Stop middle-age spread

Middle-age spread and the unfavourable habits involved in its progress could be determined by the choices we make as early on as our 30s, says a new report from the University of Tasmania.

What is middle-age spread? It is the accumulation of fat around the stomach, hips and bottom, which tends to happen as we enter the middle years: our 30s and 40s.

Previously, an expanding waistline was understood to be due to hormonal changes along with:

  • muscle loss as we age
  • having a more sedentary lifestyle
  • genetic make-up
  • our everyday habits.

The evidence gained from the recent report, published recently in BMC Public Health, shows a direct correlation between weight gain and specific behaviours; the rejection of which could prevent it, or rather more helpfully, lead to its reversal.

Deciding to study people before they reach their 40s, the university followed 2815 participants aged 26–36 over a period of five years. The healthy behaviours recommended to them at the outset were as follows:

  • eat breakfast (so don’t skip the first meal of the day)

  • limit yourself to not more than one takeaway meal per week

  • try not to watch television for more than two hours each day

  • aim to walk 10,000 steps a day.

In the study, the people who adhered most closely to the above recommendations put on less fat around their middle over time. Some people who participated didn’t adopt these habits at the start of the study, but once they did, they gained less weight. Those who ignored the recommendations, or adopted the reverse unhealthy habits during the five years, experienced the most weight gain.

Perhaps the most encouraging thing is that it is fairly easy to reverse the effects of middle-age spread by sticking to the four basic habits outlined above.

The idea behind 10,000 steps originated in Japan, where researchers determined that the average person walked between 3500 and 5000 steps a day, and by increasing this to 10,000 steps they would be leaner and healthier. Achieving 10,000 steps may sound like a lot to cover every day as this equates to about eight kilometres.

By incorporating walking into your daily routine, for example, walking one way to work, or going on foot to the shops if you don’t work, can help to achieve this ideal. You can track your steps by using a pedometer, or fitness tracker, such as Fitbit.

Have you got any tips for keeping weight off your stomach, hips and bottom?

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Written by Alice Bell

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