Strength Training for Hormone Balance

Should you do 1, 2, or 3 sets of strength training for hormone balance? Research about strength training for women in menopause has answered that in a recent study. This study adds to mounting evidence of the best methods to support hormone balance and optimal aging.

In a true Bruce Springsteen description, strength training is muscle-making, fat-baking, figure-shaping, torso-trimming, mood-boosting, happiness-hacking, exercise.

I hope you live in a world where there’s no debate whether or not you should be strength training. The question is how do you do it best so there’s no injury all rewards?

So, just in case you want to know how that muscle loss shows up I’ve got the details. It’s not good. Your metabolism slows by about 5% every decade because of that muscle mass. Now, let’s say you also gain fat while you’re losing muscle, that’s not just a slower metabolism. It’s more risk for disease, more lethargy.

The Damage Muscle Loss Does

On the flip side, muscle is metabolically active. Some studies say it requires 35 calories to maintain a pound of muscle and 2 to maintain a pound of fat. (Yet, most of us will eat the same no matter what our weight). See the problem? That 33 calories per pound of muscle difference every day all year can help you with what should never have been accepted as “middle-age weight gain.”

It’s actually only middle-age inactivity, or middle-age inappropriate activity. You can aerobicize your way of this or randomly lift weights at the end of your fitness class. You can’t for that matter strength train on the whim of a fitness instructor’s decision the day you drop into a class. You need a strength training plan.

The best strength training plan would have been a progressive strength training plan begun in your 30s and 40s to prevent losses. (Muscle loss begins at 30 if you’re not lifting). Next best? Start now. You’re reading this. Did you lift today? or yesterday? Got two workouts on your calendar?

How Much Loss?

You lose (unless you’re lifting and eating correctly) 5-8 pounds of muscle mass every decade. If you eat too few calories and/or protein? You could lose muscle faster.

The percent of muscle mass you have can change by gaining fat too. So if you’re indulging in 2-3 glasses of wine, high carbs, and otherwise consuming sweets (it’s all sugar) regularly? As fat weight goes up, muscle mass declines even if you aren’t losing it.

It’s time to up your game.

What if you were to follow a simple weight training routine of 8 exercises 10-15 repetitions for 12 weeks?

The Study

A recent study adds to a growing research pool suggesting more sets within a strength training session is best if you’re flipping 50. The study on older women compared 1 vs. 3 strength-training sets effect on change in body composition.

The loss of body fat for the one set group was 2.4 compared to 6.1% loss of body fat in the 3 set group.

Loss of trunk fat only occurred in the 3 set group. That was a significant 6.8% loss in 12 weeks.

Ready to lift? Before you pick up your dumbbells, there’s even more good news.

Other health biomarkers were also positively affected in the 3-set group:

Strength Training for Hormone Balance Studies

Many studies are showing less is more when it comes to exercise, and my After 50 Fitness Formula featured in You Still Got It, Girl! supports that. However, it’s less frequent, less duration exercise of adequate intensity. Intensity with strength training comes through safe progression, and reaching muscular fatigue.

That’s not to be confused with simply fatigued, or tired.

If you’ve gone through an hour class jumping, battle roping, punching, doing burpees… you may be tired. But if each set of those 8-10 major muscle groups did not reach fatigue at the end of each set? You missed the metabolism-boosting fat loss mark. Bruce would be disappointed. Strength training for hormone balance includes optimizing cholesterol, fat, inflammation, and muscle.

Key flip:

Flipping 50 exercisers who want to make a difference is reaching fatigue in every set. If muscles aren’t brought to temporary fatigue they will not respond optimally for body composition or strength gains.


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Exercise for Hormone Balance2

Exercise for Hormone Balance

If you’re looking for a program designed for hormone balance (and inclusive of your joint needs and back-of-the-closet wants) Flipping 50 STRONGER was designed for women Flipping 50. We launch again soon.

Biggest Benefit of Strength Training: More Activity

There you have it. Spoiler alert – I just gave you the bottom line. Strength training more than any other type of exercise boostsmotivation more movement. It does it largely due to the emotional benefit of strength training.

Yes, you’ll get stronger. You’ll love the way your clothes fit. You’ll turn heads as you improve posture and walk with a confident, I’ve-got-a-secret-weapon attitude. You’ll have a better libido. You’ll avoid illnesses and injuries. You’ll bounce back faster if they happen. You’ll live independently later.

But you can’t get a single benefit of strength training without the special sauce.

How can I get motivated to exercise?

I just can’t stick with it.

I’ve heard it. You’ve said it. (or maybe you’re among the few and proud who have not!) 

Aging Better Facts

It’s well published and widely known if you want to change or control the way you age, you have to keep your muscle. Muscle losses start as early as your 30s. It’s easy to lose up to 50% of your muscle by age 70. But it’s not a given. If you lift weights (properly) you can avoid this condition called sarcopenia.

Trends Not to Follow

Muscle loss is usually accompanied by fat gains. Contrary to the myth you need to do lots of cardio to burn fat, you need to lift weights to keep muscle to avoid gaining fat. In doing so you create more metabolically active tissue. You also prevent the effect of age acceleration that occurs with too much cardiovascular activity.

Yes, oxidative stress increases, and cortisol, growth hormone, and testosterone all suffer with too much cardio activity. The result?  Muscle loss creates the opportunity for fat. Fill your path to 70 with weight training that consistently follows a few principles of “adequate strength training” and you’ll have avoided muscle losses that will otherwise happen.

If you are a women in midlife, pay attention. What you learned and did in your 20s and 30s is going to make you fatter, slower, and more depressed. Sad and blunt truth but true. You will tank diminishing hormones even further by doing tons of cardio. Do you tend to do MORE of what’s not working? Get hurt frequently? Feel like you’re getting more bloated, more cellulite, more anxious or exhausted? Your hormones are messaging you – shouting, really – that this sh** you’re doing is NOT working!

Other Big Benefits of Strength Training

Before you get to 70 celebrating better strength and body composition than your walking or Pilates-only-please friends, you can enjoy better libido, carry the same load (or more) you did 10 years ago with ease, and have unlimited choices in the way you spend your free time.

The secret to staying motivated to exercise is not so ironically in the exercise. A year-long study published in 2018 showed that participation in a strength training program influenced continued participation among previously sedentary older adults.

Motivation, self-efficacy, and planning were measured during the study at 3 and 9 months. Continued participation was measured at 6 and 12-months intervals after the study. Near 50% of those in the study continued voluntarily lifting weights.

Defining the Terms

Motivation  – the desire or will to do something, the choice or reason someone will do something

Self-efficacy– the belief that your choices control your outcome

Extrinsic motivation– based on outside influence, to avoid punishment, or to gain praise or rewards, to satisfy a task, or complete a program

Intrinsic motivation– based on an individual’s thoughts, beliefs and knowledge, for personal perceived benefits and determination

The Importance of Planning

Strength training-related planning has many facets. You first have to plan the time to exercise. Then you’ve got to have a plan of action for that time in a session. Knowledge of exactly what you’ll do including what exercises, in what order, how many times, at what speed makes a well laid out plan.

Not so ironically, you won’t be as likely to plan exercise unless you have a plan for action in that session and you tie it to results you want.

Have you let trips and events, projects, and holidays, or crisis interfere with regular exercise? Have they been the obstacle that threw you off schedule never to return again?

Without even knowing it’s happening, your subconscious may be weighing the advantages of allocating time to something you have no confidence will improve your current status.

Your Most Valuable Plan Component

The most important quality of a plan is your ability of tying it to the outcome that you want. You’re not likely to go into action if you don’t have confidence that what you’re doing will help you.

A good plan connects what to do with how it will help you get from where you are now to where you want to go.

If you don’t understand the connection between what you’re doing and the outcome you want, ask!

A supervised program with incentives, encouragement, and structure can provide the motivation to get you started. A program offers extrinsic motivation that might come from the investment of funds. It might come from the public announcement that you’re doing this. It might come because you’ll get some kind of reward or incentive (insurance premium lowered or work wellness program t-shirt).

Even More Benefits

Strength training doesn’t only decrease the rate at which muscle mass and strength are lost.You can increase muscle mass after 50. Studies even show you can gain muscle in your 10thdecade.

Strength training helps avoid cognitive decline. It’s been shown to have a positive effect on preventing Alzheimer’s and dementia. It helps improve mood. It helps decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety. In fact, exercise interventions may work more effectively than medications and cognitive therapies, without negative side effects.

At the start of this post, I basically wrote when you feel stronger you do more. When you’ve exercised consistently for a period of time doing the right thing, you gain not only strength but confidence and self-efficacy.

That opens the world to you.

The best way to take a step toward regular strength training? If you’re serious about longevity and loving your energy, body, and life with the help of strength training, you need a plan.

Spend 8 weeks with me (Starts Aug 1, 2019)and work on your motivation to move. If you’ve not been strength training regularly, this twice per week program is the start you need. If you’re a woman in perimenopause, menopause, or post menopause it was designed for you! It’s based on research and successful protocols with women in perimenopause and beyond subjects.

It’s not your daughter’s or your mom’s workout.

Doors are open RIGHT NOW and if you miss the early bird special you’ll still be able to get in for a great rate… but who doesn’t love to save?


You Might Also Like:

How to Start Strength Training Part I

How to Start Strength Training Part II

Why Strength Training for Women 50+ is a Must

Strength Training Programs for Hormones, Menopause, and Metabolism

Strength Training Mistakes that Cost You Bones and Muscles

Do 7-Minute Workouts Deliver?

 It seems we love 7-minute workouts, 4-minute workouts, even 10-minute workouts…. They’re all the rage. (Don’t miss my series of 4 blog posts on HIIT & Injury Risks and what it means for women in menopause. Start here.)

But seriously, we are making a hot mess of the science behind these workouts. We’re also forgetting “warm up” does not mean start with a high impact move. That, girlfriend, has been a problem for decades, at least the 3.5 decades I’ve been in fitness.

Even “experts” we’re supposed to trust who’ve gained celebrity as authority figures in health don’t get it right. Dr. Oz frequently brings his trainer on the show. I’ve pulled a video from a show segment featuring 7-minute workouts to share with you.

It’s Misleading

While, yes, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has science behind it, it has to be used intelligently. It’s not simply “moving” for a short period of time that makes it HIIT. On the video there isn’t much breathlessness occurring for the exercisers. It is a 7-minute workout. It met that criteria.

What did work?

This was an example of circuit training. Using the term interval training is OK, too. But it was not a “high intensityinterval training” example.

That is entirely appropriate for beginners to advanced exercisers who want a time efficient workout.

The lower intensity means the exercise won’t have as powerful influence on metabolism and fat burning after exercise (compared to true High Intensity exercise). Likewise, because there isn’t any need, there is no real recovery between exercises. And that’s OK.

A sequence of exercises alternating upper and lower body exercises in quick succession does have science behind it. It is not, however, truly HIIT. [It’s called peripheral heart action, for the record.]

So promising HIIT-related results from something other than HIIT exercise, is “false advertising.” Granted this is a free video available to anyone at any time. However, why as an expert would you want to mislead? Unless you didn’t know better you wouldn’t have.

There’s More

That’s not what really disappoints me in this episode. Even more important to me is the potential for injury and the erroneous exercises.

=>When did jumping become a warm up? Starting with a high impact exercise fails to prepare the joints, ligaments, and muscles for the increased load. It’s like getting into a car with a 14-year old permit-user who floors it to go faster or crushes the brake. Your body feels that stress in a big way. It’s going from 0 to 100% in a single move.

=>“Chest press” has to happen with resistance to gravity or resistance of bands or pulleys (But erroneously it’s demonstrated in a standing position pressing out) if it’s intended for chest (Now, this exercise can be used for core or for a shoulder exercise for the appropriate person). As it was demonstrated it has no effect on major muscles that influence metabolism.

A 7-Minute Workouts Comparison

Dr Oz’ moves:

Here’s my version:

Warm up for 3-5 minutes first! March in place (or march in place while you’re watching the instruction portion)

You’ll start the workout at 2:37. Complete the 11 exercises each for 40-50 seconds once you’ve gone through this once or repeat this short sequence as is a second time. Finish every session with stretching. 

My moves:

This too is an alternating upper and lower body exercise with minimal breaks. It’s a different way to “interval” consistent of a circuit of intervals. It’s an excellent “quickie” for travel days or crazy days. It’s short enough to repeat twice. There won’t be muscle “fatigue” as much as there will be muscle stimulation.

This is what I call a consistency keeper and energy booster. When your weights can’t happen, when you can’t get in a 20 minute interval set, this once or twice through is an example of what you “can do.” In reality though most workouts “cheat” labeling 7-minute workouts since you’ve got to do a warm up! and cool down!

The Flipping Message?

It’s reader and viewer beware. Ask questions. Challenge the information. Be a critical thinker. Make sure that you’re filtering for YOU. Ask if that segment was designed for you.

Even with a medical professional, a certified trainer, and a stable of producers who likely fact-check this episode segment had gaps in the utility for you, or any user.

If it intended to show how easy it is to set up a circuit you can do in minutes at home this segment did that. It could have done so with more appropriate warm up and exercises accurately targeting desired outcome.

I advise you keep it simple and custom.

Choose the goal. Avoid any injury. Choose the exercises.

7-Minute Workouts FLIP: 10 minutes, not 4, 6, or even 7, minutes of high intensity interval training was recently shown MOST effective for positively influencing hormones. It’s clear that low volume high intensity interval training is effective, provided it reach a threshold of at least 10 minutes duration for postmenopausal women.

Looking for workouts, recipes, coaching and community that are already filtered for you based on research about you [women in perimenopause, menopause, and beyond] so you know they’re proven to work? The Cafe is open for enrollment twice a year.


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Sprints for Healthy Body Composition

P.S. I think Dr. Oz brings important topics to the public’s attention! This is not a slam on him or the show. I do think he could have done better here. With a broad viewership there’s a responsibility to say, who’s this for and why. Under that though, incorrect exercises without specifically targeting the said goal is irresponsible.

Healthy at-home exercise is a must-have for anyone today. Even if you belong and love your gym, having an option for those days when you can’t make it is paramount for consistency. There will be those days you’re stuck with too little time to commute there and back, or you’re caregiving, or waiting for “cable guy,” or stranded in a blizzard.

This post is quite unique. I’m introducing the Flipping 50 Membership 2.0. The “Café” as we call it, the place to stop in and fill your cup with a community of women on the same journey is 3 and a half. It’s the first and only membership designed for you in perimenopause, menopause, and beyond. It’s a virtual gym and your source for virtual coaching, education, exercise nutrition, and more.

The Café is perfect if you’re looking for “what’s next” after a Flipping 50 program and want continued support, motivation, and more workout challenges you can choose anytime, anywhere… with like-minded women who want the hormone-balancing fitness difference.

Enrollment is open right now… and closing soon. This is new. We’ve decided to bring in a group of new members only limited times of year to really take you on a journey together.

Just added bonus…Complimentary Private Session with Debra to kick off your membership ($300 value)

First & Only Hormone Balancing Fitness Membership

It is designed with you in mind. It is based on research featuring women in perimenopause, menopause, and post menopause. It’s about getting stronger, inside and outside. I work with you on mindset and shifting what you were taught and learned decades ago about diets and exercise that simply, does not work. Why?

First, because your hormones now need something very different than they once did (and psst…. It’s less not more). Second, science has advanced tremendously in 35 years I’ve been involved in the fitness industry. Yet, you’ve been busy right? And there’s an “infobesity” of content coming at you. It’s hard to filter was is BS and what is really in your best interest.

Look, I get it.

That’s why I want you to stick with me for a year. This isn’t a quick fix. Not if it took 50 years of habits to get you here. But you will feel and see results quickly AND continue to see them as you stick with me. You want and need to know not just what but why. That keeps you motivated. I teach you how to connect the dots between the actions and plans I lay out and the results and benefits you get. That helps eliminate “motivation” and “willpower” and enhances commitment.

It’s Not Motivation

I don’t believe any of us lack discipline. I don’t believe that’s why you’re not getting results, or right where you want to be. I believe there’s a combination of missing science, misunderstanding what your body is telling you, and a need to know exactly what to do. So, you need a trusted source.

If you are willing to make changes – and hey, we’re all busy. That one just doesn’t work. You’re not too busy for disease. You can’t be too busy for exercise and lifestyle habits that make it work. We all have a story. But just because you’re crazy making, don’t expect me to get in there with you. If you can’t exercise for a time, you dial in that nutrition, sleep, and daily habits. If you can exercise for a shorter than you want to time? Then we just need to nail what is that most effective use of those 10 minutes. I look for answers, not problems.  Still with me?

Then here are the details.[or if you’re already thinking, “yes,” you had me at hormone balancing fitness – click here!]

Your Membership Includes:

There’s More…



BONUS Exclusives

So now is the time! You get Flipping 50 Membership 2.0 with over $800 of programs, you’ll save up to $200 off protein products, and get the ultimate… looking good and feeling great. This program for instance, STRONGER 3 is only available inside the Cafe!

We close doors Tuesday July 16, 11:59pm then close the doors for months.

Open Enrollment is limited going forward to two times a year. Enrollment is open in July and January of each year. So when enrollment closes, only students who’ve recently finished a Premium Program have a one-time opportunity to join until the next enrollment period.

This is for you if:

This isn’t for you if:

Ready? Join Now


Q: Can I join if I haven’t done a program or coaching with Debra yet?

A: Yes, during this enrollment period we welcome you. I will suggest you turn right around and join a Premium Program asap, however (perhaps with your new member’s discount on regularly priced programs!).


Q: What’s the refund policy?

A: See below for additional details. Once you’re in the Café and have access to all of our intellectual property we don’t refund. You can at any time cancel the renewal for your annual subscription by sending an email


Q: Do you do a payment plan?

A: There currently is not. Please reach out to support@flippingfifty.comand share your situation.


Q: I’m a vegan/vegetarian does this work for me?

A: Yes! The only area where you will find less content applicable to you is in the recipes section. Many of them will work for you. However, main dishes are skewed to our animal protein members but can be tweaked for the plant-based lifestyle. If you’ve gone through a Premium Program you’ll have the best insight into this being a fit for you.

*Once you have access to the Café membership you have access to all of the intellectual property inside. For that reason we do not refund for the Café once you’ve been sent and opened access. You may cancel your renewal for the following year with notice to
The Flipping 50 membership is intended for one user. Shared access to your personal account is prohibited and considered abuse.

Need to see it? Watch the behind the scenes video here I created for our members to see what’s coming with the 2.0 upgrade!

Hormone balancing exercise is not just “any” exercise. Nor is it any time of day. Your specific signs and symptoms dictate the right exercise prescription. You, however, are not sick. But the signs in this case are… inability to lose weight, exhaustion when you wake, inability to sleep, belly fat, signs of cellulite and water retention. That’s not an all-inclusive list, by the way.

Those signs tell me as a hormone balancing fitness expert how to help you. Your current exercise program can use tweaking and I know how to do it if I know how you’re feeling.

What else might be helpful to know before we start if we’re working together or you’re in a group program?

Because, this needs to be said:

It can help or hurt. Exercise can definitely help your hormone balance. If you make changes in a routine that’s not working.

We female humans have a tendency to do more of what’s already not working.


Me too. Because I LIKE exercise. We who do often need the most support!

Here’s the truth though… trainers notoriously will TELL you to do that. (work harder, do another workout between our sessions, etc) It’s a bit of an ego hit for a trainer when clients aren’t getting results. Even they (who are not tuned into to Hormone Balancing Fitness programming) will tell you… work harder, do another class a week, get in more activity, eat less, etc. All things that could cause further hormone imbalance, which is likely the obstacle between you and better results.

General Midlife Exercise to Help Your Hormone Balance

Weight training with adequate intensity for short duration boosts testosterone, growth hormone, and optimizes cortisol

Sprint intervals and HIIT (Sprint Intervals are edging out HIIT) for short duration and done safely to avoid injury boost testosterone and optimize cortisol levels

But you’ve got to KNOW.

You can’t guess. If you’ve been dealing with fatigue, lack of motivation, or frustrating weight gain for too long – with what you’d call “good habits” it’s time for another step.

First, I always advocate getting more knowledge about what is truly hormone balancing. Get those habits changed. The 28-Day Kickstart is a good place to begin. If you’re not sleeping, pooping, eating, or exercising RIGHT, then exercise will not help you.

Next, you’ve done that and you still struggle a little with compliance (don’t we all?) Or you’re want to consider a boost from HRT, then testing is a must.

Take Control: Test Your Hormone Levels

Here’s a last chance to watch a replay video and take advantage of a super Flipping 50 special so you can go over lab results and get answers. It will not be available forever. If you’re seeing this after the special… the information in this video is still KILLER! Watch it! (click to watch this private video – only available for a short time except for our Cafe members)


[If you’re interested in testing, stop the video as it plays to catch the URL and learn more or get it. But don’t wait. I partner with Yourlabwork specific times of the year for crazy specials like this, so if you’re a member of the Flipping 50 community, you’re set, these announcements are something I only share on email]

Less Exercise

Less exercise is so often the answer. Lower intensity, consistent, but shorter duration exercise is best if you’re really suffering from the “I’m always tired,” syndrome. Next, add intense strength training. Still short. Next, add intervals or sprints (watch for a special edition post about Sprint Interval Training coming very soon!)

Your brain is going to say, “Wait a minute! Less exercise, no you don’t understand… I HAVE to exercise!”

You, sister, are the one who needs to step back most.

Where are my endurance girls? My gotta-have-an-exercise fix before work gals?

I know you’re out there. But… that thing you’re hooked on is socially acceptable yet probably keeping you from feeling good and getting your mojo back.

Do get some exercise… just walk instead of run. Get outside instead of doing the dreadmill. Go lighter or shorter or both. Then do some yoga or stretching or get in the sauna. It feels like you’re doing something, you’re just doing it differently. It’s temporary, tell yourself.


It’s Not Forever

When you feel good then you can increase again. Test what works for you. That’s a little trial and error. Some of us thrive on endurance (it’s genetic). But even I who have that long-slow gene.. HAVE to do intervals to keep fast twitch muscle fibers. It’s how we keep our metabolism and reaction skills.

Want to avoid both belly fat now and falls later? Move quickly for a few minutes during each workout or lift with power (a wee bit of speed when you lift but always in control).

Assess your own workout (and your daily habits with the You Still Got It, Girl! checklist. Download it from top of the page. Print it and check your score. Focus on anything that surprises you, areas where you’re not doing well… and get it right! It matters. These are the habits that support natural hormone balance.

Exercise can help your hormone balance. As can the right nutrition before and after exercise. The sleep you get makes exercise better by assuring the right hormones are in place at the levels you need them.

Links to the resources mentioned:

28 Day Kickstart
Lab Tests You Need to Know
Flipping 50 Specialist (for trainers and health coaches)

What’s the connection between estrogen levels and exercise? Whether you assess estrogen levels by labs or messages your body sends you, estrogen status is an important consideration in your exercise plan. If you want to feel better, sleep better, and avoid fat deposits and find optimal weight, your exercise choices matter. This post will give you insight for making the best hormone balancing fitness plan.



Effects of Exercise on Estrogen

There are three types of estrogen to be familiar with:

Estradiol – most common in non-pregnant women

Estrone – post menopause

Estriol – major role in pregnancy

The role of estrogen in weight and fat

You need estrogen for weight loss. It helps regulate fat metabolism. When you’ve got adequate estrogen in cells there’s less chance for fat to move in. So let’s look at this!

Low Estrogen Levels & Exercise

Reducing the volume of exercise can help increase low estrogen levels, whereas extreme exercise can cause a decrease in estrogen. You’ve got to find your Goldilocks.

It’s important to consider your individual need and response to exercise. Yet, if you have low estrogen levels even if you love exercise, it’s wise to listen to the fact your body is telling you, “Not right now.”

Overtraining and Estrogen

If you can’t relax or enjoy yourself if you don’t exercise, if it gets in the way of you doing other things in your life or you do it at the expense of your health then exercise has become something other than a healthy part of life.

For example, Jamie was extremely obsessed with food and exercise for much of her life. After a diagnosis of low bone density in her late 30’s she was under treatment yet still running miles though told not to due to risk of fracture.

Overtraining is linked to low estrogen levels that contribute to bone loss. Overtraining and under recovery both are to blame. That is, you may be doing too much too soon for your body and or you can be getting too little sleep, rest, and nutrition to support your workouts. That’s as common among weight loss seekers as it is athletes.

Assess Your Estrogen Levels

Begin with the signs and symptoms your body is sending you. If you haven’t done “labs”you can still learn much from your body. If you have done labs, you still want that intel from your body combined with labs.

You may have low estrogen levels if you respond “yes” to several of those.

You may have high estrogen levels if you respond “yes” to several of those.

For low estrogen levels:

For high or “estrogen dominance”:

Remember, It’s Relative

“High estrogen” often seems a little confounding when you’re in menopause. You’re losing estrogen and it’s why you’re in menopause, after all! So what’s up with that?

It’s the relationship between your hormones that give way to the term “hormone balance.”

So, if you liken it to cholesterol, which we readily accept as both numbers and most importantly the ratio of good: total cholesterol. It’s about that relationship, even if your total number may be a little higher than ideal. So it is with hormones.

If your estrogen and progesterone levels aren’t in balance with each other, typically it’s due to high cortisol. Cortisol blocks progesterone. That contributes to more angst, less calm, and mood swings. But you’re also more likely to deposit fat in your belly when estrogen is “low” (compared to progesterone”) and cortisol is high.

Like when you have aging parents, kids still at home or in college, career or relationship changes happening. And you, possibly are a woman who does too much. For everyone else. Or ruminates about doing too much for everyone else. And you exercise to negate stress. Too much. Or ruminate about exercising and don’t. At all.

Hello, midlife.

Move Right for You Right Now

Make the move to move right. Enough, but not too much. Not for your friend, your spouse, or younger you. The right exercise at the right time supports your hormone balance naturally. Whether you choose to do hormone supplementation or you don’t, your exercise and other lifestyle habits optimize or sabotage your hormone balance.

If you’ve “got this,” and you’re feeling great in the second half congrats!

And if you’d like support, there are some ways I can help.  Grab my “checklist of successful Flipping 50 habits” and see how you’re doing.

And if you’re really serious about getting long lasting support one of these is the perfect start:


You might also like:

Hormone Balancing Fitness Plan

The Hormone-Exercise Connection to Lose Weight and Boost Energy

Hormone Balancing Fitness

In this post I include the intel on 1) hormones that balance each other 2) hormones that influence energy and your exercise (ability and results), and 3) how your exercise influences your hormone balance, and a 4) quick summary of how to modify exercise to support the hormones mentioned. 

Note: this post includes what happens IF you choose not to change things with daily habits and exercise. The research included studies what IS. Consider what happens if you don’t do what others have done and don’t accept what has happened in the past to be your future. If you don’t take on the “normal” “average” habits you won’t settle for “normal” and “average” results. 

Important Hormone Relationships

We’ve gotten so good at generalizing. You may make statements like, “It’s my hormones,” or read or hear that hormone imbalance is to blame. But, you’re not a victim, there are things you can do. While you’re busy, while you’re working, traveling, being you. You don’t have to go to bed hoping for a good night sleep, fewer hot flashes, or more energy. You can make it happen.

If you’re ready to understand more about the hormones that need to be in balance with each other (and how that might happen with shifts in exercise toward a hormone balancing fitness plan) keep reading. There’s definitely an integration of many hormones involved in the energy, the weight, the way you think, but some hormones have a stronger relationship.

HPA axis

In a Flipping 50 Café master class some time ago (and this recording is a bonus part of The After 50 Fitness Formula for Women) I addressed Adrenal Fatigue. Though adrenal fatigue isn’t recognized by all medical professionals, HPA axis is accepted. It stands for the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal axis.

Your endocrine, nervous, and immune systems interact. The endocrine system is hormone central. Your nervous system is related to your brain messaging everything else. Your immune system of course keeps you well or not and potentially all of them either decelerate or accelerate aging.

When you have HPA axis dysfunction your stress response isn’t working correctly.

That’s also referred to as adrenal fatigue.

What was a healthy dose of exercise isn’t when you’re experiencing adrenal fatigue. The hormone balancing fitness you need involves what I call “restore, before more.” Exercise that is optimal for you leaves you feeling optimally. That’s news to a lot of women. It’s not punishment.

Hello Menopause

When your hormone levels are changing it’s not just all highs and lows. There’s a shift in the interactions among hormones. They don’t play as well together. Poor stress response results if your HPA axis can’t’ adjust to stressors. Stress causes more inflammation and oxidation. You age faster.

Exercise for burning calorie’s sake is the opposite of a hormone balancing fitness plan. In fact, that kind of focus can push you deeper into hormone imbalance. Sure, you may feel better temporarily but look for signs you’re overall not responding, feeling worse not better.

DHEA is produced by the adrenal gland and it’s a pre-cursor to the sex hormones. Similar to muscle mass which peaks at about 25, so does DHEA and it progressively decreases over time.

DHEA is one of the key hormones in balancing effects of cortisol. So think about this. You’re at a time in your life sandwiched between older adults and younger dependents, at a peak of your career or an apex of change in jobs, relationships, and status. There’s a bit more stress than ever before. And there’s less support in your system for dealing with it.

Not ideal.

Faster than a Chunky Child Drops on a Teeter Totter

Age-related declines can disrupt the cortisol- DHEA balance. Guess what happens? You lose muscle among other things, like wanting to scream, sleep for days, or eat a bag of chips and wash it down with chunky monkey.

Guess what? Cortisol is a bitch. She doesn’t experience declines with aging. This is a perfect storm, right? What can appear to be higher cortisol levels as we get older could in fact be the declining DHEA to balance it. It’s not higher than it was it’s just higher relative to other hormones that are now lower.

More bad news

You don’t just lose muscle mass easier when cortisol is higher relative to DHEA. You lose bone density and your marbles. Yes, You lose cognition, memory, and ability to focus. We’re all calling it brain fog or menopause mind. It’s got science behind it.


The change in the ratio between estrogen and other hormones (progesterone and testosterone) alters your metabolic, physiological and neurological systems. The result? Your metabolism slows, your body composition changes for the worse, and you can’t remember where you left the phone (in your hand).

Estrogen loss plays a part in greater inflammation, less muscle, memory loss and poor stress response (compared to younger you or to same age men).

Progesterone and estrogen are ideal at a similar level. Cortisol however when higher (or relatively higher (see last section) blocks progesterone. So your calm, serene side has gone to Tahiti. Without you. You’ve got “estrogen dominance” even as estrogen levels are lower than in your past. High estrogen, high cortisol, and insulin make it easy to deposit fat right in the middle.

But the good news is, hormone balancing fitness can support estrogen and so too can certain things you eat. A couple tablespoons of ground flax seed daily can help you get rid of excess estrogen as can adding fiber to your diet, for example.


This hormone declines steadily with age. Loss of muscle and accompanying strength are due to waning testosterone. So too is decreasing libido.

Here’s the scoop though. Declining levels of testosterone are a result of declining health more than the opposite. Your health and libido potentially are not declining because of testosterone lows. If you aren’t taking care of yourself or working on intimacy intentionally, you’ll suffer more than most.

If you think you’re “pretty healthy,” consider this. Do you really rest fully? Have you defined what “healthy eating” is for you now vs. in the past? Is your exercise something you love? Do you make time for friends and fun? What makes you truly happy? Is it into your life regularly? Self care goes beyond not being sick.

Flip: Some research shows age had no effect on testosterone levels but by comparison obesity did. Lifestyle factors (like strength training) play a part in what happens to your hormone balance.

You’re not a victim of your hormones as much as your hormones are victim of your lifestyle habits.

You learned things. You learned them decades ago and they may not be true any more. You acquired habits. But you’ve not learned the science that helps you replace those habits with better things.

The Question Lingers: Is Age Just a Number?

Unfair treatment of the response to that question only looks at polls and surveys of a decline that’s happened in now 65-74 year-olds or those over 75. That means only that their lifestyle habits – what every they were – contributed. I think it’s fair to say that they didn’t have the science we have to day. They did the best they did with the knowledge they had.

But you, girlfriend, have more and better and we know that aging is either accelerated or decelerated based on your daily choices.Every single one of them matters.

Growth Hormone

For more muscle (and not fat) you need growth hormone (GH). Growth hormone is secreted and stimulates insulin-like growth factor type 1 (IGF-1). They work together to prompt muscle growth. IGF-1 is responsible for muscle repair.

That’s important. In You Still Got It, Girl! I first pointed out that one of the biggest challenges women flipping 50 have is their own mind. The solution to better fitness is not more exercise, it is in fact better recovery after adequate exercise stimulus.

If you don’t have enough IGF-1 you may be tearing down, breaking down and not repairing muscle in every workout. Thus, even an exerciser can lose muscle – potentially faster than a non-exerciser.

Both GH and IGF-1 decline as you age. This is partially the cause of frailty. Sarcopenia is the term used to describe muscle loss associated with age.

Cortisol and GH

Cortisol is up remember? It has a poor effect on body composition. While GH has a positive effect. Researchers have connected a strengthened effect of GH in the presence of cortisol. This has a huge impact on your ideal exercise routine.

Your ideal routine imposes calculated stress (cortisol-inducing) on your system while negating the negative effects of too much or blah-blah exercise. Using high intensity intervals (for short durations) and weight training has the most optimal effects on GH (as well as testosterone). What sabotages your exercise and hormone balance?

If you’re still doing an “hour of power” on the dreadmill or hours on the Stairmaster or elliptical every week, flip your routine. Short higher or short lower intensity cardio and short high intensity (heavy is best; to fatigue with lighter weight is second best) resistance training does the most good.

Your Hormone Balancing Fitness Plan

The positive effect that the RIGHT exercise has on hormones can offset age-related hormonal changes.

Your plan in action:

Resistance train twice a week. Start light and progress over a period of weeks (up to two months). Reach fatigue in each set. Collectively consider your bone and joint needs, history of exercise or injury, conditions, stress level, nutrition adequacy, and sleep in designing an exercise program. Seek support of a hormone balancing fitness expert if this is beyond your scope.

Reduce or eliminate long endurance sessions lasting an hour or more. Shift toward 1-2 short sessions of high intensity intervals per week complimented by low to moderate short activities.

Create a hormone balancing fitness plan you will enjoy. Include activities you love.

If you’re tired every day take a full week to restore before more. Move but don’t exercise. Get your sleep, stress, and nutrition dialed in. At the end of a week, assess. Continue the restore if you don’t feel better. Gradually begin to strength train in small regular doses first when you add more.

To offset muscle loss that would happen if you weren’t making the shifts above, and to amplify positive results, protein is a must for older adults. Read more about your protein needs now derived from 10 recent studies.

You might also like:

Adrenal Fatigue to Adrenal Reset

Adrenal Fatigue, Exercise, and Weight Loss Success

Make the Hormone-Exercise Connection

Your New Reading List!

Kickstart your summer with a few of my best health & fitness guides.

Looking for health & fitness recommendations that are made for you, and only you?

Are you done with the one-size-fits all ages, sizes, and both genders approach?

You’re in the right place. I’ve designed several health & fitness guides to help with some of the biggest problems (more on that below) women face. Whether you’re seeking exercise advice, energy answers, want to solve menopause mysteries, or love your libido again… Flipping 50 is made for you.

These are a collection of the best blogs compiled into “guides” for a quicker-than-a-book yet comprehensive look into topics you- blogand book readers, and Flipping 50 podcastlisteners, Flipping 50 TVviewers –have expressed the most interest in.

In a hurry? 

Skip right down to the guides and get started. I’ll imagine you on a lounge chair with a big brimmed hat and a drink with a little umbrella facing the ocean while you read.

I’m 55 in the boat rowing with you. I’ve observed aging fitness professionals, aging athletes, less active folks who float in and out of exercise, and enthusiasts that either accelerate or slow aging. After 35 years of research, observations, and applications I’ve got the after 50 fitness formula for women.

Women Over 50 are Unique

The fact is your hormones, metabolism, body composition, socialization, are different.

They’re different from younger women.

They’re different from younger, older, or same age men.

Yet, just 39% of all sports medicine and exercise research features female subjects. No matter how many times I say or write this it astounds me. At the rate of women turning 75, 65, and 55 (baby boomers at this minute, Gen Xers soon) that’s absurd.

The only thing you can do about it right now is demand that fitness programs, trainers, and health coaches use THAT sliver of research for you.

You have to ask.

or demand. There’s a little too much paying for a group approach from a private personal trainer going on with personal training services for my taste today. Don’t mistake “a personal trainer” for a “good personal trainer.” There are good ones but you’ve got to know what to ask.

Why Flipping 50?

At Flipping 50 working with women in perimenopause and beyond is all we do. Every day. I’m not a doctor pretending to diagnose. I wouldn’t expect a doctor to suggest training protocols for you either. Ideally we work together. As a Medical Exercise Specialist and Hormone Balancing Fitness Expert I rely on physicians in functional medicine and on physical therapists to support my clients. A team approach eliminates you running from one to the next trying to pull that together yourself. As a health coach I support your lab interpretation so you have the right questions to ask and next steps to pursue.

Once you cross the threshold of perimenopause, you go through the biggest changes. It’s why “flipping 50” is for and about women in their late 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond.

When women ask, what about 60? I know I’ve not communicated Flipping 50’s mission clearly to you. Don’t misunderstand Flipping 50 to mean this is for a 50-year old. It’s NOT. The biggest changes occur both mentally and physically when a woman hits 50. It’s not about age though really it’s about phase. How you show up and how you see yourself matters.

Flipping 50 is about changing your expectations:

not all women gain weight with menopause and those who don’t are not just “lucky”

not all women get hot flashes and night sweats

not all women have their libido crash (it’s actually better after for some of us)

not all women get that belly fat just because of menopause (let’s check in with your eating, your wine, your sleep and your exercise before we point a finger at some mystery menopause bs)

Mastering Menopause Can Start Anytime

Yes, things change. Yes, you’ll have to change the strategy. Guess what? If you’re a woman in her 30s or 40s and you change NOW… YOU will flip 50 so much better. You’re going to get here. Ready or not. Your needs are slightly different than a women in perimenopause (and beyond) but you can prepare to sail through it more easily.

Sure all women have estrogen, progesterone fluctuations from the time they hit menses to post menopause. But in perimenopause and menopause it’s very different. If feels unpredictable. If you listen to what your body is telling you, rely on your own changes and not a pill, shot or cream (though you might decide, hey you want some support), you can change the way you feel. The daily choices you make matter.

After menopause, don’t think you’re out of the woods. The hormone fluctuations that dictate health are not the same as when you were wired for reproduction but hormones are still calling the shots. Your mood, energy, sleep, appetite, bones, muscles… you get the idea? Pretty much everything is dependent on hormones ‘til death do us part.

Just Exercise? Or Exercise for You?

Before you jump into activity because an article said it’s good read the study. Research subjects should be in perimenopause, menopause, or beyond if you’re to take an announcement like, “New study says HIIT is the best for burning fat” seriously. That’s just one example of media-hyped and overgeneralized studies that could sabotage you.

[The real news is injury rates have gone up 144% since the introduction of HIIT as a household word and regular workout “thing.” In real application, if HIIT is done longer and more frequently in a midlife woman already experiencing stress and fatigue, adrenal stress can make her storemore fat rather than lose it.]

If you’re still reading, naturally you want to dig into fact about YOU, proven practices for YOU, and I’ve got it below. Choose the topic that’s the biggest source of confusion right now and match it to the guide I’ve created.

Plus, I’d love your help. Is there another topic you want more information on? Share it in the comments below this post. I’m listening.

The Flipping 50 Health & Fitness Guides

Jump to the guide that speaks to you or consume them all!

The Ultimate Guide to Menopause Belly Fat

Has menopause caused weight gain and or belly fat?  Of all my health & fitness guides this one gets under the hood of deceptive lie you’ve been led to believe about menopause belly fat. Hint: it isn’t inevitable. I say menopause and weight gain & belly fat are headed for a divorce.

The Ultimate After 50 Smoothies Guide

Confused about whether food or smoothies are best? What kind of protein is right for you? Or how to know if your protein has toxins in it sabotaging your fat burning and in fact making you store more fat? This is the best of health & fitness guides for you.

Flipping 50’s Ultimate Recovery Day Guide

Do you know – or need to – that your recovery from exercise is MORE important than your exercise?

Truth. But it doesn’t mean lying on the couch eating grapes (or sipping smoothies). Not that a modern woman has time to do that. Or will let herself do it if she did.

There isan art to recovery. Recovery starts even before and for sure during your workout. Between sets, some say even repetitions. Then there’s the between workouts and weeks or months of workouts. But how? What does it really look like? How do you know if you are or you’re not? It’s in this, my most recent of health & fitness guides.

The Ultimate Guide to Lunges and Squats After 50

Do squats or lunges hurt your knees?

This is the conundrum for many of my Flipping 50 students and clients. So often the very thing you’re told repeatedly to do for metabolism can hurt or leave you paying for it for days after.

In this guide, an episode of Flipping 50 TV I give you specific reasons these exercise might hurt, tips for changing your technique to see if you can be more comfortable, and alternatives that work instead if you need them. No matter which category you’re in, I’ve got you covered.

Helpful? I hope so! I’d love to hear from you! Comment below!

Do You Want More Step-by-Step?

Would you like more support? I have programs specifically for exercise, and more comprehensive ones to help you really get the whole “formula” since it takes “a village” more and less.

Browse exercise here. My top pick? STRONGER 12-week programs

Browse coaching programs here. My top pick? Start with the 28-Day Kickstart.

20 or more pounds to lose? Fat loss after 50 is unique. I pulled all the science together for you.

It takes a more comprehensive, whole-istic approach to lifestyle habits than just exercise alone can give you. And, it takes less exercise once you know which exercise is right for results.

If you love exercise, I get you. I’ll help you determine where to set your activity and recovery levels so you can do what you love, feel the way you love, and get the results you love.

If you prefer to have one-on-one coaching, you can start with 90-day or do a 6-month coaching package. More details here.

I compiled this list of 8 strength training mistakes using two sources. I’ve had decades of observation and from a recent study. The study reviewed 25 prior studies pertaining to resistance training in older adults. Researchers deduced the most effective practice in resistance training programs for healthy older adults.

This list is derived from assessing both best protocols and what’s typically missing in programs – whether you’re on your own or following someone else’s. If you’re lifting weights and you wonder why you’re not seeing results, check out these 8 strength training mistakes for clues. Find your mistakes?

If you’re just getting started or restarted, here’s to doing it right from the start!

1. You expect results right away – in the wrong place.

Are you still looking at the scale to tell you if you’re stronger or have more muscle and less fat? She’s lying. Weight changes slower than percent body fat does if you’re exercising correctly and you’re supporting your own hormone balance.

On average weight loss for beginners in a well-designed strength training program can expect a loss of 4 lbs. fat and a gain of 3 lbs. lean muscle. According to the scale that’s a measly 1 lb. loss. But you could be down a dress size or full of energy and doing the stairs without knee pain.

The longest duration programs (53 weeks in the study) reaped the best results. Subjects continued to improve over time as long as they stayed involved in regular exercise. Make it a lifestyle habit.

2. You lift too light too often.

Researchers found higher intensity programs got the best results. Lifting a weight you can only lift 10 -15 times is better than lifting lighter weights for 20 or more times or never reaching fatigue.

What often occurs is nothing. So you feel as if you can exercise, in fact lift weights, go to another class, the next day and the next.

A couple things go wrong in this scenario.

(1) You never creating enough stimulus for the muscle to be “overload” so the muscle changes.

(2) You never rest between those quality overload sessions. Rest between is the time you actually get fit. A muscle adequately stimulated “overcompensates” when it’s given rest and adequate nutrition (protein and micronutrient dense foods). A muscle never adequately stimulated or rested between sessions is constantly broken down and weakens or wastes.

3. You hurry through the workout to just get it done.

The length of time you spent in each repetition matters. The amount of time a muscle is under tension influences the ability to change that muscle. For the most optimal results, 6.0 second per repetition got the best results.

That’s 2 counts to lift and 4 counts to lower, traditionally. You can play however!

4. You randomly go from exercise to exercise.

I know this one is hard to avoid sometimes! You’re at the gym and may not have a plan. You’re trying to work in with other exercisers who may or may not be parked on equipment taking selfies.

You may need to interrupt that little photo op and get what you need!

The optimal time between sets of exercise for the same muscle group is between 60 seconds and 120 seconds.

That means do a set of chest press and then a set of squats each taking a minute. Alternate them or add one more exercise (a plank for instance) and you’ll get enough rest.

Optimal time between sets varies for beginners and more experienced weight lifters. If you’re more experienced and lifting a bit heavier, prior studies have shown that 4-5 minutes before challenging the same muscle group again is optimal.

A sequence in your workout could look like this:

  1. Chest press
  2. Squats
  3. Pullover
  4. Plank
  5. If a set of exercises for each took a minute, and you include transition time between them, you create the best time between

5. You still think you need to lift weights three days a week.

That is the most common of strength training mistakes regarding frequency. But it’s not the only one.

You may think you should be lifting four or five days a week. You may be lifting just when it’s convenient and averaging once a week, sometimes, or mistaking Pilates and yoga as resistance training.

First, the optimal frequency for best results (including lean muscle gains, fat loss, overall strength and endurance) is two sessions a week. Ideally, you rest at least 72 hours between those two sessions.

That means you ditch that 1980s Monday/Wednesday/Friday weight day routine (or abandon group fitness set up the same) and you lift weights Monday and Thursday. Or if you’re a Pilates fan, put that into your Wednesday workout. You’re not exhausting your muscles enough to get to fatigue to count as weight work, but it’s a good alignment session. Other more functional and corrective exercise also work between heavy weight days.

6. You have no idea how many sets you need or don’t think it matters.

Some days you do too much some days too little. This is of course after you’ve had a period of adaptation beginning a program. Most adults should (but don’t) start with one single set.

Ultimately, however 2-3 sets per exercise is optimal. Each set should result in muscular fatigue. If you’re doing three sets, don’t fall into the trap of “saving” your energy for those latter sets. If you don’t fatigue on a set you’ve missed an opportunity to give the muscle stimulus it needs to change.

7. You don’t plan the number of repetitions you’ll do.

The right repetition range is determined by your experience level, body type, and by your goals.

Everyone beginning should focus on lighter load (weight) and more repetitions. The reason for improvement in the first 6 weeks of a strength training program are neural. That is, they’re not dependent on weight or load. They’re about the brain connecting to the muscle. You’re also then safely able to prepare a good foundation in ligaments and joints for the future.

If your body type is more muscular you’ll respond well to anything. You also may want to stay away from the “bulk building” protocol (3 sets of 10 reps).

On the other hand if you’re losing muscle mass and don’t have any weight to lose, that bulk protocol is your best friend.

For older adults collectively however, the review of 25 studies showed 7-9 repetitions per set allowed optimal strength, lean muscle improvement, and fat loss. If your joints will allow safe use of heavier loads, power, or slow lifting technique, do it.

One of the biggest of these 8 strength training mistakes women over 50 make is asking, “how much weight should I lift”? the question assumes anyone else can tell you. The question should be, how many repetitions should I do? When you’re given a repetition range, that tells you how to select a weight. You want one that causes you to fatigue within that range. You’ll have to try a few weights to get the feel for them.

8. You get those reps cranked out fast and move on to the next exercise.

I watched men (faculty and staff) on a college campus exercise for decades. They shrank over time. They went from machine to machine going as quickly as they could, often completing a circuit of 8-10 exercises in five minutes. They spent the remainder of their time doing cardio exercise. Their bodies aged with muscle wasting not unique from adults who don’t strength train.

Muscle strength doesn’t require “hypertrophy” (or size) but some amount of muscle mass maintenance is the goal! You will naturally lose muscle mass from 30 to 70 if you don’t perform resistance training. However, the wrong type of resistance training won’t help muscle maintenance.

You need to go slow enough not only during the exercise (see #3 above) but potentially between repetitions. The research suggests that a 2.5 -4.0 seconds rest between repetitions increases muscle strength and maintains lean muscle mass.

Prevention of sarcopenia (loss of muscle) with aging is crucial for avoiding frailty that results in falls and loss of independence. Sarcopenia also contributes to weight gain and obesity due to a slowing of metabolism. “Sarcobesity” is a loss of muscle combined with an increase in fat that leads to increased health risks. 

Avoid these 8 strength training mistakes for a better second half

The message is it all matters. The details matter. It is about so much more than doing a series of exercises. It is about so much more than choosing an exercise for each major muscle group.

“Training period, intensity, time under tension, and rest in between sets play an important role in improving muscle strength and morphology and should be implemented in exercise training programs targeting healthy old adults.”

A little planning goes a long ways toward making “less exercise” more effective.

Serious about results? Want support? Start with one of our most popular strength training programs:

Or get on the wait list for notification when STRONGER I, II, and III doors open again (only open 4 times a year).

Hot, Not Bothered
You Still Got It, Girl! 
You might also like:

Why Protein Recommendations After 50 Are Confusing (post-exercise protein needs)

Flipping 50’s Ultimate Recovery Day Guide


During mental health month I want to touch on the mental health benefits of exercise. Women experience depression – and anxiety – 50% more than men at least up until the age of 65. Hormones play a part, so it’s only fair to fight fire with fire. This post is all about the mental health benefits that occur when you use exercise to positively influence hormones.

[And… if you want to jump down below after the post I share my own and Flipping 50 community members personal shares.]

Women and the Mental Health Benefits from Exercise

What’s gets you out of bed to exercise or motivates you to finally Google up an exercise video or call a health coach is most likely to be weight, energy, arms, or a mother-of-the-bride dress.

What’s gets you hooked so that you won’t give it up is most likely to be the mental health benefits.

The mental health benefits of exercise are numerous. For women in midlife that’s good news.

When hormone levels fluctuate during peri-menopause and menopause brain fog, memory loss, lack of creativity and productivity can plague even the highest functioning woman.

Anyone in today’s fast paced connected 24/7 lifestyle can experience those symptoms. It’s not just a midlife woman thing. But you are more susceptible if you’ve got a lot of external stressors and you’ve got hormone fluctuations happening.

Hormones that Help

Most people first relate exercise with endorphins. It’s true exercise creates endorphins. But that’s the tip of the iceberg. It’s temporary. You’ll need it again. And that’s okay since you need to repeat exercise for physical results. But for long-term mental health benefits other hormones are actually more important.

Serotonin has significant effects on mood and is key in decreasing effects of depression. The anti-depressant effects of exercise are also thanks to brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). In fact “SSRIs” are the most often prescribed meds for depression. Their role is to help balance serotonin levels.

Just what mental health benefits can you expect or thank your exercise for?

Decrease Depression & Anxiety

Studies have proven exerciser therapy to be more favorable than medication and cognitive therapy in treatment of depression and anxiety.

Some therapists have employed walking sessions with clients for decades. Women in particular experience a bump in serotonin from exercise, sunshine, and venting with friends.

Girls let girls talk about problems. They don’t have the need to solve them. Talking, or venting, does wonders for developing what women need most, a collaborative and supportive environment.

Exercise recommendations: aerobic, strength training, yoga

Enhance Memory

In You Still Got It, Girl!(available on Amazon) I shared how walking 40 minutes a day three times a week significantly increased hippocampus size. For you and I, that’s memory central. There’s no intensity imposed, you walk your self-selected pace 40 minutes three times a week. That’s it. Not only did the hippocampus of study subjects not shrink – typical atrophy that occurs with aging – it GREW!

Interested in reversing aging? Start with regular exercise. Low to moderate intensity will do if you’re getting start.

Exercise recommendations: walking, biking

Decrease Risk of Dementia and Alzheimer’s

If you just read about the ability of exercise to improve memory, it’s easy to understand the effects of exercise on reduction of both dementia and Alzheimer’s.

So, while there may be genetics working against you (me too says my DNA results), armed with that knowledge, exercise becomes medicineor at best, a vitamin.

Exercise recommendations: dancing, boxing, aerobic classes with choreography

Decrease Brain Fog

Countless studies have proven mental health benefits of increased focus and concentration in regular exercisers. Compared to sedentary individuals, active workers get more done in less time with fewer errors. Looking for the elusive 4-hour workweek? Start exercising!

Specifically, exercise during a workday results in greater problem solving skills, better relationships with co-workers, and greater job satisfaction at the end of the day.

Workouts can be “sweatless” and still provide these mental health benefits. Yoga and stretching were equally as beneficial as vigorous exercise.

Exercise recommendations: walking, running, biking, swimming

Improve Sleep

A National Foundation of Sleep survey found self-reports of sleep improved by 33% with 10 minutes of walking every day. There isn’t any intensity imposed. Just walk. In fact, you can likely insert your favorite activity for 10 minutes and reap similar sleep benefits.

Exercise recommendations: walking, biking, elliptical, aerobic classes

Increase Self-Esteem

Most people who exercise gain confidence and enjoy a healthy sense of self-esteem compared to non-exercisers. The reason for this occurs isn’t necessarily known.

It could be due to the sense of accomplishment. The satisfaction of setting a goal and following through could contribute. It may be a greater appreciation for the physical body provides a mental boost.

It’s probably due in part to all of those.

Exercise recommendations: weight training, walking, biking, swimming 

Decrease Stress

The underlying reason each of these occurs has to do with lowering your allostatic load. That is, your overall stress. Let’s face it, going for a power walk doesn’t make the project deadline go away, eliminate your need to give a speech, or magically change your financial situation.

But it does increase endorphins (short term fix) and serotonin (the real hormone good stuff) so that you offset the negative effect of cortisol.

Exercise recommendations: walking, running, swimming, aerobic fitness classes, strength training, yoga

Optimize Mental Health Benefits Outside

The mental health benefits of outdoor exercise surpass that done indoors. In fact, exercise in green environments (think Central Park vs. NY city streets) was best for promoting mental health benefits. While physical benefits may happen in a wide variety of environments, “forest bathing” is best for above the shoulders.

Comments from Flipping 50 Community members:


I have never been treated with medication for depression except briefly 30 years ago and the second time in early 90s was a physician’s off-label use to try to prevent frequent migraines (didn’t work). Five years ago, in my early-50s I began exercising more regularly than ever in my life in an effort to lose weight. I also changed my nutrition. It helped my moods tremendously. I have dealt with depression and sometimes anxiety since childhood. Working out (or hiking — doing about anything outdoors) definitely helps me deal with stress, and the stress of feeling depression trying to come on. Exercising makes me feel better about myself. It is something I can control.


I started exercising to lose pounds and gain strength. I noticed right away that I felt better mentally as well as physically. Now, if I am not consistent on doing something active I can really feel it. I’ve had depression in the past and now I know that exercise is crucial for me!


I feel much better about myself when I exercise. I feel less anxious, more confident and patient. My doctor has prescribed exercise as an integral part of my treatment. Just like with my medicine, if I miss a “dose” of my exercise, I come to the edge of a slippery slope. It’s not optional if I am to maintain mental health.


I cannot stop exercise. If I do, I would be back on antidepressants. Some of us need the boost to our minds. Not optional for me.

What mental health benefits have you experienced from exercise? Comment below!

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