What Exactly is Hormone Balance?
Before you get more hormone balance you obviously need a clear definition of hormone balance! If you’re not actually sure what hormone balance is or if some of your recent frustration with a lack of your “you-ness” seems to describe hormone imbalance, read on. This post is for you. It’s not just hormones though is it? For the majority of women Flipping 50, there’s also a special condition, a joint issue, a crazy schedule that also needs to be addressed.
Originally published April 2018, updated Sept 19, 2019.
If any of these describe you:
- You’re putting on weight lately no matter what you do
- You have belly fat even though you’re weight is OK
- You have cellulite on your thighs, belly, bum, or on your upper arms
- You can’t seem to develop any muscle tone in your legs
- You’ve got a saggy bum in spite of so many lunges and squats you can’t sit down
- You’ve turned up the exercise and eat carefully but still no results
- You’ve got this crepey chest and neck skin
- You have touchy joints from prior or current injuries
- You have had breast cancer surgeries
- You’ve had other invasive surgery or joint replacement
- You have a chronic condition
- You can’t sleep well
- Even if you do sleep you don’t wake up refreshed
- You have high levels of stress right now
- You’ve tested your hormones and you’re “normal” but don’t feel it
- You still don’t have any idea how to exercise “normal” or not
- You have depression or anxiety
- You’re taking medications for the above or other things with side effects
- Your digestion is off (even if you thought that was “just me”): You don’t poo every day at least once (more is better), You have rabbits or pudding instead of snakes, or You have gas or bloating you just tolerate.
What you used to do doesn’t work any more.
Then this is definitely for you… if you want to change. I add that because, frankly, that’s the obstacle for a significant percent of women that express interest in change. If you aren’t willing to change habits, change beliefs, change what you eat and when, change how you exercise and when, then this will just be another blog. Get real with whether the fault you find in programs, and the resistance to making change is you being the obstacle in your way. Access to proven solutions doesn’t mean you’ll make the changes and get proven success. As an exercise psychology and behavior change coach, I’ve spent the majority of my time with female clients focused on the process of change for over three decades. It is a big part of feeling better. No set of exercises, videos, menu plans will ever help until you decide you are 100% in.
Approximately 6000 women a day go into menopause right now. That’s 2 million a year. Yet, 39% of all sports medicine and exercise research features females at all. It’s safe to say a small slice of that focuses on women in perimenopause, menopause, and post menopause and the hormones that influence and are influenced by her exercise.
It’s beyond time to change the way we exercise during the change. If a woman begins perimenopause in her mid 40s and lives to her mid 80s she spends 40 years in menopause.(It doesn’t end or get over: post menopause is forever!) Shouldn’t we be optimizing exercise for this large population of currently 38 baby boomer women, 25 million Gen X women and coming soon, an even larger number of millennial women? Fitness is either going to open a new level of health for women, who ultimately influence 80% of household decisions including health, or fail miserably.
Conventional exercise prescriptions contribute to hormone imbalance.
Throw Away the Textbook
Exercise for hormone balance is not your textbook exercise. “I’ve never heard that before,” is not a good excuse to dismiss something as true. How many studies did you (or your trainer) read last week about menopause, hormones, and exercise? They’re at anyone’s fingertips in today’s world. So holding onto old ideas without researching for yourself or finding a voice you trust instead of going by an outdated text is irresponsible. A published textbook is outdated by the time it goes to print. Research in this area is accelerating. Get help up to the speed of research on hormone balance.
If the rules feel like they changed overnight and put you into imbalance you could notice a shift that quickly back into balance too. You may not be quite so lucky to get it right immediately, but you can feel better. You’ll get signs you’re on the right path and you can lose weight or get the tone you’re after if you’re willing to make some changes.
Hormone balance through exercise starts with these 3 steps:
- Assess what signs and symptoms you have from the list above.
Really, write them down. I’ll wait.
- Next to each sign or symptom write down what you’ve tried.
Make a column of signs and a column of what-I’ve-tried next to it with plenty of options for the solutions.
- Now get honest. Which things that you’ve tried have you actually tried systematically, one at a time, in a specific sequence?
If you’ve tried things before, even if you don’t have results, you know a little more about what does and doesn’t work for hormone balance.
Or do you?
Does #3 above resonate a bit too much? If you’ve said, “I’ve tried everything! Nothing works!” You may have tried things randomly or unknowingly sabotaged results of a good thing with the wrong type or timing of it. That’s where I want to jump in here with exercise for hormone balance.
I’ve written dozens of blogs, dozens more articles, and created still more videos about exercise and hormone balance. I touched on hormones and exercise for adults over 50 in one book and filled two more books with exercise for hormone balance. By this summer I could write another. Research is booming. There’s not a lack of information but there’s a lack of time.
When you want answers and your frustrated you want them now, like yesterday.
If you’re not getting results you want but don’t know why, below I give you some very quick very easy to implement answers. There are three scenarios here. There’s more where that came from, and more how-to do the exercise that will help you most, where this came from, but these are very common among the women I work with.
Is this you?
- You’re tired in the morning even after a full night’s sleep…
- You wake up not wanting to wake up…
- You don’t have an appetite in the morning…
- You may or may not have coffee but you really don’t want food, or exercise, pajamas would be good…
- Your hormone tests show you don’t have any cortisol at all – even when you should
Your hormone balance exercise:
Reduce your exercise. Leave the weights and the High Intensity Interval Training alone for (at least) a week. If you can get out for walks (or bike rides) and enjoy yourself – alone, with a friend, or a dog – then do that. Stick with a short duration (20-30 minutes most of the time. A longer time (45-60 minutes)– as long as you enjoy it – on the weekends or day when you have plenty of time and you’re not on the clock can be good. Plan activities you love that have nothing to do with calories and fat and minutes. You need a major reset. Fill up that hole and rest. Focus on sleep, rest, a massage, meditation, journaling, and learn what proper nutrition is for you today – it’s not the “healthy” you once thought.
Is this you? You need small changes to your belly fat and tone
- You’re the right weight but your proportions have changed
- You’ve got belly fat you never had before
- You’re adamant about that coming off now!
- You’re on bio-identical hormones and they’re still not helping
- You skip meals or have them at different times all the time
- You drink coffee to rev up and wine to unwind
- You read every label, watch exactly what you put in your mouth, count pts, calories
- You go to bed and wake at varying times
Get short quick interval training sets in 1-2 times a week that last 20 or 30 minutes start to end. Get two weight training-to-fatigue days in (same day or alternate). Make these things happen in the morning. Then get outdoors and do something unplugged at least once a week. Hike: get lost for that matter. You need to let go. No minutes, calories, miles tracking. While you’re doing that get a plan for eating. Plan breakfast. Plan lunch. Plan dinner. (my new favorite resource for cooking) If you’re over 50, you’re required by hormone law, you’re required to do some adulting.
If everything you do elevates cortisol, everything you do deposits fat to your belly. Lack of regular meals, lack of regular bedtime and wake time, reliance on some supplement or prescription to do the work daily habits should do will backfire. You do the work, and they’ll take you the rest of the way.
Is this you? You’re kind of an exercise-addict, love it, but may over do?
- You exercise almost every day
- You spend hours in the gym (or at home) every week
- You do a similar distance or duration every time you exercise
- If you miss a day it drives you crazy
- You do it all hard
- You’re feeling flat during workouts lately
- You don’t really look forward to workouts like you used to
- You feel tired most of the time and think if you just got a good workout you’d feel better
- You can’t sleep in spite of being tired
Your hormone balance exercise:
Cut your exercise in half. Increase the intensity of some of those longer workouts (1-2 a week) if you like but keep them short. There’s very little evidence that more time results in more results. In 34 years, those people we observe in the gym for hours every day never really changed their body over time. Same shape, same complaints, same energy or less potentially as they aged. For hormone balance, that “hour of power” on the treadmill, is public enemy #1. Lifting weights for the cosmetic effect does little to change your body composition. Those “total body toning” classes can give you a boost of confidence but it’s some short, specific exercise sessions that really get results. If you’re addicted, but tired, and continue your routine you’ll soon be burnout.
Is this you? You don’t have energy, libido, or muscle tone!
- Do you exercise but struggle to get toned or add lean muscle?
- Are you trying to watch what you eat so you can prevent more weight loss?
- Do you have very little or next to no libido?
- Do you have a hard time sleeping?
- When you exercise do you typically keep it moderate and go for longer?
- When you lift weights do you do about 15 repetitions or more?
- Or do you finish 10-12 repetitions but know you could do more if you needed to?
Your hormone balance exercise:
Start lifting weights focused on major muscle groups. Even if you want to tone those arms, you want to start with major muscle groups. Even if you want a flat belly, start with major muscle groups. Stop long slow exercise sessions and long endurance activity. Increase your protein at every meal and eat regularly. Get to bed early and make sure you control your environment. If you love your wine or nightcap, you’ll want to stop that. All of these things kill testosterone, a key hormone for building lean tissue and libido. Testosterone gives you a kick of confidence too also important for libido.
These are but a few scenarios of exercise changes you can make for more hormone balance. Each woman has a unique set of health history, physical status, signs and symptoms that make her unique. If you don’t see yourself here exactly take the one closest and start there.
Share your biggest hormone balance challenges below in the comments.
Do you want support determining what factors influence your hormone balance?
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