women aged between 45 and 55 years gain around half a kilo per year. As you get older, you lose muscle mass, which slows your and causes weight gain. So if your diet doesn’t change, you are likely to gain weight.
Oestrogen and fat distribution
Reduced levels of oestrogen after menopause can cause fat to be stored around your waist rather than on your hips and thighs. In postmenopausal women, belly fat accounts for 15 to 20% of their total body weight, compared with 5 to 8% in premenopausal women.
Risks associated with belly fat
Fat stored around your belly is known as ‘visceral fat’. This type of fat is unhealthy as it is linked to:
- an increased risk of (one of the leading causes of death for women in Australia)
- increased menopausal symptoms, such as hot flushes.
What you can do
Eat a healthy diet
Do regular physical activity
Weekly exercise recommendations include:
- 1.25 to 2.5 hours of vigorous intensity physical activity – such as , aerobics, fast , playing team sports.
Or you can do a combination of the above.
Muscle-strengthening activities are also recommended 2 days a week.
Other lifestyle changes
Poor sleep is associated with eating more food and making poor food choices.
Drinking too much alcohol can cause weight gain, interfere with your sleep and make menopause symptoms worse.
Menopausal hormone therapy
MHT can also reduce the risk of some chronic diseases including heart disease and type 2 diabetes. It may also help to reduce belly fat after menopause.
When to see your doctor
Talk to your doctor if your menopause symptoms make it hard to do everyday activities. For example, if you:
- are and find it hard to lose weight
- have problems sleeping
- have strong emotions, or
- need help to limit or stop drinking alcohol.
Where to get help
- The NAMS 2017 Hormone Therapy Position Statement Advisory Panel 2017, , Menopause, vol. 24, no. 7, pp. 728–53.
- Stuenkel CA, Davis SR, Gompel A et al. 2015, , Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, vol. 100, no. 11, pp. 3975–4011.
- Baber RJ, Panay N, Fenton A et al. 2016, , Climacteric, vol. 19, no. 2, pp. 109–50.
- Shifren JL, Gass ML 2014 , Menopause, vol. 21, no. 10, pp. 1038–62.