The average weight gain during the pandemic was 1.5 lbs. a month according to a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. As of May 2021, that’s 20 lbs. The results were gathered by monitoring Smart Scales using Bluetooth technology with the permission of scale owners. Subjects were Smart Scale owners mean age 51.
Shelter in place (SIP) orders were combined with stockpiles of pantry items. Additionally, many found themselves with either a household of varied food wants and needs serving up a daily meal dilemma or isolation lending to depression and anxiety. Neither scenario made it easy to stick to routine healthy dietary habits.
From the results researchers suggest a need to mitigate our present post pandemic conditions with dietary interventions and physical activity.
This study included both men and women. Women at age 51, however, have a compounding problem. Women reach menopause at the average age of 51.3. During the latter stages of perimenopause and early post menopause there is risk of an accelerated loss of muscle and bone. The loss is experienced when there is a sharp decline of estrogen and a corresponding increase of cortisol.
Show Me the Muscle
While average weight gain was the reported data in this study, what we don’t know is the change in body composition. There is also a potential need to identify solutions to sleep disruption and stress (as cortisol can have negative impact on fat storage and muscle breakdown).
Women who were in this window of menopause during the pandemic have the greatest potential for devastating disability in a decade if losses of muscle and bone are not mitigated.
Sarcopenia, or significant losses of muscle and strength is experienced by 42% of women by the time they reach 65. Sarcopenia results in frailty, greater risk of falls, and with bone loss also occurring at accelerated rates during menopause, fracture risk is higher.
When hormone levels that offered a stimulus for muscle decline there must be some other stimulus to replace it. Namely, resistance training of adequate intensity and adequate protein in correct doses during the day.
Can’t Find Weights?
Remember the shortage of dumbbells early in the pandemic? While Peleton sales skyrocketed and walking increased for many, access to the type of anaerobic strength training that has the biggest pro-aging benefits for women in midlife required creativity.
If you were not familiar with strength training, or not online due to connectivity or comfort, muscle and bone losses demand immediate mitigation.
In 10 years midlife women will see the affects of this pandemic more than any other demographic.
Lin AL, Vittinghoff E, Olgin JE, Pletcher MJ, Marcus GM. Body Weight Changes During Pandemic-Related Shelter-in-Place in a Longitudinal Cohort Study. JAMA Netw Open. 2021;4(3):e212536. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.2536
Food Flip (open now) starts in May