As we grow older, we tend to pack on extra pounds. Regular exercise may slow the middle-age spread, but how much do you need?

One hour or more of daily moderate-level exercise may help normal-weight women beat the bulge, suggests a study published in the Journal of the American Medication Association. If you're overweight or obese, you may need to combine regular exercise with calorie restriction to prevent weight gain.

For the study, researchers tracked more than 34,000 middle-age women for 13 years. All the women gained weight, but the most active group (who did moderate-level activities), with a BMI in the normal range (25 or under), gained the least--an average of 5 pounds or less.

During moderate-level activity, you should breathe harder and find it more difficult to talk, but you should still be able to carry on a conversation. If you are just beginning an exercise program, slowly work up to moving at a moderate-intensity pace.

Popular activities:

  • walking or hiking
  • jogging
  • running
  • bicycling
  • aerobic exercise
  • dancing
  • using exercise machines
  • yoga, stretching or toning
  • tennis, squash or raquetball
  • lap swimming.

Talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program.

Bounce Back from a Binge

According to our sister publication Diabetes Focus (Summer 2014), the occasional weekend splurge won't derail your diet if you make healthy choices during the week, found researchers in the United States and Finland. They compared weekly weight patterns for 80 adults and discovered that, for most people, weight tended to fluctuate upward on the weekends.

Those who quickly got back on track and lost the extra pounds over the course of the week were more likely to lose or maintain their weight in the long run.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 04 May 2010

Last Modified: 03 Feb 2015