10 Comprehensive Ways Resistance Training Revolutionizes Menopause Health

Picture the headline: Resistance training revolutionizes menopause health. It’s that simple. 

It’s 2024. We still hear both about the use of HRT or reasons (perhaps outdated) not to. We hear about both animal protein and the plant protein advocates. 

With this simple method of – humor me – hormone enhancement – there is no argument. We all know we need to be doing it. We all understand the benefits of being strong and vibrant. But lest you confuse a need to lose fat with the need to gain lean muscle, this is for you. 

Lifting already? Then you’ll love these reminders. After all, the placebo effect is in full swing at all times. It’s either working for or against us. So those things you’re doing that you know are good for you, amplify them with the scientific evidence and think your way to even better results. 

This episode captures the broad spectrum of positive changes resistance training can bring to menopausal women, from physical improvements like visceral fat reduction and bone density increases to more general benefits like enhanced mood and sleep quality improvements. Each of these is directly tied to signs and symptoms of menopause. 

Give a Woman a Weight and Change Not Only Menopause, But Her Health the Rest of Her Life

Before we dig in, in the rhythmic play off the children’s story book, “When you Give a Mouse a Cookie”…

When you give a woman a weight… (or when you pick one up yourself) 

You: 

Enhance her strength

Improve her fat free mass

Reduce her total fat

Reduce that deadly visceral belly fat

Support overall hormone balance

Alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression

Enhance her sleep

Improve skin health

Increase bone density

Enhance Gait and Stability 

Women who lift, lift the world. Theirs and the world at large.

How Resistance Training Revolutionizes Menopause Health

1. Enhance muscle strength – directly tied to longevity (link to recent episode on testing your own longevity) supporting daily activities and reducing the risk of falls. Beyond that however, for bone density benefit, heavy lifting will require muscle strength. 

2. Improve fat-free mass, aiding in a healthier body composition during menopausal transition. The combination of 1 and 2 together, notably known as “recomposition.” You’re not literally turning fat into muscle. But you are indeed able to lose fat and not just avoid loss of muscle, but add muscle. This does require some careful effort. For those without much consistent strength training, using a caloric deficit with a high protein intake make effective. The longer your consistent resistance training experience however, and the older you are, you may need a surplus of calories high in protein to overcome the anabolic resistance that occurs with aging. 

3. Support total fat mass reduction, addressing weight gain concerns during menopause. Over 5600 postmenopausal women in one hundred studies reviewed showed exercise training effectively increased muscle mass and fat-free mass, and decreased fat mass, body fat percentage, waist circumference and visceral fat. (more on visceral fat coming up). Further this study in Frontiers in Endocrinology in 2023, found combining RE and aerobic exercise(not same session) helped increase muscle and decrease fat, while RE plus combined training – which includes doing aerobic activity and strength training in the same session – helped boost muscle mass most. The reason it likely didn’t impact fat as much I suspect is because intensity in the aerobic activity won’t be as high. You either won’t go as fast or against as much resistance even though it may “feel hard.” 

4. Reduce Visceral Fat.  Resistance training has been shown to effectively promote decreases in visceral fat in the absence of caloric restriction. That is, no change other than adding resistance training. In still another study published 2023, reduction in visceral belly fat was significant compared to non-resistance trained control group whether participants did 2 or 3 times weekly RE. The impact was observed to be significant across both obese and non-obese individuals, as well as across different age groups, indicating its broad applicability for fat reduction during menopause.

5. Support hormone balance.For pre- and post-menopausal women’s unique physiological needs, muscle is essentially an endocrine organ. You will support more optimal insulin levels, decreasing the need for it and therefore decreasing fat storage. You will experience less negative impact of cortisol compared to cardio. You’ll also boost natural testosterone levels, pick up where estrogen levels dropped in menopause, and so much more. 

5 More Ways Resistance Training Revolutionizes Menopause Health

6.  Alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety by releasing endorphins and improving mood. Similar to the way that there are reduced negative effects of stress with brief periods of rest between sets allow those sensations to normalize a bit before being increased again with the next set, resistance exercise can provide optimal mini exposure to elevated heart rate for anxiety, without negatively tipping the scale, which helps enhance resilience. Enhance Gait Speed and Stability.  By improving muscle strength and mass, resistance training can contribute to better balance, gait speed, and overall mobility. Gait speed is directly related to longevity with a minimum speed of 3.0 set for determining a good baseline. Walking speeds of 3.3. Or greater are associated with greater bone density benefit through ground forces than slower speeds. Gait speed typically slows with instability or fear of falling. Stronger muscles support joints and can prevent falls, which is crucial as bone fragility increases with age. This was a repetition range of 8-15 with an average of 60s rest between 2 or 3 sets. Changes were improved with as little as 6 weeks of twice weekly RE.

7.  Improve Skin Health by improving circulation and potentially boosting collagen production. Resistance training has a more positive impact on thickening the skin dermis, counteracting the thinning of skin from loss of collagen fibers with age. 

8.  Increase Bone Density. Both research and anecdotal evidence from our own Flipping 50 community provides evidence that reversal of bone loss is possible through RE. Resistance training places stress on the bones, stimulating bone formation and increasing bone density. This is particularly beneficial during menopause, a period when women are at increased risk for osteoporosis due to declining estrogen levels. Once thought to be the best exercise, the collective approach now includes high impact exercise, yoga and other weight bearing time daily, as well as resistance training. For those unable to lift heavy, tools like weighted vests and whole body vibration (Power Plate is my choice- https://www.flippnigfifty.com/PowerPlate).

9.  Enhance sleep quality, aiding in better rest and recovery, as well as overcoming the insomnia that can occur during menopause. A study conducted by researchers at Iowa State University and presented at AHA Conference in March 2022, found resistance training helped reduce time to fall asleep and also increased sleep time  more than aerobic exercise among exercisers who did 3x a week resistance training

Resistance Training Studies and Menopause Health

Among the studies there are a lot of variables. Some smaller, some vast reviews of literature as mentioned with over 5000 women, and variations of 2 or 3 times weekly, 3 or 4 sets, the percent of 1 RM to muscle fatigue did vary as it almost always does when looking at a large body of knowledge. What does come out clearly though is: 

  • Multiple sets each session
  • 6-8 sets for each muscle per week 
  • Higher intensity (heavier with fewer repetitions improved results over low intensity light- with more reps) 
  • Post menopausal women don’t respond as well with less stimulus and require more volume from multiple sets x heavier weight and potentially greater frequency of HIIT or high intensity 
  • Because of the increased anabolic resistance women experience in post menopause (older) they will require more protein to achieve the same muscle protein synthesis 
  • Even if the goal is to go heavy for optimal bone density, all exercisers should start with higher repetitions and lighter weights with emphasis on good form. 

Based on a simple principle of fitness: progressive overload. While a low load more frequently might be a logical way to begin and build a foundation of connective tissue health and train the brain so to speak. This neural component can’t be rushed by heavy weight. It will take the time it takes – about 6-8 weeks of a program. A time when proper form and body mechanics is very important. Yet for women crushed by time, fitting it in, twice weekly can be a bigger advantage and allow for functional workouts, like body weight yoga sessions between without undue fatigue or adrenal stress. 

Are you lifting? If you or a woman you know needs to begin, share this with her. For an online solution that’s been built for and helped women in menopause for a decade, join the STRONGER Tone & Define 12-week program. 

Resources: 

Power Plate with the Flipping 50 community code: Flipping50 https://www.flippnigfifty.com/PowerPlate

STRONGER Tone & Define: https://www.flippingfifty.com/getstronger

Other Episodes You Might Like: 

What Are the Real Secrets to Longevity? https://www.flippingfifty.com/real-secrets-to-longevity/

Power Plate Benefits | Prior Skeptic to a Believer

https://www.flippingfifty.com/power-plate-benefits/

References:

Broman-Fulks, J. J., Kelso, K., & Zawilinski, L. (2015). Effects of a single bout of aerobic exercise versus resistance training on cognitive vulnerabilities for anxiety disorders. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, 44, 240-251.

Isenmann, E., Kaluza, D., Havers, T. et al. Resistance training alters body composition in middle-aged women depending on menopause – A 20-week control trial. BMC Women’s Health 23, 526 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12905-023-02671-y

Kang S, Park IB, Lim S-T. Changing Levels of Myokines after Aerobic Training and Resistance Training in Post-Menopausal Obese Females: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Sustainability. 2020; 12(20):8413. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12208413

Keating CJ, Cabrera-Linares JC, Párraga-Montilla JA, Latorre-Román PA, Del Castillo RM, García-Pinillos F. Influence of Resistance Training on Gait & Balance Parameters in Older Adults: A Systematic Review. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Feb 11;18(4):1759. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18041759. PMID: 33670281; PMCID: PMC7918150.

Nilsson S, Hammar M, West J, Borga M, Thorell S, Spetz Holm AC. Resistance training decreased abdominal adiposity in postmenopausal women. Maturitas. 2023 Oct;176:107794. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2023.107794. Epub 2023 Jul 6. PMID: 37421844.

Nishikori S, Yasuda J, Murata K, Takegaki J, Harada Y, Shirai Y, Fujita S. Resistance training rejuvenates aging skin by reducing circulating inflammatory factors and enhancing dermal extracellular matrices. Sci Rep. 2023 Jun 23;13(1):10214. doi: 10.1038/s41598-023-37207-9. PMID: 37353523; PMCID: PMC10290068.

https://www.abstractsonline.com/pp8/?_ga=2.43661667.795188704.1646150369-78844285.1609356599#!/10553/presentation/99

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