“Your skin is glowing.” Glowing skin is enviable at any age. But at a time where you look in the mirror and seemingly detect new signs of aging daily, a compliment like that is gold.

Gotta say I did not hate that. I heard this half a dozen times the past weekend. It made me do a lot of reflection on what garnered the comments. I think it’s ALL the things it’s not one thing. It’s not just doing but specific things exercise, sleep, hydration and nutrition-wise. I can’t cut corners.

But it’s also a few extra things I’ve learned along the way. Some products are just better. Better not just by not being worse (toxic): by creating a better environment in the body. Here they are… all the things to love your skin with inside and out.

This is nice but it’s not where glowing skin is born or nurtured most.

Exercise for Glowing Skin.

Sweat is detox! But greater good happens when you’re moving that energy through your body than just sitting in 100 heat or having a hot flash. (We’d all be glowing if it just took that right?) Get oxygen-rich blood flowing and bring heat release to the surface of your skin.

Get a good sweat on several times a week. Turning upside down occasionally (in down dog or handstands) is also beneficial!

Hydrate.

Then rehydrate. Do the push or pull test. If you grab a little skin from the back of your hand or you push your arm how quickly does it return to normal? Instantly? You’re well hydrated. Does the skin stay disrupted for longer? You need to you’re your insides sister. Drink up.

I love to make a lemon or limeade during the afternoon to keep up my water intake. I start out well in the morning but can slack in the afternoon. I don’t resort to coconut water (sugar water in my opinion) but I will squeeze a little lemon or lime and add a couple drops of stevia into a BIG Yeti full of cold water and ice.

I’ve been lucky to have facials and massages and be told what great skin I have. I always passed it off as nice, but never really took it in. (Because we always want better, right?) Yet, when someone sees lots of skin regularly, it’s probably a real compliment when they tell you that! The thing is, I don’t feel I do anything anyone else doesn’t do. But it may be that the consistency of outdoor exercise, plenty of excusing myself early to get to sleep, little alcohol, and a sense of purpose actually add up to good skin.

Feed Your Glowing Skin.

Tons of vegetables are always a part of my diet. From breakfast green smoothies (I’ve also been known to feast on leftover broccoli along with my protein choice for breakfast) to dinner I’ve usually not got less than 2 cups at any meal. Then you know I am a protein believer. Whether you take protein from plants or animals, test your needs yourself, but for muscles and skin, you need it.

Yet, none of us gets good nutrition we need all the time. Constant attention to healthy fats, protein and collagen, and veggies even will find you at the airport choosing from bad and worse at some point. A multivitamin is a minimal must. I rotate two. (I believe in complimenting every healthy habit with an alternate).

My two multivitamins favorites both cater to women’s needs. We’re typically deficient in specific vitamins and minerals and both my choices (see flippingfifty.com/resources) contain more of what we need. Nutreince also features non-compete technology – in a powdered form to drink – so you absorb more goodness instead of flushing it.

If you don’t like powder (dissolves in liquid and is absorbed more completely) they do now make capsules and I stopped them recently to ask why now.

Sleep.

Your skin does an overnight makeover for you if you let it. There is nothing like a deep sleep for better skin. (I wear and swear by an eye mask at home and traveling. It boosts melatonin production.)

Get out!

Last but not least is sunshine and fresh air! If you work inside, workout inside, and don’t make it a point to get outdoors you’re constantly in stale air. If you travel in ubers, airports, planes, hotels… even more so. Get outside and breath in some fresh air. Green space is best. No telling whether this is from the outside or the inside or both but happiness and calm from nature is real science. Relaxing some of those fine lines can help your glowing skin cause.

Happiness

I can’t leave this out… happiness. Happiness does amazing things for your hormones. If you love your life, love what you’re doing every day you get up with purpose excited about possibilities? It will show. If you don’t love your life start there. Imagine a life you WOULD LOVE. What would you love?

I recently had the pleasure of hearing Mary Morrissey speak (and her husband sing). It was the question she posed. How rarely we ask that of ourselves. What would you love? And for women I’ve worked with since 2000 when I because a “life” coach (which is a title a little too God-like for me: I do not us ever), the question “what do you want” was the hardest to answer.

If you can’t answer or imagine and vision it into reality, you can’t have it. So start nailing this one.

Skincare for Glowing Skin

Inside out. I start with Annmarie Skincare products and yet, I rotate. Like my vitamins (see above). You can get a free sample kit of Annmarie products (based on your skin type) – you just pay shipping, they give you a $10 gift certificate to use if you love it!

The other new love in my skincare life is the Natural Facelift by my friend Trina Felber. Hello, game changer. We just recently did a podcast on label reading and talked about this. If you’re stuck between skincare products like I was five years ago (fine lines AND breakouts? no thanks)– my own personal climate change – these have both been great changes for me. So much that friends this last weekend were saying I was glowing. I’ll take that!

Do you remember 10-0-Six lotion and Love’s Baby Soft? My earliest beauty products. Somehow that memory makes me want to reach for a Teen magazine. Anyone else want to kick herself for thinking she had problems then? 

One last secret to share…

Enjoy Infrared Sauna

So I mentioned above, sweating during exercise is more beneficial than just sweating. But sweating in a sauna has benefits. You’ve got
to be in the right amount of near, mid, and far infrared. (mid targets soft tissue and joints so it’s excellent holistic pain relief) The benefits of the right sauna are amazing. I used mine all spring for detox.

I’d been using it for about 7 months, but I was diligent when I wasn’t traveling from January to June. I had mold in the house I was renting after a septic tank back up December 23. It took far too long to get the water cleaned up, the area wasn’t sealed off, and the mold was still there after supposed mitigation. Then a landlord who opted not to do anything further. I was sick three times in eight weeks and lived with low level feelings of ick for months until it was confirmed. I moved as quickly as possible.

The windfall from the sauna was not only the mold detox but the residual glowing skin. Though I’m in Scottsdale in high temps right now, I am unpacking that and I now have a dedicated “sauna room” even though I use a personal (and portable) option. 

Psst… if you’re reading this is August.. it’s Sunlighten’s 20th anniversary.. so don’t delay if you’re considering it! Listen, sauna in a snowstorm in Boulder is delicious warmth, but even in Scottsdale the benefits are too good not to use! Where ever else you live… you live in that skin!

As long as I’m renting it’s the easiest thing to do. And much as I thought it wouldn’t compare to a sit-in style, I LOVE it. It’s a short power nap for me in addition to the sweat-fest for 35-40 minutes a few times a week. I tend to use it to listen to a podcast or audio book and catch up. I’m a believer in the power of subliminal listening.

and… the folks at Sunlighten have a new baby! The LumiNIR wand is a light handheld device that is turning back the clock. It’s super cool and if you (like I) love the idea of stimulating natural rejuvenation? You’ll love it. More on that soon with Alicia because we are talking that up! Watch for it the end of the month but if you can’t wait? I’ll share a link to see it. 

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.

Resources:
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/273705680_Resistance_training_in_older_women_comparison_of_single_vs_multiple_sets_on_muscle_strength_and_body_composition
https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Abstract/publishahead/Comparision_of_Low_and_High_Volume_of_Resistance.94769.aspx
https://www.minervamedica.it/index2.t?show=R40Y2018N01A0082

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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.

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.

Guilty?

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 flippingfifty.com 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:

Resources:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21903887
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22614972
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30071893
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23652373

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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.

Estrogen

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.

Testosterone

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.

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Adrenal Fatigue to Adrenal Reset

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Make the Hormone-Exercise Connection

How To Get Your Recovery Day Right

A recovery day is a secret weapon for any athlete, and it’s true for every woman (or man) flipping 50, too. You may have heard me say as I quote Joe Friel, “Exercise provides the opportunity for fitness.” Fitness occurs during quality recovery days. So read on for ways to do yours like a boss.

P.S. I know oh, so well that after a tough workout recovery matters. I was wide awakened every 25-30 minutes last night from noise  there was no escape from in my hotel room. And following a good workout – not crazy- I’m unreasonably sore. It’s not really justified based on the workout. That’s what lack of recovery does… costs you fitness, because sister, soreness does not equal fitness. It means damage. 

recovery day yogaActive Recovery Day Suggestions

The goal of recovery day activity is to increase circulation and reduce overall stress. It’s not about achieving a heart rate, distance, or other performance goal. So low impact lower intensity activities outdoors are ideal. During brutal winter conditions hit a yoga or Pilates class. My Monday recovery day almost always includes a longer yoga session than I have time for other days of the week.

Active recovery always wins over passive recovery due to the circulation benefits. These activities are great for getting you out and moving without impact or stress on the body. Keep them light and fun.

Give as much importance to rest & recovery days as I do the intensity that needs to happen on workout days. If you haven’t learned to rest well, it could be your missing link. [After 50 the need for recovery time increases for most adults, so if you’re not seeing results, skip the more workouts mentality and try another light or moderate day in between your harder workouts.]

Active Recovery Options I use:

Passive Recovery Day Options

The rest of this post is dedicated to the passive things you can do to enhance that active recovery you do. They’re things you may be doing, but don’t give enough credit to, or things you can start doing without much effort (in fact some of them are yummy – I’ll write you a note). Massage anyone?

recovery daySauna

I use my infrared sauna 30-40 minutes as many days a week as I can. A day off always makes it easier because there’s a little more time. Whether you sweat during a workout or not, an infrared sauna will have you sweating and detoxing. [By the way, not sweating is often a sign you’re dehydrated.]

In addition to recovery, so many good things happen in there. It’s a big part of cellulite success thanks to collagen regeneration. It supports improved skin (may not help eczema, however) tone, wound healing, and releases toxins.

Take in more fluids before and after since both recovery and the increased sweating increase your need for fluids.

In the home I’m renting I didn’t want to set up and move a large unit so I got a personal solo sauna.I ended up loving that it’s lie down. I usually end up drifting off for a power nap and even though I use mine most often late in the day before dinner it also helps me sleep like a rock too.

Sauna can be a great way to feel like you’ve got that sweat on if you’re someone who just loves to exercise and has a hard time taking a day off. Know that there is a BIG difference between infrared sauna and those dry heat saunas that may be at your gym. You want the benefits of infrared light heating you from the inside out. Those that get your skin hot on the outside when you pour water over coals don’t have the same benefit.

Massage or Foam Rolling

The more regularly you can get a massage the better. If you’ve been skimping on self care and you’re extremely tight, sore, full of tension and stress, consider investing in a massage a week for a month then taper off to once a month. You’ll promote better performance and enhance your form. Then the better you manage regular stretching and foam rolling between workouts the less often you’ll need massage (though you may still enjoy it). Consistent more frequent sessions are better than a 90-minute massage on rare occasions.

If regular massage is out of the financial or time budget, start DIY massage with a foam roller, tennis balls, and other tools that help you care for muscles. It will help you perform better by enhancing better alignment and speed your recovery after workouts (or a tough day of sitting).

Foam Rolling for Recovery Day:

I’m both doing massage and rolling less lately, in favor of Percussive Therapy. For the cost of about 5 or fewer massages and you and everyone in your family can use it.

recovery dayPercussive Therapy

I’d love a weekly massage personally, but it’s not going to happen as much due to time as anything. With my Theragun I “need”a massage a lot less often.

I started using the Theragun last November and it too supports reduction in appearance of cellulite (So much it’s a part of STRONGER II), speeds recovery, and reduces tension or boosts performance depending on how you use it.

It’s light, easy to hold, and does all the work. You don’t use pressure you let it glide over the area. For post exercise or end of day tension release I use it for up to two minutes over an area. (For cellulite this is specifically after the cardio for the part affected in my STRONGER II program).

Check out this video: https://youtu.be/JTAfHaFLkDw

If I want to stimulate performance before a workout I use it for 30 seconds. I personally use it less pre-workout and most for recovery days or cellulite reduction (Yep, even Ironman athletes have it). I will use it before yoga if I’m a little sore from a prior workout. This takes a couple minutes.

Nap (or just rest)

Learn how to put your feet up(preferably without a screen in front of you). Shut your eyes or not. Sure sign you need to prioritize sleep is if you lie down with a book (no screens) and only make it through a page and a half or less before your eyes get heavy. If you’ve been to a movie theater recently and desperately want to sleep you definitely need to catch up on Zzzs.

Epsom Salt bath

Magnesium will be absorbed across your skin on an as-needed basis. Most of us are magnesium deficient and if you have headaches/migraines, constipation, muscle cramps, or you’re metabolism is sluggish you may need more. It’s always best to test, don’t guess. Before you get results though, soak and let your body take in what it needs. You’ll sleep better after, further aiding recovery.


How to Eat on Recovery Day

Don’t make the mistake of cutting way back on recovery days. You have the same body and same muscle on recovery days. You’re both recovering (which includes getting adequate calories and protein) from past days or weeks and preparing for the next day.

True you don’t need the extra calories that may bookend your workouts on active days, but don’t skimp on the opportunity to fill your tank with good food that will help speed recovery. Protein is a must for the older adult. Research is pretty conclusive that you need more than your younger self to simulate the same amount. A 20-year old for instance can do just fine on 20 grams of protein after a workout, but a 70-year old needs about 40 gramsto benefit from the same level of muscle repair.

Good friends also thyroid and endocrine experts agree that smoothies are an excellent way to get adequate protein for those that struggle with this. You’re not going to pack as much nutrition into any other meal in minutes as you do in a smoothie. In fact, Dr. Alan Christianson, author of The Metabolism Reset Diet, also uses two smoothies a day to support thyroid, adrenals, and metabolism boost for women.

But protein alone is not the answer to recovery.Massively Increase Your Micronutrient Density

Focus on macronutrients and micronutrients both. Protein, fat, and carbohydrates from high quality sources are important. Fill your plate with veggies, adequate protein, high quality slow-absorbing carbs and healthy fat. Then use supplements to fill in the gaps. It’s hardly possible to eat the balanced diet consisting of over 20, 000 calories (nor a suggestion) it would take to get in even the recommended RDAs (a low estimate of our actual needs for optimal health) eating the healthiest diet possible (most of us fall short of that idealism).

One sure thing: you can eat more vegetables. Fill your plate with vegetables, add a healthy source of protein, high quality fat and if you’re still not satisfied enjoy more veggies. I’m often asked about powdered greens. Best case, you walk outside pull it from the ground, wash and eat it. Powdered greens are much better than not getting plant food in you at all.

Reluctant to supplement? I get it. Never in 35 years has anyone said to me, I just love to take supplements. The best way to know what you need is micronutrient testing.[need to test and want to order your own? I invite you to use Flipping50 to save on your order here]

Food Prep

Those days you don’t workout you have more time to do food prep. Having the right food available fast makes recovery easier every day. Food prep is a great opportunity to boost your fitness without a workout. I love to food prep really. I don’t like the thought of food prep. Having a refrigerator full of soups, salad items, roasted veggies and protein is awesome on a busy day!

I can create 2-3 main course items, soups, and a couple sides in an hour or less of prep. Then they’re baking, simmering, or in a crockpot cooking themselves and all that’s left is to cool them and put them away. Have the Whole Flip dvds? You already know what an hour in the kitchen can do!

I never start a meal from scratch in the evening. I just don’t want to spend 30-60 minutes every day doing that. My time is way too valuable, isn’t yours? What a waste and at a time when you’re most vulnerable – cortisol is dropping – it’s a terrible idea. I know wise women who know this but continually sabotage themselves by refusing to do an hour of meal prep on Sunday. Having ready-made soup or meat for tacos, or easy salmon to bake for 20 minutes while I do yoga saves fitness daily.

Laundry

I know. This one is neither glamorous and nor worthy of the same list as massage. But really this too is a big part of cruising through workout days. I have a dozen options for “bottoms” that include shorts, tights, and skorts. But seriously, I love it when the red Nike shorts are clean. They’re my favorite. They’re probably 15 years old and bought by chance when my luggage did not show up at a conference so I had to go shopping at the expo (and a lingerie and make up store). Still. Love them. Workouts are better in them.

I’ve learned how to stop exposing myself to toxins I wear all day, sweat in and sleep on for 8 hours every night. Dryer sheets and laundry detergents deserve a second look when you think of it that way.

My go-to is Mygreenfills.I love this brand and company for so many reasons. First, I love the smell and clean products that are good for me and better for the environment. Second, they help women get off the streets – literally – and get empowered. That’s pretty cool. Flipping 50 is all about empowerment after all. I’m all over that company and what they stand for. If you haven’t tried them, you’ll feel good about it.

Is One Recovery Day Enough?  

Research I quoted in You Still Got It, Girl! and published since point to the fact that as we age our need for recovery increases. That’s comparing you now to younger you. But your need still may be different than that of your same-age friends or spouse. Recovery need is individually unique.

In fact, recovery need can vary from 1 to 72 days. That’s incredible, right? But true, even among pre-50 athletes individual recovery needs varied that much after the same workout.

Don’t take it personally.

You say you could workout again tomorrow? That doesn’t mean you should. Chances are even if signs of recovery are there – you’re sleeping well, you’re not sore, you have plenty of energy, performance is improving – yet you’re not losing weight, and you’re not taking any days off… that’s the missing link.

Signs you need another recovery day:

Lack of quality sleep can impede recovery and be a sign of overtraining. If you already struggle with sleep quantity, quality or both, your recovery will take longer. If you notice your sleep changes for the worse as you increase workout volume or intensity, the best remedy is to increase recovery days as much as you increase your workouts.

Don’t blindly follow an online program and assume you are like every “average” person doing that program. You need to adjust based on the feedback your body gives you. A good start is choosing a program or trainer who specializes in women in midlife and beyond. Even then, having a coach to talk to about how to adjust is a good idea.

When You Struggle Taking a Recovery Day

If asked how hard your workout was, do you answer like this?

“I always work hard.”  

You’re the most likely candidate to benefit from at least one recovery day. You don’t know what recovery day is potentially. You’re that “go hard or go home” exerciser. If you won’t do easy or moderate workouts you’ll do best with fewer workouts and more rest days.

Truth is, a perfect workout week has hard, easy, and moderate days.

If you never do easy or moderate intensity days, to compliment your hard days, your fitness (and potentially optimal weight, energy, and mood) will suffer.

Especially true if your brain is making dozens of decisions daily while you’re also working or handling responsibilities. You have to consider it all.

When Exercise Fails to Support a Weight Loss Goal

The first thing women often want to do is cut food and/or add exercise. That’s one foot on the brake and one on the accelerator. It’s what we’ve seen happen for decades and in part it’s contributed to this weight loss weight weight regain roller coaster that leaves a woman with more fat and less muscle.

That stress-inducing formula teaches your body to store fat. The better answer may be to temporarily replace your workout with a recovery day. When training women who want a better body, weight loss, or athletes, I use a system called periodization.

There are entire weeks of reduced training that make up recovery weeks. Often life inserts these in the way of family vacations or business trips. They keep you mentally and physically fresh. They’re perfect weeks to spend more time doing Stand Up Paddle Boarding or skiing, or reconnecting with family and friends.

The starting point for Flipping 50 programs that reset hormones is a light week of exercise. For women with adrenal fatigue rest weeks remain there for significantly longer. The idea of recovery days in your workout week is to keep you from every getting to adrenal fatigue in the first place.

It’s Not Over

Don’t make the mistake of thinking because your hot flashes or night sweats are minimal or non-existent, or that you’re over 60 you don’t have hormones do deal with anymore. The endocrine system plays a key part in your health, wellness, and fitness for the rest of your life. You’ll always have hormones that influence muscles or bones, sleep, stress, digestion and appetite.

Hormones influence your ability to store or to burn fat. They determine the energy you have and the quality of rest you enjoy. Hormone balancing exercise may be a new term because you’re Flipping 50 but it’s the secret to living longer stronger – at every age.

Embrace your recovery day.


How would you like to take a long weeked for recovery? The Flipping 50 2019 Retreat is scheduled for June 14, 15, and 16 (arrive the 13th to get a good night’s sleep before an epic- and challenging hike on the 14th!) You all move in so many ways, do a little chill time and learn how to recover between too! Yoga, stand up paddle boarding, spa time and water running will help you between the hikes, weights, and swim technique lessons. But you want to jump in! This month training gets dialed up and specific so you’re preparing to enjoy the challenge of a big hiking day! NOW is the time! Details here or the image!

Flipping 50 recovery day

Strength Training Program for Hormones

The first and only strength training program for hormones balance during menopause so you can boost metabolism is open for enrollment. With questions coming from so many our our Flipping 50 community members on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and even our Flipping 50 email subscribers who get the inside scoop and chance at the first seats in the program I wanted to answer your questions – somewhat personally – in as many places as possible.

You may be one of the women that I’ve been able to respond to personally. You may be on of the women I haven’t yet had a chance to answer individually. I thank you all for your questions! My team and I are working our way through all the questions as quickly as we can.

My mission is simple. I want the right people to get registered – as early as possible so you can take advantage of the best rate and perks – and that message includes wanting to be sure if the program is not right for you that you know that right away too.

So let’s dive in… but first me poking fun at … well, me.

My Strength Training For Hormones guidelines

There are some truths we live by at Flipping 50. They are:

That’s not an all-inclusive list. It is the most relevant of our list for our exercise programs.

Flipping 50 does not believe in:

You should know that a mere 39% of all exercise and sport science research features female subjects. A fraction of that is female subjects in perimenopause, menopause, and beyond.

Yet, that is the only research that as a woman in peri-menopause or beyond can trust as being practical for your own application. A strength training program for hormones should be based on the hormone changes you’re experiencing.

That research is all I use to design programs, coach women, and create content on this site. We do you, all day, every day. That’s it. Sure, research on other subjects is of interest and if there’s any way it might be relatable, I’ll share it, but never without telling you that it’s outside the research usually shared.

Your Questions:

Q. Are the videos in STRONGER II the same as STRONGER I? 

A. Great question! No. Every product I create uses unique videos created solely for an intended purpose. Rest assured all videos are unique.

Q. Are these downloadable videos?

A. No. The program grants you access to a private members-only area where you view the videos during the 12 week program. After the program you’re enrolled in your login access will end. You will have all the written content including any cheat sheets for workouts, the quick start guides for sample schedules, quick starts to cardio support (STRONGER I), and exercise nutrition or cellulite nutrition support (STRONGER I and II, respectively).

Q. So I don’t have access to the videos after for ongoing use? 

A. That’s correct. There is a method to the madness. It’s about 35 years of observations and human psychology. With a limited time access, and with a clear start and stop, more people are successful at staying on track. While seemingly amazing to have “lifetime” access, results and even completion drop by more than 50%. If there’s no reason to use them, no urgency, no continued support, there’s usually no or at least much lower compliance.  My goal is to get you active and consistent with the regularity that gets results.

Q. What’s the refund policy? 

A. In line with my response above, once you’re in the program and have access to any of the materials you will need to go through the program, show you’ve done the homework, participated actively, and reached out for help before you request a refund. In 35 years I’ve experienced many times people quitting because it’s not convenient, not buying the membership or the personal training, and then getting stuck with a diagnosis or health scare that rocks them to the core. Never once has someone who started – at any age – ever come back and regretted it. It’s too easy to stop, it’s never convenient to get sweaty, do laundry, get up earlier, eat later. But exercise is really not optional. It’s lifesaving at least and quality of life enhancing at best. That’s an investment in you I’d like to hold you accountable to.

(health issues or family crisis come up I know: in those instances we have delayed or deferred enrollment fees to the next program)

Q. I have two knee replacements and need to strengthen my knees but I can’t do more than limited range of motion, is this appropriate for me?

A. Both programs are created for the apparently healthy women going through hormone change or who’s already gone through changes. There are not specific modifications given for specific conditions. That said be cautious. Know your limits. If you know which exercises you can and can’t do or know what your personal range of motion is, you may make this work. If you’re unsure, I would first follow a program like Knee-Friendly 5 Day Flip. Movement between exercises is not slow, though exercise is performed with cueing and caution so you feel it where you should and not where you shouldn’t. You may do best working with a private trainer one-on-one, whether virtually with me (an upgrade to private coaching could support your needs).

Q. Can you explain what comes with the programs?

A. Yes! STRONGER I is 12 weeks of workouts, one new video each week that you’ll do twice. You’ll also receive the quick start to cardio, schedule samples, and exercise nutrition. STRONGER II is 12 weeks including a variety of spot specific (cellulite) warm up, cardio, strength, massage, and cool down videos. You’ll receive the in depth guid to cellulite and how to reduce the appearance through not only the exercise but nutrition, and lifestyle habits that are proven to help. You’ll get a guide to how you can mix and match videos for your time constraints and your cellulite spot-specific needs.

Q. How long are the workouts?

A. The STRONGER I workouts can be done in less than 90 minutes a week – (2) 30-40 minute workouts. STRONGER II workouts are a bit longer and you want to complete all components at the same session. Allow 60-70 minutes for workouts 2x a week. You will be including strength and cardio in each workout so you’ll have a lot done in a short amount of time.

Ready ? If one of these programs is right for you start now! Visit STRONGER I(STRONGER II and III are now inside the Flipping 50 membership site, and STRONGER IV will be too by Dec 2019! That’s the wise decision for over $800 in exercise programs alone! and so much more!)

The Flipping 50 community tells me what you most want answers to and I respond. Of all the body-part related questions I get about arms, hips, joints, menopause belly fat is by far the most frequently topic. Spoiler alert: Menopause belly fat is common, not mandatory.

menopause belly fatWhat Does It Take To Get Flat Abs and Toned Belly?

The simplest answer to defining abdominals is twofold:

But in or beyond midlife there’s more. You have to look at the why behind the fat stored in the belly. You can dive into nearly 125 million Dr. Google provided articles and still not have the answer if you don’t know the real underlying cause of menopause belly fat.

The Flat Belly Advantage

Wider hips and pelvis give you a slight advantage. You may never have thought your wide hips are an advantage except in childbirth before! Your circumference measurements won’t necessarily be better but with a wide hip “box” women do tend to have a flatter belly. On the other hand those small narrow hips that have always been a bragging point may now be your nemesis.

Core Muscles That Matter

Four muscle groups make up your core.

Rectus Abdominus– a pair of muscles running from the ribs to the pelvis

Transverse Abdominus– The deepest ab muscle wraps around you like a belt and supports the spine

Internal and External Obliques – The external obliques run diagonally down and form the outer layer of abdominals on your side. The internal obliques are just underneath the external layer and run diagonally up your side.

Erector Spinae– Muscles that run parallel to your spin

Obstacles to Toned Belly (and a Pain-Free Back)

Two types of fat are blocking your path. Subcutaneous fat – your pinch-an-inch (or more) fat – atop your ab muscles. Visceral fat woven between your internal organs like a marbled steak- lies below muscle. Visceral fat is linked to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. Are you at risk?

Self-Test 1: Women should have a waist measurement no bigger than 35 inches (measure at your natural waist- smallest part of your midsection)

Self-Test 2: A waist-to-hip ratio of 0.8 is recommended by some experts as a way to predict your risk from visceral fat. In other words your waist should be no more than 80% of your hip circumference. Measure both. Do math.

If visceral fat is significant not only does it prevent a flat belly and increase your risk of disease, but it adds stress to the lower back. The “apple” shape body is at greatest risk for low back pain.

menopause belly fatMovements Core Muscles Make

The muscles of the core work in integration to support you in five tasks. You’re already doing most of them to get out of bed in the morning. A good core-focused program includes exercises for each. The After 50 Fitness Formula advocates at least five core exercises every workout, one each for:

What Does Not Work for Strong Back, Abs, or a Flat Belly?

Thanks to the plethora of information on the internet and the longevity of it, myths and mistakes are perpetuated. If a fit, lean, waist-whittled trainer provides the information and it’s working for her, you want to believe it. There is a degree of “Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus.” You saw it or read it published online so it must be true. Unfortunately, in a era where anyone with a PC can create content and give herself a title of authority, you have to be a critical thinker.

Many of the cues and exercises that follow do not create greater strength in the core. They either weaken the core muscles or put you at risk for a lower back injury.

  1. Leg lifts/lowers
  2. Flutter kicks (supine – on your back)
  3. Sit-ups
  4. Crunches
  5. Machine abdominal exercises (forward flexion, rotation)

You never want to be in the crowd that says, “I was in the best shape of my life right before I got hurt.” That is the telltale sign that what it was you were doing was building up to that injury. The only real exceptions to “sudden” injuries are those that involve trauma (from a fall or blow) or ruptured discs that occur without warning.

Prevent Injury

To avoid a ruptured disc, wait about 60 minutes after rising in the morning to exercise. Disks between your vertebrae plump overnight while you’re horizontal. That intervertebral pressure combined with additional pressure from both movement and moment exercise (planks, shoveling, vacuuming) more potentially injurious. About 90 percent of the pressure dissipates within an hour of being upright. Gravity acts on the spine while you’re having coffee or journaling.

This increase of pressure happens for everybody regardless of fitness level or size. You’re at risk whether or not you feel stiff in the morning. You are at greater risk if you have a large frame with thicker bones. Ruptured disks give no warning. Even stretches you do in bed put you at risk.

Are Abdominal Exercises the Answer to Menopause Belly Fat?

Before you get the quick fix I know you want, you have to consider the real problem. If it’s not a muscle problem then an exercise answer won’t work. Are you bloated, gaining fat, or really have no muscle tone? First things first.

If it’s not a muscle problem then an exercise won’t fix it. 

Spot Reducing

Then, no matter what your answer is, your belief about spot reduction and spot toning must be addressed! You can’t spot reduce. More exercise on a specific area will not “burn” or “melt” fat from that area. In fact, there is research to show bicycling for instance increases the amount of fat stored in the thighs and hips. Since the body is using muscles in this region more, it intuitively will store more of everything there so you have it when you need it. The take-away? If you want to have thin thighs, yes exercise them but don’t OVER exercise them. Likewise with the core. Don’t over do it. Usethe core but don’t only add more ab exercises.

Spot Toning

You can spot tone muscle. Yes, you want strong muscles for all of the type of movements your core performs.

menopause belly fatWhat’s the Difference Between Bloat, Fat, and Muscle?

You’re Bloated?

Doing core exercises to eliminate bloating won’t solve the problem. You may temporarily find some relief and in fact if you do rotation movements (as in certain yoga poses) you may enhance elimination. But you won’t have found the reason – the root cause – why bloating occurred in the first place.

All Your Fat is Going to Your Belly?

Look at which kind: pinch-an-inch or deep belly fat? Burning fat with exercise on a specific area is not possible. Your body loses fat all over. The types of exercise that result in fat loss are those that use major muscle groups whether in cardiovascular exercise or strength training. Dietary changes (not A DIET) can also help you.

You need adequate micronutrients for a killer metabolism. You may want to look at your DNA for hints at what works for you. I found reducing fat and increasing carbs (yah me!) along with high protein leads to easier weight loss and more energy. It’s in my genetics (thanks, mom)! You better believe I’m complying. 

You Have No Core Muscle?

Signs you truly do need to focus on core are chronic lower back pain or hip issues, or lack of muscle if you do have a waist. You bend over to pick up the dog food and you’re always cautious because of past problems. You vacuum and feel your core.

Life requires a strong core. Whether you want to perform well at pickle ball, golf, or triathlon or you want to do life without injury easier, it’s about your core. Core exercise is not the answer to a bikini body though. Not alone.

A small fraction of your exercise should indeed be core. If 5% of your workouts were core, during a 45-minute session you’d do 2 ½ minutes of core. If you do the rest of the workout correctly, you should have already been engaging your core. A 20 or 30-minute core class is not going to give you “more” results. If you need core-tutoring? I’m all in favor of a short period of time focused on foundation-building. I’ve had to do it.

Recovering from a back injury when I was 26 I religiously spent 15 minutes a day (once I was out of acute pain) doing core exercises for about 3 months. Then I began swimming, weight training, and shifted my core to more functional useof the core. I still to this day perform some kind of core exercise daily.

The sexy fun exercises you see at the gym? They are not the ones that really matter. In fact jumping into those – or those featured on multiple “ab workouts” I’ve ordered online to test – no one should do without first having a super strong foundation. Many of the “circus act” exercises themselves or the speed at which they’re done are an injury waiting to happen.menopause bely fatWhat Really Causes Menopause Belly Fat?

Stress-induced cortisol is consistently higher in women with menopause belly fat. Yes, reduced sex hormones (particularly estrogen) plays a role. But when estrogen dominance is present due to high cortisol levels blocking progesterone then the relative high estrogen is to blame.

Essentially it boils down to stress and that nasty stress hormone cortisol. It makes your body become a belly fat hoarder.

This is true for both overweight/obese women and those with healthy weight. Skinny fat, anyone?

Here’s what I propose, and this is important. You have to drop the label. The identity of “menopause belly fat” assumes way too much. There really is not a strong correlation with menopause and belly fat except in the United States. In other, especially Eastern countries, there’s a much lower incidence.

Stress belly fat has caught up with you. It was years in the making. It doesn’t matter that you were always in great shape or you were a fitness instructor. If you indulged what you think is a sweet tooth, skimped on sleep, failed to eat veggies and stay hydrated, those things are catching up with you now. If you exercised more than your hormones want to and kept doing more of what wasn’t working? Sister, I hate to say it but you contributed to the problem. It’s not your fault. It’s what you were taught!

If you refuse to give up wine (even for a short time) or foods your gut may be rejecting right now that too contributes to belly fat stress. It compounds the emotional, environmental, and day-to-day stressors you have. When hormones change there’s always at least in part truth that what you’ve been doing really wasn’t ever working. You just never had a wake up call ring quite so loud. You can change your habits and get better results.

Where Does the Stress Belly Fat Come From? All Sources:

When cortisol and insulin team up it’s the perfect storm for belly fat. Cortisol wreaks havoc with blood sugar. If you drink too much coffee, add artificial sweeteners or sugar in your diet, gotta have your wine, and or eat the wrong carbohydrates at the wrong time, belly fat will find you easier.

menopause belly fatBelly Fat Self-Sabotage

How are you unintentionally self-sabotaging your belly fat banishing plan? These are the most common habits that contribute.

Non-Core Exercises for Menopause Belly Fat

Each of these exercises targets core muscles and encourages bracing. Going fast at almost anything requires a strong core. You can say both that a strong core will help you go faster, and that going faster will support a strong, and flat core.

Notice anything about these exercises? When you perform them naturally your hands come away from your core. You’re using them over your head, projecting away from your body. When your lower and upper body limbs each do something unique – leveraging and moving for instance as in boxing, or kicking and pulling as in swimming – your core has no choice but to be strong to keep you centered and provide the strength from which your leverage will come.

You don’t swim thinking, “brace yourself” or “draw your navel in,” you just engage. These are the best types of activities. If 60 is the new 30, bracing and stabilization are the new sit-ups.

Menopause belly fat loss requires strength, cardio, and core specific work. You can get a two-for-one with many activities!

Yoga is a similar core-required exercise. So is riding a horse or a bike. Every time you hit a golf ball your core braces. So you’re both using your core and becoming keenly aware that by getting a stronger core you’ll be better at all of those activities. (Getting in the fairway is on you.) You’ll also get better at picking up children, pets, and water softening salt without injury.

Additionally, though activities like yoga may have lower energy expenditure, if you love it and it reduces stress for you? It supports a reduction in stress hormones and thus the release of excess fat and weight. Lowering your stress level is as necessary as performing core exercise for reducing belly fat.

The #1 BEST Non-Core Exercise for Menopause Belly Fat?

If you think the answer is a plank, comment below!

Actually its not.

Strength training your whole body is your BFF. If you increase your lean muscle you’ll increase your body’s ability to burn fat, aka you increase your metabolism. You increase your ability to go faster or longer stronger doing anything from housework to a hike. All activity counts. Menopause belly fat responds well to weight training.

Done right, all exercise is core exercise. Weight training, however, goes to the head of the class. In fact for strength and conditioning coaches, “core” exercises refer to squats, rowing, pressing movements that use major muscles and require a strong core to complete.

If you want a flat belly, a strong core, to eradicate cellulite, and you’re not strength training, start. If you’re strength training and not sure you’re really reaping all the rewards, get help!

Want support Strength Training support? Get details on my next launch of STRONGER. Imagine where you could be in 12 weeks, even after just one week of having a plan. Doors only open a few times a year so get on the list to be notified when doors open with the best early bird rates.

[As of April 2019 there are two versions to choose from for strength-only and a fully integrated cellulite-targeted fitness program]

menopause belly fatHigh or Low Intensity to Decrease Menopause Belly Fat?

Two groups of subjects (obese midlife babes) were given either high or low intensity exercise that result in the equal caloric burn. One group had a clear advantage in belly fat loss.

Higher intensity exercise equated to more reduced visceral belly fat. Researchers associated it with growth hormone production. Growth hormone is a powerful fat mobilizer.

Sleep and strength training are two additional ways to increase your growth hormone production.

How you choose to exercise influences belly fat. There is a higher correlation between running and reduced visceral fat compared to cycling. Running, boxing, fast walking (that is HIIT-worthy) may have a greater influence on belly fat than swimming, rowing, or cycling (non-weight bearing activity). However, safe exercise avoids joint overuse injuries so include a variety of activity.

I’ve always cross-trained, but am a runner at heart. Not fast, mind you, just contemplative and I love it. I fell in love with triathlon in my 20s but never participated until my 40s. One of the reasons it’s an appealing activity now is the balanced use of joints and muscles increases benefits without flirting with overuse for any specific body parts. You don’t need to do triathlon, per say, but you do want to find a way to cross train in the logic of triathlon.

What No One Tells You

There is an underlying consideration often not addressed in research or in fitness programs.

It depends. You have to know you.

If you’re highly stressed and cortisol is present, overdoing high intensity exercise could push your body to store more fat (just in case). So, you’ve been doing those killer workouts regularly since New Year’s and you’re just tired? Slow it down for a while. You’re likely tipping your cortisol scale and not about to tighten your belt a notch or move the scale if that’s the case.

“The wrong intensity or amount of exercise (for you) will increase body fatness. For midlife women, this fat weight often ends up in the belly.”

Hormone-specific assessments are not yet included in consultations or intake sessions with fitness professionals. The Flipping 50 Specialist is increasing the number of fitness professionals cognizant of the integration of hormones. If you or a trainer want more information visit flippingfifty.com/specialist.

An interesting point: A recent study showed where you live could impact how you deal with stress. Subjects in a rural location did not experience increased belly fat with stress, while urban-dwelling subjects did. City-dweller? Get out of the city and into nature to offset the stress of the concrete jungle. [Clearly it’s sign you should come to the Flipping 50 Live Retreat!]

What’s a Beyond 50 Beyond Stressed Babe to Do?

Go back one or two steps. Women often need to do less before they do more so they can optimize cortisol levels. Exchange your bootcamps sessions for walks. Shift from hour-long sessions to 20 or 30 minutes at most. Eventually, with a lower stress level, return to short bouts of high intensity (HI). HI will help, but not while your body feels like it’s under fire (and I’m not even talking about hot flashes).

Should you do core exercise? Yes. Should you make conscious, informed decisions about what you put in your body? Yes. Should you increase your awareness of optimal sleep habits and then apply them? Yes. Should you do HI exercise? It depends. Eventually yes, but it may not be the answer for you right now. Should you find ways to reduce or cope with stressors in your life? Yes. Does that mean increasing joy, laughter, and the frequency of smiles that reach your eyes? Yes.

Is dieting and more exercise (core or otherwise) the answer? No.

Menopause belly fat is a multifactorial problem. It needs to be addressed by a multi-faceted approach.

Trying to crunch, sit-up, or otherwise core exercise away menopause belly fat would be like taking a hammer to a screw.

Would you like more support for your belly fat? In the exclusive members-only Flipping 50 Café master classI share the belly fat and core facts, a chart of over 50 core exercises I’ve vetted for safety, effectiveness, and modifications to those that might stress joints so you’ve got options if needed.

Coming soon is the in-gym version of Core Exercise to be shared exclusively with Café members.

Join now! Special membership benefits go away soon! The Flipping 50 Café membership is your virtual gym with perks (VIP lockers store all your gear – you’re on your own for towel service).

menopause belly fat
Resources:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2730190/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29127602
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11020091
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30063700
Atkinson, D.You Still Got It, Girl! Healthy Learning. 
Atkinson, D.Hot, Not Bothered: 99 Daily Flips to Slimmer, Trimmer, Fitter, Faster
Flipping 50 podcast Myths, Causes, Solutions to Lower Back Pain
Prevent Back Pain in 5 Steps course

Testing to Reach Your Health Potential

When you were 20 you had your whole life in front of you. You were testing limits. All that really mattered was the weekend. The formal. Who to ask to the formal or who would ask you. The next exam or paper that was due. And you’re workouts were about running past the frats where the guys were throwing Frisbees. You had all the time in the world.

After 50, testing is about medical rights of passage when you get your bone scan, your colonoscopy, and marked by less frequent OBGYN tests. Except when you want to either solve a mystery or you want to nail this aging thing like a lady boss.

I’m of the former when it calls for it and the latter all the time.

This post is in response to the frequently asked questions our community is asking about what, why, and how testing is the way to answers.

First and foremost, there’s self-testing. I’m all for it and I’m for it no matter what else you do. Your body and how you feel never lies. So whether it’s how you exercise, how much sleep you need, or how you respond to different foods, testing your response is a must.

testingWhat other testing should you do?

There are three areas where I personally and as a coach recommend testing: micronutrients, hormones, and DNA. I’ll start in reverse order.

DNA Testing

This is from Jan, who recently had her DNA tested and spent time with me talking about what results could mean combined with her signs and symptoms (energy, sleep, results from exercise, past health “numbers”):

“I wanted to share with you what I got done and the results after we discussed my DNA report. 

I had my women’s yearly wellness exam – PAP smear- and it was negative. I was able to have my GYN order my lipid panel, Mammogram, Thyroid, Vitamin D and DexaScan. 

He called me back today and let me know that my Cholesterol was XXX and LDL was XXX- both have gone down since doing your program! yippee!! They aren’t perfect, still working on them.

My Thyroid is off and he suggested either further testing or seeing a Primary Care Provider- since he does not specialize in this area.

My Dexascan report said that both my hips were good – He asked if I exercised and I proudly said YES!!- and he said that was definitely why they were good!!

He also said the Dexascan showed I have slight osteopenia in my Lumbar area and recommended that I start taking Calcium with Vitamin D.

My mammogram also had negative findings!!  

So- I will be seeing another Physician to go over my lipid panel and my Thyroid to discuss where I need to go from here. I am so happy I got my DNA testing done to see what else I needed to do and what I should we looking at for my fitness and health journey!”

I share this with you so you can see some of the benefit of the DNA testing. Results are best used in combination with other pieces of information. DNA is not going to change, but the other things you’re doing can so you take advantage of the insight you gain, data from past results when you’ve exercised or altered your diet, to know what steps to take.

It can offer more insight when you next see your health care practitioner for annual check ups so you take full advantage of the opportunity to ask for tests in that short time you may have with your physician.

For other clients, DNA has been a way to gather details for how to optimize habits for aging better.

When I review DNA testing with someone I cover specific areas:

testingI have used my DNA results in two ways:

1) I’ve altered my workouts slightly and skewed them a little more toward endurance exercise again (not at the cost of bone and metabolism benefits of strength training). I integrate hormone balance exercise practices with the DNA info to arrive at the best weekly schedule for myself just as I would for any client.

2) I’ve reduced my fat intake in favor of a few more carbohydrates. Those two changes alone have resulted in a boost of energy during workouts and effortless loss of a few pounds and inches.

While DNA may seem like just nice-to-know information it actually points to small daily changes that make a big difference.

I also followed up with a micronutrients test and added a few lesser know supplements to reduce an inflammatory marker I’m predisposed for (thanks mom!). After a few months of consistently taking the right supplements, my homocysteine level is down.

Compliance

No one loves to take supplements. So it’s easy to skip, “forget,” or just not buy into the need. When you test, see levels of a micronutrient that are below optimal and you can tie them to a sign (of fatigue, or lack of sleep, slow metabolism, for instance) or to other numbers in my case like homocysteine (and hey, to a fitness professional that’s like an insult! How can I be at greater risk for heart disease!? Seeing it in the test results helps you help yourself.

=>Homocysteine is tied to heart disease. So even with good health habits, exercise, having identified foods that make me thrive and what I need to feel great day and night, that genetic piece was there. You don’t know what you don’t know and so you can’t do something as easy as adding a digestive enzyme daily to reduce your risk of heart disease.

Just because you have a predisposition for something – cholesterol, heart disease, dementia, or Alzheimer’s (all things a DNA test can show) – does NOT mean you have to go down that path. If you, like me, want to do everything to avoid disease and optimize your health, DNA testing can definitely be a way to discover what else you want to learn.

Seeing this in February? Because it’s Heart Health month and my own DNA revealed heart disease risk, but also helped me get in better shape by suggesting the fitness activity my body responds to quickly, please enjoy 20% off – only through the end of February. Use: HEART20 when you choose your test.

How: DNA testing is done with a swab of your cheeks. You’ll get a kit of cotton swabs complete with simple instructions and just need to mail the samples in for results. It may take several weeks but it’s a one and done – your genetics don’t change!

testing

Micronutrient Testing

Let’s say you’re average. (You’re so NOT by the way!) Seventy percent of the population is Vitamin D deficient, 80% is deficient in Magnesium, and 90% are deficient in Omega 3.

If you have something skewed in your blood tests, like me with high homocysteine levels, it may indicate a need for a specific micronutrient. In my case, B12 supports optimal homocysteine levels. So does Choline. My guess is if you’re reading this you don’t immediately think of Choline supplementation! Only a test that’s interpreted with a health coach or practitioner can suggest to you – in combination potentially with DNA testing, how to improve your levels.

You want optimal Choline especially if you’re exercising. Sixty-five percent of exercisers are deficient in Choline, especially if they limit protein. Decreased B6 and decreased selenium (also tied to thyroid issues) effect GABA (an amino acid tied to anxiety and depression), serotonin, and dopamine – all your mood-related hormones.

Stress and exercise deplete Vitamin D. Are you a woman who negates stress with exercise? It creates a challenging situation for micronutrients – unless you look under the hood. If you’re depressed or anxious, or you participate in “heavy” exercise, your B12 level definitely something to check.

Zinc deficiency is tied to thyroid issues.

If your CRP comes back high from a routine annual blood test, CoQ10 and Vitamin D are often deficient.

Magnesium deficiencies are tied to increased cholesterol, blood pressure, and inflammation.

Stress depletes Vitamin C. Those levels often need a supplement boost if you’re under additional stress, have frequent illness, and you need C for adequate dopamine levels (feel good hormones).

The After 50 Fitness Formula for Women includes the right individual dose of:

Exercise + Micronutrients + Recovery + Sleep + Stress + Hormones + Whol-stic Integration = You Still Got It, Girl!

Since 2015 when that book was written based on observing thousands of women who were exercising and either getting results or not getting results, I can add one more piece, the DNA. The collective whole of your puzzle pieces will include your genetics. They don’t control your outcome but then hint, very bluntly, at how to change your daily habits for the long game of a healthy life you love today and in decades.

Providing information about common deficiencies is a step in the right direction. Yet, supplementing without knowing your status and testing the outcome of a certain protocol (or amount of supplement) is not the most direct method to improve your health. Too much Omega 3 for instance can result in Vitamin E deficiency.

“Your complex.” A girl doesn’t forget a comment like that coming from a boy she likes. And yet, it’s true for me and for you.

Your health is based on the integration of everything you do. Nothing is as closely tied to health as nutrition. You make multiple nutrition decisions every day.

Things are no longer “not good for you.” They’re detrimental if they don’t support your health. If you’re over 50 you were raised on a kind of negotiations formula: if you eat this, then you can have that. Unfortunately, women still operating that way are often THE most frustrated. A woman admitted the other day – just after lamenting that she’d only lost 3-4 pounds in the last month – that she “treats” herself to several foods that she’s likely to be sensitive to every week, regularly.

There are fewer true mysteries than you might like to believe.

I know we’d all love to think moderation is still the rule. It’s not. What you do is either on solution side or the problem side. It may be on the 40-yard line or the 10-yard line but it’s not “neutral.” You change your score every time you make a choice.

How: Micronutrient testing is done via blood draw. You’ll go to your local lab with the lab order and have it done. Fasting is not required.

Hormone Testing

“Testing” your hormones begins by assessing the signs and symptoms that your hormones aren’t balanced. Your digestion, elimination, skin, hair, joints, bones, muscle, response to exercise, feeling of fatigue or roller-coaster moods and energy, brain fog, lack of libido, all should be taken into consideration. There’s the more common signs too of sleep disruption, hot flashes, night sweats, and belly fat.

No one should tolerate any of the above. For goodness sake, run from those who define physical changes like “menopause belly.” That perpetuates your expectation and believe that its normal and just a part of the deal. Um, no. Only if you decide to follow the path of those who got it and kept it.

The After 50 Fitness Formula course and the You Still Got It, Girl book contain a signs and symptoms chart.  If you have three or more symptoms from any particular category there’s a strong chance that’s your imbalance. In fact, if you strongly connect with two in any category, I’d be willing to be your gut is already telling you where to focus. When you know the imbalance, you’re given the means to put balance back. Changes in type and timing of habits, some dumping of old habits in exchange for new ones is in order. But none of them are turn-your-world-upside-down habits. They’re “flips” – tweaks to your existing habits that make a big difference.

However, if I had to guess about you – not seeing you, not meeting you – I would guess you need to work on two hormones: cortisol and insulin.

No woman I work with loves to hear this: sugar is one of the major root causes of hormone disruption. (Chemical consumption and use is another). It affects testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone. Wine and alcohol are sugar. You can’t out-fitness damage you do with your food choices.

testing

When do I recommend hormone testing?

There are two times I recommend it and it depends a little on who you are.

Here’s where I suggest you start though. Unless you refuse to comply with the suggestions that will come from your self-assessment of symptoms I’d save the lab tests for after you’ve made all the natural changes you can.

After all, medicine, pills, creams, and supplements are meant to help boost the things you have already put in place. Sometimes you can change your status enough all by positive life habits. Others will need some additional support. But bio-identical hormones aren’t meant to do ALL the heavy lifting.

Even if you’re feeling good, I often recommend a woman test. Get that baseline now. Then if things do go awry, you have a benchmark for you “normal” and feeling optimal energy and at your ideal weight. I take a snapshot every 6 months if I’m making big changes, or every 12 months if not. You can’t “feel” the ideal pathways of your estrogen taking place. Check in on what’s happening and you can reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease.

How: Hormone testing is done via blood draws. You’ll go to a lab with your lab order and have the draw in minutes. Fasting is not required but it’s often recommended if you’re using hormone supplements you abstain for a period of time before testing.

Micronutrients – and specific types – may be recommended for you if your hormones are not optimal. Your DNA can tell you if you have the MTHFR gene mutation and methylated forms of folate will be absorbed better. Many conditions like migraines, depression, anxiety are impacted by hormone imbalance tied to micronutrient insufficiency that your genetics (DNA) can provide insight about.

A health coach can help you determine the questions to ask a practitioner, steps you can take yourself, potential other tests, and habits that you want to set for yourself to see positive changes or maintain a path already going in the right direction.

testingWhere should you start with testing?

A good start is assessing what you want right now. Are there things you’d like to change? Are you looking to optimize your future as well as the way you look at feel now? Then do a self-assessment of your hormones and jump to the habits that describe women who have achieved hormone balance. Then decide if Micronutrient, DNA, or Hormone Testing is your next step. If you have amazing insurance and a practitioner on board with optimal aging for you too, start there. If you want to take things into your own hands, order what you want when you want it, self-directed labs are a quick way to order, test conveniently, and get results that you choose what to do with.

Resources:

The After 50 Fitness Formula Course

You Still Got It, Girl! habits quiz

You Still Got It, Girl! book

Micronutrient Testing (use: Flipping50 for $ off)

Hormone Testing (use: Flipping50 for $ off)

DNA testing (use heart20 in February 2019 for a 20% savings!)

hormones and heart healthThe Connection: Your Hormones and Heart Health

During this Heart Health Month post, I look at the hormones and heart health connection. It’s no secret that you are an integrated being. The health of your bones is related to hormones. Your fat storage and fat burning ability are related to hormones. Your muscle definition is related to hormones.

Your heart health too is related to hormones.

There are over 70 hormones in the body. If any of them are too low or too high you have imbalance. It might seem logical we’re always in some kind of imbalance, right? How can 70 hormones always be well behaved?

But some have a bigger impact than others. The rate and speed of damage from hormone imbalance depends on which hormone and how much it’s out of balance.  Some matter more than others and some affect other hormones causing a cascade reaction.

High estrogen levels are most related to your risk of heart disease. 

Yet, it’s integrated. Every hormone is influenced or influenced by another. Just as exercise is influenced or influences hormones.

The After 50 Fitness Formula

Exercise for many of us is the catalyst for making other positive health-impacting changes. So in this post about heart health and hormones I address how the After 50 Fitness Formula (used in all my programs) is used in an If-This, Then-That approach.

You, of course, have to know two things:

1) What those positive changes are – you may need not more information, but more specific data about you. Whether you do this through a course, an elimination diet, a food sensitivity test, a stool test or a combination of these, (and I encourage more than one for many of the individuals who have “tried everything” but still don’t have answers), you have to define what “healthy” choices are for you in the right now of your life.

2) What exercise supports hormone balance based on your signs of imbalance- whether you’ve tested with lab work or not. I very recently was surprised to be asked whether “extensive lab testing” needed to be done to tell you the status of your hormones. The answer is no!

The fitness formula for women over 50Labs or Life Clues?

Your body doesn’t lie. If you’re not digesting well, you’re losing your hair, you’re tired all the time, you’re hungry right after meals, you’re craving sugar or salt, you can’t remove belly fat even with exercise and healthy eating… these are all signs and can all be usedto adjust your habits for more natural hormone balance.

Exercise more and harder is the intuitive response for both too many trainers, and women who aren’t getting results. That “do more of what’s not working” approach will make matters worse. From hormone imbalance you can go to adrenal fatigue and complicate matters with thyroid disruption, if you don’t listen and respond.

With a little understanding about your hormones, your hormones and heart health connection, and how to achieve a better natural balance, exercise can be an integral part of your overall health. Without it, you could be unintentionally be doing harm.

Hormones and Heart Health

Cardiovascular disease rates increase significantly after menopause and becomes the number one cause of death in women. The need to have adequate and balanced estrogen levels becomes especially important.

Some of the research does suggest negative effects of hormone therapy. You need the full story though. Non-oral estrogens don’t result in the pro-coagulant effect. Natural or bio-identical (not synthetic) progesterone doesn’t interfere with beneficial effect of estrogen in blood vessels. Estradiol and progesterone therapy can have beneficial effects on lipoprotein and cardiovascular health.

Cortisol, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone are the most important pieces of heart health. Positive change in estrogen happens by improving cortisol and progesterone.

hormones and heart health The Integration

Progesterone is important for helping balance testosterone and estrogen, and it’s important in strengthening the heart. While getting breathless does help the cardiovascular system and heart muscle, so too do you need to think about what happens at the cellular and hormone level.

Food and exercise both affect your hormones. It’s pretty clear there’s no neutral: the right food helps the wrong food hurts. Consuming foods with hormones in them (whether added or the animals were fed them or not – since the animal itself has hormones) can negatively affect your levels. Gut health alone is not the only reason to reconsider your milk and dairy consumption.

Hormones and Heart Health: Progesterone

Optimal progesterone levels support optimal cortisol levels, which in turn support the body’s anti-inflammatory process. That is especially important in cardiovascular disease, which is initiated by inflammation. Your hormones and heart health are as intertwined as that yarn around your high school boyfriend’s class ring.

A “progesterone steal” occurs when stress levels elevate (your perceived level as well as too much exercise, too little sleep, or a poor diet). That depletes progesterone stores since progesterone can be used to make cortisol when it’s needed. If your stressors are chronic and continued for a long period of time (hello, overachieving woman of 2019) this has a good chance of happening.
That sets you up for a hormone imbalance (estrogen dominance) caused by that low level of progesterone.

Progesterone has been credited to opening up blood vessels (less resistance due to bigger pathways means less blood pressure), reducing cholesterol and triglycerides, and it regulates collagen. If your skin is just not the same in spite of adding collagen in bone broth or a collagen powder, low progesterone may be a part of it.

Progesterone then is clearly a player in the hormones and heart health game.

What’s the answer to better progesterone levels?

Everything that supports your optimal diet, your optimal sleep will help create the sweet spot of cortisol, and balance blood sugars. If your cortisol is at adequate levels progesterone levels are positively influenced. Start there.

What’s the wonder drug for that?

Exercise.

Exercise as Medicine

Not “more” exercise but the right kind, the right time, and the right dose. In fact, long endurance training tends to increase cortisol (anything in fact over 75 minutes is more associated with negative affect on cortisol than positive) and decrease progesterone.

Meditation* and relaxation techniques through exercise or breathing sans exercise depending on your status support optimal cortisol. Walking in nature as opposed to a treadmill offers more benefit to your hormones. Leaving the cell phone behind and just being quiet in what’s recently been coined “forest bathing” promotes stress reduction.

That’s not to say that if you’re an exercise enthusiast you have to completely stop. That too is likely to increase cortisol for you. Temporarily (a few weeks) create a new challenge for yourself (focus on yoga, acquire a new skill as opposed to slamming your body with long or hard or both bouts of exercise) in order to support balance without going crazy.

Intensity

Short high intensity bouts can be appropriate for you. Cortisol needs to be OPTIMAL, not non-existent. It’s supposed to be used for acute situations. We’ve just failed that in our always-connected, superwoman thinking lives. If you think you don’t need to rest, to recover, to take care of yourself… or that doing so is bad, you’re the girl-most-likely to… get dinged by fatigue and issues from real burnout.

That is, interval training for 10 or 15 minutes (plus warm up and cool down) and intense weight training (also short in duration with quality to-fatigue sets and repetitions).

The answer is not all yoga all the time. You are not a delicate flower or broken. It’s also not all intervals all the time. You need to assess several things. What have you been doing that’s not working? What are your signs and symptoms? Could you take a nap after you finish your cool down? Or do you have more energy all day naturally when you’ve exercised?

You have to know if your cortisol levels are too high (when they should be low) or too low (when they should be high) in order to navigate the appropriate exercise prescription. If you can’t get up in the morning (reduce your exercise intensity) or if you’re staring at the ceiling at 2am, or you’re unable to get to sleep and stop that monkey mind (try short bouts of high intensity) you have clues about the best exercise for you right now.

Realize that all humans get comfortable thinking about themselves in a certain way. You may identify with “I like to go hard” or “I’m competitive” or “I’m on the go all the time” and if you find yourself saying, “That’s who I am,” you’re attached to that. It’s defining you. What if you had a different definition? Would that be so bad?

To heal your hormone imbalance you may have to break ties to what you thought made you special.

Nutritional changes benefit cortisol too. Adaptogens, herbs that naturally offer hormone support, like Ashwaganda, Rhodiola, and maca can support optimal cortisol and progesterone levels. I use these, maca, most often in my daily smoothie.

hormones and heart healthHormone and Heart Health: Testosterone

You need testosterone for your heart too. Yes, your libido and romance are a part of that but low testosterone doesn’t just kill a romantic evening. It can increase cardiovascular disease and is closely connected to blood sugar issues (like insulin resistance, and diabetes).

For most women testosterone reduction is associated with inability to gain lean muscle, fatigue, and low libido.

Clinically, testosterone is given to female patients with chronic heart failure and shown to improve functional capacity, muscle strength, and improve insulin sensitivity without any negative side effects.

Vitamin D supports testosterone levels. Yet another reason to be sure you’ve tested and you’re supplementing appropriately for Vitamin D. I have clients who are in need of more than the daily-recommended doses for several reasons. If you’ve been insufficient for a long time or have other things going on – not limited to sun exposure, meet with a physician for recommendations. Taking doses of 5000 or 10,000IU a few times a week is not unusual. It’s important to be tested, have supervision getting a prescription level supplement if needed.

How Exercise Helps:

If you display symptoms of low testosterone levels you want to dump long slow endurance exercise in favor of short high intensity intervals. Limit that to a few times a week. Strength training should be based not on the time you spend doing it but that your workouts have adequate intensity. Hour-or more-long sessions are overkill for you. If you have intensity you can do more good in a half hour or less a couple times a week. The majority of my personal strength training workouts are 10-to-20 minutes. But I don’t put the weight down after a set until I’ve reached muscular fatigue.

Eat and Drink Well

Reduce your stress level to support testosterone levels. Eat the highest quality of calories. Dump or significantly reduce sugar and alcohol while you’re struggling with testosterone levels.

Your cardiovascular health is dependent on your hormone balance and exercise plays a key role in that. The balance of estrogen, cortisol, progesterone, and testosterone are important in heart health. The integrated nature of hormones means that targeting the right one or two hormones with exercise and lifestyle habits can create a positive affect on the overall system.

Overcoming Society

Exercise for hormones and heart health is more thoughtful and less intuitive for women over 50. The culture of work harder, do more, pain is weakness leaving your body, doesn’t align with hormone balance. It’s often a relief to discover less exercise is more rewarding.

What have you identified as your hormones to target with exercise changes? I’d love to hear from you!

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21156341

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21156341

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16371658

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11933751

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20888520

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21154195

Additional Resources:

Exercise and Progesterone podcast

Flipping 50 TV episode 3

The After 50 Fitness Formula for Women course

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