Women over 40 don't have to weigh more to have an increase in their waist circumference, reports the Harvard Women's Health Watch. Increasing belly fat and decreasing lean tissue is common as women get older. The extra fat is not only annoying, but it can increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer. The healthiest and most effective solution to a bulging waistline is diet and exercise.
Diet and exercise are not without risks. Further, some medical issues can lead to weight gain. For these reasons, consult a doctor before starting a program to reduce your waist size.
Eat 1,800 calories if you're sedentary and 2,000 calories if you're physically active, as recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for women ages 31 to 50. As you get older, you need fewer calories, so reducing your calories can offset waist weight gain. You can reduce your calories even more, but not below 1,200 or you may sacrifice your health and slow your metabolism.
Eat lean, fresh, whole foods. Maintaining your waistline isn't just about how much you eat, but the quality of food you consume as well. Limit refined foods and sugars that contribute to fat. Include fruits and/or vegetables, lean protein and whole grain or fiber in each meal. Satisfy your sweet tooth with fruits or small amounts of dark chocolate.
Engage in 30 to 60 minutes of heart pumping exercise five days a week. Cardiovascular exercise burns fat, revs the metabolism and maintains heart and lung efficiency. Make exercise enjoyable by choosing activities you enjoy, such as aerobic dance, recreational sports, outdoor exercise such as running or inline skating, or workout DVDs.
Build muscle through weight-training exercises at least twice a week. Building muscles maintains lean body mass that decreases as you age and builds bone strength to help prevent osteoporosis. Muscle also increases metabolism so that you burn more fat throughout the day. Perform exercises for each muscle group such as squats and lunges for legs and glutes and planks and pushups for abdominals, back, shoulders and arms.
Keep busy. The more active you are, the more calories and fat you burn. Walk or ride your bike instead of driving. Park away from your destination and walk. Take the stairs.
- Harvard Health Publications: Abdominal Fat and What to Do About It
- U.S. Department of Agriculture; Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, Chapter 2: Balancing Calories to Manage Weight
- BMI Calculator: Calorie Needs to Lose Weight
- American Heart Association: Eat a Heart Healthy Diet in Your 40s
- Cleveland Clinic: Heart-Health Benefits of Chocolate Unveiled
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?
- MayoClinic.com: Strength Training: Get Stronger, Leaner, Healthier
Leslie Truex has been telecommuting and freelancing since 1994. She wrote the "The Work-At-Home Success Bible" and is a career/business and writing instructor at Piedmont Virginia Community College. Truex has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Willamette University and a Master of Social Work from California State University-Sacramento. She has been an Aerobics and Fitness Association of America certified fitness instructor since 2001.