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Talking about the menopause: symptoms, support and the role of exercise
Talking about the menopause: symptoms, support and the role of exercise

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1.2 Weight change

Particularly common in perimenopause and menopause is the accumulation of weight, particularly around the mid-section. This can have an impact on self-esteem, body confidence and motivation (Newson, 2023). This weight gain is often exacerbated by lowered activity levels in this stage due to symptoms such as joint pain, breast pain and hot flushes. Abildgaard et al (2021) identified that during the menopause changes in body composition occur, including loss of lean mass (muscle), an accumulation of fat tissue, and a redistribution of fat to the abdominal area. Activity 2 explores some of the factors that cause this weight gain.

Activity 2 Weight gain and menopause

Timing: Allow 15 minutes

Watch Video 2 about weight gain and menopause from the North American Menopause Society.

Video 2 Weight gain at menopause (Please note The Open University is not responsible for third party content.)
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

The answer the following question:

Why does weight gain occur at menopause?


There are several factors at play here but the most significant one is the reduction of oestrogen causing a loss of muscle tissue, referred to as sarcopenia, and a subsequent fall in the metabolism, meaning that fewer calories are needed to maintain the same weight. However, changing levels of exercise, stress and increases in calorie consumption can also play a role at this stage in life.

If you are able, exercising during the menopause can help to control weight gain and this will be examined in Session 4. Also, good nutrition has a significant role to play, and this is examined in Session 3.