On getting fit, 'you're never too old to start'
By Joe Miller
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Hot flashes. Headaches. A tummy that won't go away no matter how many crunches you do. Menopause can be especially vexing for women trying to lose weight. As their estrogen levels drop, their testosterone exerts more influence. Because of the ensuing havoc, a woman's body will do what it can to retain whatever stores of estrogen it has. Alas, estrogen is stored in fat.
Don't despair, said Leigh Shipman, an instructor with the Charlotte, N.C., YMCA. She's been working with "active older adults" for 17 years, and she's seen both men and women lose weight and get fit.
"The average American woman should do just fine with one hour of moderate exercise a day," said Shipman, 51.
The key is finding the right exercise regimen — one you enjoy, one you look forward to doing and will stick with, said Mary Petters, an exercise physiologist with the University of North Carolina Wellness Center in Chapel Hill, N.C. "There's something out there for everyone," Petters said. "You're never too old to start."
To get started, consult a nutritionist and a trainer.
A nutritionist can help you get a handle on what you really are eating and what you should be eating, said Gerald Endress, with the Duke Diet & Fitness Center in Durham, N.C.
"People say, 'I don't eat a lot,' then they start writing down all the Starbucks coffees they have," Endress said. "They can even overeat fruit — an apple has 100 calories."
Likewise, said Petters, a good trainer can help you look at your lifestyle — work, family commitments, etc. — and see what realistically will work for you.
Mix it up.
"The body gets used to what you're doing," said the Charlotte Y's Leigh Shipman, "and after a while it won't work as hard. You need to challenge it to work the muscles differently."
Achieve a "moderate" pace. You need to push yourself, though not at first, says Petters. But to get stronger and lose weight, your body needs to be challenged.
"If you're not sweating, your heart is not getting the workout it needs, and you're not burning the calories you need to burn," Shipman said.