Muscle and Bone Losses | The Effects of Pandemic + Menopause

Muscle and bone losses during menopause… are compounded by the pandemic. Or, is it that muscle and bone losses during the pandemic are compounded during menopause? Regardless, this is a topic that could affect the long term health of aging women more than anyone else. It’s more than just the “quarantine 15” and too much relaxing in yoga pants causing us to relax our eating or exercise habits. Lingering after effects of your habits this year could significantly change the trajectory of your life. 

As we head into 2021, its a good time to assess what you’re doing (or not doing) and how to take back the control where we can.

Muscle Mass and Strength Losses

Studies demonstrating devasting effects of even short term restricted physical activity on muscle mass and strength losses in hospital patients, are identical to the small daily reductions during COVID19  (not walking to the office, to lunch, or going to the gym, fewer trips to the store or for shopping or out for leisure activities, fewer steps to the bathroom).

Combined with changes in eating habits and the reasons that people eat obviously exceeding hunger or need for nourishment and health, many with economic means to do better do worse turning to carry out, delivery, processed comfort foods (or drinks).

Changes in the physical environment are compounded by psychological effects of COVID, politics, more time watching news and social media’s negative messaging.

As gyms closed, use of parks, fitness classes, sports activity was restricted (and may be again) physical activity choices dwindled at least temporarily, maybe most severely for those not technology savvy or not yet adapted to a new way of accessing movement instruction and guidance.

Ironically, though young women tend to restrict eating (anorexia nervosa) to control weight, older adults are more likely to relax their diet when they are less active. It seems, one bad habit change leads to another in the same way one good change leads to another.

Muscle and Bone Losses In at Every Economic Level

Malnutrition, in the affluent just as well as in lower economic levels, is real. Sarcopenia is one real problem with:

  • less activity
  • less appetite
  • less consumption of high-quality protein and a nutrient-dense diet.

Protein is harder to digest. Those suffering with belly bloat and digestive issues may tend to avoid and or be oblivious to “adequate protein” needs. The reality is your protein need was higher all along. Science didn’t have enough proof or enough voices saying so and government guidelines still lag behind. You’ve just now begun to notice that what you’re doing isn’t working. 

Extended Periods Below Threshold Activity or Nutrition

A day or two or a week of eating differently is something you can recover from. Going on for months or a year what are the implications? When you’re at a hormone stage where mistakes are amplified there are increasing stakes. This is not just about today. Picture your life in 10 years as a result of your daily habits. 

Increased Long Term Risks:

  • Type II diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Sarcopenia
  • Osteoporosis
  • Frailty
  • Obesity
  • Sarcobesity
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

This list represents common uptick in disease and conditions following menopause… in the past. History doesn’t have to repeat itself now that we’re more aware of solutions. Women in menopause (late stages perimenopause, early post menopause – especially) are at increased risk for muscle and bone losses in good times, excluding a pandemic. During COVID a woman can’t afford to “walk” or Pilates alone into what she thinks is fit.

These accelerated muscle and bone losses you’re combatting are due to:

  • reduction in estrogen
  • increases in cortisol
  • reduction of growth hormone 
  • reduction of testosterone

The older you are, the faster you will lose, and the harder it is to regain your losses. At 75 you will lose significantly faster with time off than if you take a vacation from weights at 35.

If you’re taking medications, medications you may need albeit, they may further interfere with your ability to optimize weight and or muscle mass. All medications have negative side effects. Check with your physician about yours. Ask if there are similar solutions that have fewer negative side affects.

That said, it’s not all doom and gloom. We know that you can gain muscle strength and to a lesser extent, lean muscle mass at any age. And you can put a stop to bone density losses. These actions all help directly or indirectly to support the environment that improves your muscle and bone benefit. 

  1. Monitor your body composition – not your weight alone (and not BMI).
  2. Strength train to muscle fatigue 2x a week.
  3. Interval train 2-3 times a week (not ideally back to back) for a total of 45 or fewer minutes a week if high impact.
  4. Eat 30+ gms of protein at 3 meals (check for appropriate Essential Amino Acid profile)
  5. Target your ideal weight in pounds in grams of high quality protein daily.
  6. Eat a diet rich in a variety of whole foods (especially vegetables).
  7. Move every day (I challenged our entire Flipping 50 community to 29 walks in December.)
  8. Consider a supplement with Betaine HCL and digestive enzymes 


Heena Rehman & Md Iftekhar Ahmad (2020) COVID-19: quarantine, isolation, and lifestyle diseases, Archives of Physiology and Biochemistry, DOI: 10.1080/13813455.2020.183334

Two choice to support you:

STRONGER is a 12-week strength training program designed based on research featuring women in menopause. Each workout is based on science-proven protocols, and has been tested on our community for 2+ years. Exclusively inside the Flipping 50 member’s area until this Jan 2021 enrollment, you can try it now too. Details here. Closes Dec 31.

The Flipping 50 membership or “Gymbership” with all 5 12-week STRONGER programs plus intervals, yoga, Pilates, dozens of challenges, recipes, and mini courses vetted for you so you get your priorities met: hormone balance, bone density, motivation, energy, joint issues, weight gain, belly fat, metabolism. Open twice a year for enrollment Dec 25-Jan 6

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