Menopause and Exercise

Are you in your 40’s, 50’s or beyond and wondering why your exercise routine is no longer working for you? Are you putting on weight even though you are exercising and eating just like you have always done? For this, you can say thank you to your hormones. In the five years leading up to Menopause, known as Peri-menopause your hormones are having a great time riding on the most up and down roller-coaster you have ever been on. However YOU may not actually be enjoying the ride. Instead of squealing in delight you may be experiencing mood disturbances, having poor sleep and hot flashes, or feeling not quite yourself with symptoms of depression or anxiety, or perhaps you are losing muscle mass and noticing increasing body fat particularly around your tummy. Thank you Hormones….

Dr Stacy Sims has studied and brought to us all the latest research into Menopause and what to do using exercise and nutrition to curb the impact of having erratic hormones in Peri-menopause and then flat lining hormones in Menopause. Thank you Dr Stacy!
It is fascinating to learn what is going on in our bodies right now as we go through the earlier and later stages of Menopause. Due to hormone changes leading up to Menopause and beyond we don’t conveniently have the assistance of a hormone in particular who drives lean muscle mass growth. As we age we naturally lose muscle mass and we lose the strength of our bones. So what can we do?

Strength training and high intensity training! But say you are already performing strength training and high intensity training, why isn’t it working as well as it used to? This depends on the type of strength and high intensity you are performing (it needs to be HEAVY with minimal long slow exercise sessions), and the programming of your week (you actually need to give yourself plenty of rest days with a deload week – how good does that sound?!)

Dr Stacy has also found the greater importance of protein intake during Peri-menopause and Menopause. Ensure to fuel prior to training and then within 30 minutes post training. This is crucial in females to activate the specific mechanism to cause muscle growth. The higher your muscle mass, the higher your metabolic rate which means improved body composition. Yay! You will also improve your muscle strength and power as well as your bone strength keeping you energetic, active and injury-free, for years to come!

Before racing to the nearest gym to lift heavy and practice HIIT, ensure your foundations are in place!

This means you need to ensure your joints are moving well and the little muscles around your joints are activating appropriately. When these little muscles are working well, they will provide stability, a strong base for you to safely and sustainably build strength from. During Peri-menopause and Menopause we are at a higher risk of ligament injuries and so these little muscles around our joints are more important than ever.

At Thrive we perform a full movement assessment to ensure these little muscles are working well, we also check your core and pelvic floor muscles.

Lifting heavy and introducing high intensity and high impact exercise for your muscle and bone strength will help to curb the effects of Menopause, we just need to do this appropriately. Your program will depend on where you are right now, are you currently performing weights and cardio, or are you starting from scratch? Learn how to program for you, book an assessment with Rachel our Exercise Physiologist at Thrive.