In Exercise, Hormones

Can You Make Menopause Better?

Yes.

In the gym and in the kitchen you’ve got a dozen ways to make menopause better. Your trip through menopause can be easy and enjoyable. Here’s how the exercise you do can make menopause so much more pleasant!

make menopause better#1 Reduce Stress

Let’s face it there are so many ways stress – and the cortisol that comes from it – creep into life during menopause. It also happens to be a time when women are at a peek in their careers, or in a transition to a new career. The same can be said for relationships. Children can be in kindergarten or graduating college. If you’re an American family, maybe both! You may have aging parents or relatives who depend on you too. Exercise can help offset those stressors.

Short, high intensity exercise, done infrequently (not daily), can reduce negative effects of cortisol. Long outdoor nature walks/hikes/rides can reduce cortisol. Yoga (as long as you love it and don’t go for hot, power yoga that puts you over the edge) can reduce stress levels.

Weight training makes you strong in many ways beyond muscle. Women report confidence, resilience, a difference in the way they carry themselves when they’re strength training.

How?

Serotonin production along with the well-known endorphins produced after exercise can change chemistry. While non-exercisers during menopause often report greater tendency toward depression, weight training is known to help decrease anxiety and depression both. Make menopause better by feeling better both physically and emotionally.

#2 Improve Sex and Intimacy

Exercise in menopause can boost your testosterone levels directly, provided you choose less and more intense exercise when you do it. Long endurance activity kills testosterone and therefore your romantic Saturday night. But short hits of intervals a couple times a week along with a weight training routine that really works (put the pink dumbbells down) will support testosterone levels.

Exercise enhances sleep, which in turn improves cortisol, testosterone, and growth hormone. If you feel less stressed there’s more chance you can feel amorous. No one feels sexy when the wheels are falling off the bus. If you’re handling it well though, maybe.

You may be more inclined to leave the lights on. Strength training can help you feel better naked and boost your libido. Strength training, faster than any other form of exercise, will change your body shape and proportions. You’ll feel it faster, too, than trying to spend hours doing cardio which will leave you wiped out rather than feeling like a little black dress.

How?

It takes as little as 10 minutes of exercise a day to improve self-reports of sleep quality by 33%. You can do a full body strength training routine in 10 minutes! 

make menopause better#3 Reduce Hot Flashes & Night Sweats

Exercise in menopause can reduce hot flashes intensity, frequency or both. In fact, the occurrence of hot flashes is reduced by about 21% in exercising women. It is dependent on the type and timing of your exercise so if you’re shaking your head no, it’s not working for me, then a change in your exercise is the answer.

How?

The exercise has to be both vigorous enough to change your vasomotor control (aka, your heating and cooling system) and regular enough.

Flip:“Intense” and “vigorous” are two words that can cause concern but they needn’t. High intensity exercise has been used for decades even with those who have chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) and asthma. Safe forms of exercise can help you reach the intensity you need to get results without risk of injury.

make menopause better#4 Prevent Bone Losses

Resistance exercise can prevent bone and muscle loss that’s going to accelerate during menopause. Bone losses increase to up to 3-5% a year during menopause (from 1-3% losses pre and post menopause). Weight training with a bone density-increasing protocol should be mandatory for women in midlife! This tip not only helps you make menopause better but makes post- menopause better and reduces your risk of falling.

How?

Use a weight that causes you to reach fatigue in 10 or fewer repetitions, or use power with slightly lighter weights. Both have been most closely related to the best bone benefits. Minimal bone benefits come from doing more repetitions of light weights or taking more steps per day. There needs to be a Minimal Effective Stress (MES) applied to gain the most bone benefits.

Where you have co-existing issues like arthritis preventing heavy weights, do the heaviest you can without complications and focus on balance to prevent falls.  There are specific other habits you’ll want to do to optimize your bone health.

Flip: All too often you’ll find resources suggesting walking or light weights, even yoga increases bone density. These activities do exist on a continuum from sedentary-inactive to very specific optimal bone density activity. They will only reap rewards for a period of time as your body adapts. Once you’ve become a regular walker or done yoga, you will no longer continue to gain benefits doing the same activity over and over without overload.

Do the best you can for your personal conditions and if you’re apparently healthy, weight training to the point of muscular fatigue at 10 or fewer repetitions or using power with approximately 12-15 repetitions will get the best bone-specific results.

make menopause better by avoiding weight gain

#5 Prevent Weight Gain

I saved the best for last. What would make menopause better for many women is avoiding the weight gain that can happen. Hormone changes can sabotage your tried-and-true habits and cause weight gain. They don’t HAVE to, however. It’s not “NORMAL” for that to happen, and it’s certainly not mandatory.

In fact, worldwide menopause and weight gain don’t have a correlation. Here in the states however, it’s common.

Weight training benefits within the first four weeks, provided you do a protocol that overloads your muscles, results in typically a 4 lb fat loss and 3 lb. muscle gain. The net weight loss is not significant but the change in body composition is and that positively influences metabolism. Those results can be expected within the first 12 weeks of a strength training program, or an existing one in which you make significant changes. For more information about Flipping 50’s new 12-week STRONGER program and the enrollment period, join for email announcements that first go to our subscribers.

How?

A “traditional” protocol of using major muscle groups to fatigue optimizes lean muscle. A few minutes of random exercise following a cardio class or a bootcamp movement course moving quickly and getting tired, but never reaching muscle fatigue, will not have the same effect on long term metabolism.

You can make menopause better physically and psychologically with minutes a week. It doesn’t take a lot and you can do it conveniently at home, it doesn’t require a lot of equipment.

Resources:
https://www.cnn.com/2016/01/27/health/menopause-hot-flashes-exercise/index.html
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27163520
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29452777
Atkinson, D., 2017. Hot, Not Bothered


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