Menopause & The Benefits Of Exercise
The Importance of Post-Menopausal Strength and Conditioning
Written by Luke Currey
The reduction of hormone levels with age has many effects on women’s health and wellbeing. Exercise has been found to be an effective instrument in combatting many of the challenges that these changes pose, including mood fluctuations, a slower metabolism, weight gain, hot flushes and guarding against the risk of certain injuries and conditions that increase with age.
Here we focus upon the core benefits of weight and resistance training, and the significant health benefits it provides for post-menopausal women.
Benefits Bone Health:
A by-product of declining estrogen levels is a decline in the body’s ability to assimilate calcium, which increases the risk of osteoporosis and injury. Alongside upping dietary intake of calcium rich foods, and taking a calcium and vitamin D supplement, weight and resistance training are vital steps in protecting bone health.
Strength training helps to increase bone density, thus helping to develop stronger bones. Even the addition of ankle weights during a walk or hike can greatly enhance the benefits of these activities, adding subtle resistance that helps to protect and strengthen bones.
A reduction in muscle mass and metabolic function occur with ageing, and these markers are most pronounced after menopause. The hormonal shifts cause the metabolism to slow considerably. A way to help counteract the slowing of the metabolism is to use strength and weight training to develop muscle mass. A higher muscle to body fat ratio results in a faster metabolism.
It is a myth that women will get bulky muscles from weight training: not only would a significant surplus in calorific intake be required, women also lack the sufficient testosterone to reach this state of muscular development. Furthermore, undertaking weight and strength training raises the metabolism and burns calories during the training session, continuing to burn energy at a higher rate for hours after the workout. Think of your muscles as your car’s engine. The larger the engine, the more fuel the engine needs, even at idle! Your muscles work the same way – the more you have, the more energy required, which is obtained by burning fat deposits, keeping you trim and healthy.
Reduces Risk Of Injury:
Weight and strength training conditions and strengthens the muscles and tendons, and alongside sufficient stretching exercises (such as yoga) also add flexibility and elasticity. This enhances overall functionality of the body, and reduces the risk of injuries and discomfort that become more common with age. There are many types of resistance, strength and conditioning training, and each has its benefits. It’s important to remember that as we age, it becomes increasingly necessary to focus on training and retaining our posture, our core engagement, and our balance. This helps us to defend against the loss of co-ordination, to prevent trips and falls and their injuries, and also to resist the development of cognitive disorders into older age such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia.
Beginners who have never used weights or participated in resistance training should source a qualified and well-experienced trainer – or taught gym class – to ensure they are working correctly, and using sufficient weights and resistance for their existing strength and fitness levels. This will produce optimum results, without the risk of harm.