I got asked a good question today…. “Is Middle-aged spread inevitable?”

My answer… quite simply…. NO!

So if good old “middle aged spread” is just a myth, why do so many people apparently have it?!

First let’s look what this perceived middle-aged spread is. Essentially, it’s just weight gain – especially around the abdomen. What are the main reasons people gain weight? Poor nutrition, lack of exercise, lifestyle. Clearly anybody can get their diet and exercise wrong, so why do people in their late 40’s and 50’s tend to be the more common sufferers?

Well, the sad truth is that many people tend to exercise less as they get older. This is certainly not true of everybody (I’d hate to tar everyone with the same brush), but it is fairly commonplace. They start to say that they’re “getting too old for this” and complaining of aches and pains, when actually keeping up with a good exercise regime could significantly reduce those aches and pains!  But once you stop (and get stiffer and gain a few pounds), it’s much harder to get started again. And thus the downward spiral begins.

In addition, our sex hormone production significantly reduces in middle age. Testosterone (relevant to both men and women) levels drop with every passing year, but testosterone is responsible for building muscle – and we all know that lean tissue (i.e. muscle) burns fat! So it is very common for people to have less muscle mass and a subsequent increase in bodyfat during middle aged. The hormonal changes which occur in middle age do mean that fat is more likely to be deposited around the middle.

Then there’s lifestyle. Let’s face it – many people in their 50s enjoy the finer things in life! That’s not to say that people in their 20s and 30s don’t too, but it comes more with the territory in middle age. Again, everyone is different and I am not suggesting that everybody over the age of 50 fits into this category, but a lot of people in this age bracket partake in a glass of wine of an evening, still think that traditional “hearty” food and pudding is a sensible daily choice, and consider a weekly stroll round the golf course to be sufficient exercise.

So my feeling (and that of pretty much all health and fitness professionals) is that middle aged spread is more likely the result of a set of circumstances rather than an inevitable fate! Anybody can avoid weight gain and and unsightly bulges at any age by adhering to a sensible nutrition and exercise plan, such as the one set out in my Four Week Fat Attack. If anyone has any comments or their own experiences then leave a note!