It seems that the middle-aged spread isn’t a myth after all, as new research shows that women are most likely to gain weight aged 38 and for men it is 44.
The findings show that both sexes are more vulnerable to weight gain in their late 30s and early 40s.
For women, the key danger zone is the ages of 35-40, with 38% saying they were most likely to gain weight during those years. Women picked 38 as the most destructive year of all - because the prospect of turning 40 spurs many women into turning their life around and losing weight.
Men's most vulnerable age for weight gain comes a little later - with 36% saying they will put on most weight between 40 and 45. Men highlighted 44 as their most dangerous year for weight gain - largely because their career is peaking and they simply haven't got time for exercise.
The results come from a new survey of 1,000 people, conducted by Forza Supplements.
There were plenty of factors given for the weight gain, and 34% admitted that motherhood was a big one. Women admitted that this often left them eating twice as much as they were eating with their children and then again with their partners later on.
Marriage was another factor in women getting a middle-age spread - with 32% of women saying they put on weight after settling down with a long-term partner. A further 26% of women said they had 'let themselves go' in their late 30s, and the build-up to their 40th birthday was a wake-up call in turning their life around and losing weight.
One of the key reasons for men getting a middle-aged spread was divorce, with 22% saying it was a factor. The average age for a man divorcing in the UK is 40-44, and single men are more likely to drink heavily and eat out more. However, the most popular reason for men's middle-aged spreads was work - with 36% saying they were too busy with their careers to go to the gym.
Forza Supplements managing director Lee Smith said: ‘Weight gain in both men and women is quite normal and the process can begin at 30. "But by the time 40 is approaching women are losing the battle with keeping extra weight off.
“Most have children by then and have probably sacrificed hobbies like the gym or dance class to care for and entertain them. Most don’t realise that as we age we need fewer calories, so to even maintain the same weight, we need to drop 200 calories per day.
"Men have a little longer – their bodies haven’t been disrupted by childbirth. But time catches up with them – it’s significant that the average age for weight gain corresponds with a very stressful point in a man’s life. Cortisol plays a big part in affecting weight – it will make people crave unhealthy foods and want to eat more often.
"In our early and mid-thirties we stave off weight gain because we lead busy lives – work, exercise, socialising if we’re childless. If parents, most people of this age have small children so they remain active – getting in the swimming pool themselves, riding bikes.
"By 38 for women and 44 for men, on average, the children are old enough to do these activities alone and parents tend to lead a sedentary life – between providing a taxi service for the kids."