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March 28, 2010

Bad News for Middle-Aged Couch Potatoes

ExerciseLike most women, I struggle with my weight -- and the battle has only gotten worse with age.

Having a child at 40 didn't help. I didn't gain all that much with my pregnancy - but I didn't lose a lot of it after the baby was born, and 10 years later, I'd packed on so many additional pounds that I weighed more than I had while pregnant.

So I got serious. Two years ago, I completed a 56-pound weight loss regimen, and vowed that I would never get to the point where I'd have to go through that again.

Since then, I've regained eight pounds and I'm scared, because no matter how hard I try, I can't seem to shake them back off.

Last week, while listening to a report on NPR, I understood why: A new study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association concludes that middle aged women must exercise one hour a day just to maintain their current weight

Regular workouts were part of the regimen that resulted in my weight loss, but after finishing the program, I slacked off. I've always been more of a cerebral type. While I like how I feel after a workout, I simply don't enjoy the actual activity enough to make it a priority... especially when I also need to get my daughter to school and her activities, take care of the house, the pets, the shopping, the meals and earn some income, too.

So it's no surprise that I gained some weight back. What is surprising is that even though I started back up with regular workouts a couple of weeks ago, an hour a day isn't going to be sufficient. I need to bump it up to 90 minutes - or more - per day - if I want to take these extra pounds back off and keep them off. 

Who has time for that?

As if that's not enough, apparently I need to exercise to ward off memory loss, according to another NPR report:

"Over a six-month to one-year period," Kramer says, "three days a week, working up to an hour a day, people improved in various aspects of both short-term and long-term memory."

After treadmill training, the "aging couch potatoes," as Kramer calls them, were given brain scans. Those who'd trained had larger hippocampi, the brain area key for memory. Other brain regions too — central for decision-making, planning and multi-tasking — were also larger in the treadmill exercisers. "There are a number of regions," says Kramer, "that on MRI scans tend to show not just stability but increases as a function of exercise in middle-age and older brains."

So the writing is on the wall. I know exactly what to do.

I'm going to stop listening to NPR.

Original post for 50-Something Moms blog and Los Angeles Moms blog by Donna Schwartz Mills, who chronicles her dieting struggles on her weight loss site, High Maintenance.