Going past the age of 40, women start to see both physical and hormonal changes. That means we are beginning to transition out of our reproductive years into menopause. For some it’s an easy metabolic change, and for others it can be quite a rollercoaster. What we know now as specialists is that adapting and managing training, diet and rest during this time can really help when going through the fluctuations of hormonal change. Let’s jump into why and how you can do this in your everyday life for better menopausal health and fitness.

 

What happens to us physically in menopause and perimenopause?

Women are considered Menopausal after 12 months of without a period, and Perimenopausal in a vaguely defined period before this where changes to our hormonal profile, physical appearance and energy levels begin to occur. It’s common for women to experience these symptoms around age 50, however it can happen earlier due to other life factors. Most of these changes, such as loss in muscle mass, redistribution of fat mass and loss of bone mineral density, is due to the natural reduction of Estrogen.

Estrogen is our sex hormone but it does so much more than cause sex difference in women, for example: 

  • Causes the development and maintenance of muscle mass through protein synthesis 
  • Reinforces bone density
  • Increase fat oxidation during exercise, and at rest for an energy source

Many women going through menopause get put on Hormone Replacement Therapy, or HRT medication, to help with the symptoms related to the drop in Estrogen. Regular exercise and healthy living can really help the fluctuations in the body during this time. As we transition from our reproductive years into peri to postmenopausal we need to adopt training methods that are going to cause the same adaptation that our hormones use to do.

 

How should I train in menopause?

There are 3 different elements that we need to focus on in our training to stay healthy and strong during and after menopause: 

  • Strength training 
  • Plyometric training 
  • Sprint intervals 

These training methods will help increase muscle mass, improve bone mineral density, reduce risk of falls, increase energy and reduce fat mass.

 

Strength training in menopause

 Between the ages of 18-30 years women, on average, have about 33-26% of their body weight as muscle mass.  As we age we see a reduction in muscle mass of about 3-8% per decade after the age of 30 and even faster after the age of 60. With reduction in muscle mass we see a loss of functional capacity, increase of falls and increase of all causes of chronic disease. 

So how do we stop this happening? We lift Weights! Now this does not mean we are going to need to stop everything and become olympic weightlifters. Whether you are a complete beginner or a well trained individual, technique and exercise safety is our number one priority. 

Once you have the fundamentals right we can begin to add weight and increase our strength. Ideally we want to focus on muscle joint, larger muscle group exercises. This includes squats and deadlifts, known as compound lifts because they use multiple joints.

As we add additional load to our body through strength training our bones begin to reinforce themselves, increasing bone mineral density and reducing the risk of conditions such as osteoporosis. It’s wise to begin with a lower amount of weight, working up as confidence, form and strength improves. These compound lift movements also are the base of a lot of everyday activities without realising. This means the more efficiently we are performing them in the gym, the less likely we are to experience a day-to-day injury, such as picking something heavier up, carrying awkward items or bending over.

 

Plyometric training in menopause

Plyometric exercises are our explosive movements like hopping and jumping, which increase muscular power, speed and agility. Plyometric training increases our fast twitch muscle fibres, (also known as our type 2 fibres) which are the first of the muscle types we see reduce as we age and go through menopause.

Our type 2 fibres are important as they: 

  • Allow for faster reaction times, which is important for reducing falls. 
  • Improve insulin sensitivity by reducing blood glucose, giving less chance of diabetes. 
  • Improve body composition as they require a large amount of energy to maintain, using fat stored for energy at rest. 

Plyometric training also increases bone mineral density as it increases the force tolerance of the bones over time, increasing bone strength and reducing risk of fractures. Plyometric training also increases proprioception and balance. 

When we begin integrating plyometric training into our exercise programs we want to think about multi directional movements and increase a variety of them in our sessions. For example box jumps and lateral bounds. By including different directions we prepare ourselves for the chaos of everyday life. Ensuring that no matter how we have to move our body, it is prepared to adapt.

 

Sprint intervals in menopause

One of the main complaints from women transitioning through menopause is weight gain. Due to the changes in our hormone profile we see a redistribution of fat around our mind section. One of the ways in which we combat this is through sprint interval training. We want our intervals to be short and sharp lasting up to 30 secs. Sprint training has so many benefits it increases insulin sensitivity, improves fat metabolism (particularly visceral fat), and increases Growth hormone release. 

 

Staying motivated to exercise in Menopause

Set achievable goals across a week that you know are realistic to your usual schedule. Raise the amount of steps and exercise sessions by small increments each week. At the beginning, for many the main goal is moving more often and with better quality. Progress doesn’t have to be sudden or drastic. Steady improvements will ensure better long term effects as you’re more likely to stick to what’s sustainable. Remember, some days don’t go to plan and that’s okay! Setting exercise goals over a week helps spread the load and keeps you on track if you miss a day. Additionally, doing one-on-one training with an Exercise Physiologist in menopause will give you guidance on what you need to do personally for your unique body, giving you peace of mind.

Tailoring programming to our goals, stages of life and prioritising evidence based methods are what we do here at Motus HP. If you’d like help with your exercise program and tailor it to your specific goals or needs, book in with our Exercise Physiologists today. We will help guide you through menopause healthily and pain free!

 

 

Improve insulin sensitivity by reducing blood glucose, giving less chance of diabetes.
Improve body composition as they require a large amount of energy to maintain, using fat stored for energy at rest.

Plyometric training also increases bone mineral density as it increases the force tolerance of the bones over time, increasing bone strength and reducing risk of fractures. Plyometric training also increases proprioception and balance.

When we begin integrating plyometric training into our exercise programs we want to think about multi directional movements and increase a variety of them in our sessions. For example box jumps and lateral bounds. By including different directions we prepare ourselves for the chaos of everyday life. Ensuring that no matter how we have to move our body, it is prepared to adapt.

Sprint intervals in menopause

One of the main complaints from women transitioning through menopause is weight pain. Due to the changes in our hormone profile we see a redistribution of fat around our mind section. One of the ways in which we combat this is through sprint interval training. We want our intervals to be short and sharp lasting up to 30 secs. Sprint training has so many benefits it increases insulin sensitivity, improves fat metabolism (particularly visceral fat), and increases Growth hormone release.

Staying motivated to exercise in Menopause

Set achievable goals across a week that you know are realistic to your usual schedule. Raise the amount of steps and exercise sessions by small increments each week. At the beginning, for many the main goal is moving more often and with better quality. Progress doesn’t have to be sudden. Steady improvements will ensure better long term effects as you’re more likely to stick to what’s sustainable. Remember, some days don’t go to plan, so setting goals over a week helps spread the load and keeps you on track if you miss a day.

Tailoring our programing to our goals, stages of life and prioritising evidence based methods are what we do here at Motus HP. If you’d like help with your program and tailor it to your specific goals, book in with our Exercise Physiologists today. We will help guide you through menopause healthily and pain free!