Prioritizing lifting heavy weights and not feeling intimidated by this kind of exercise is so important as we naturally lose about 2% muscle mass year over year after 40! Muscle mass loss actually occurs in women starting as young as 30s and gradually progresses as our hormones change throughout the menopause journey. Maintaining or increasing lean muscle mass is important for physical function, as it supports our joints and also increases metabolic rate which will help to maintain a healthy weight. Muscle is more metabolically active so this is a great way to help thwart body composition changes in menopause and beyond! Additionally, when the musculature surrounding our joints is strong, it acts as a protective support system which can aid in reducing joint sensitivity which often occurs with aging. P.volve‘s Lead Trainer and VP of Talent & Training, Antonietta Vicario and Dr. Amy Hoover, P.volve‘s Resident Physical Therapist and Clinical Advisory Board shares with us five reasons why moving during menopause is the best time to exercise.
5 Reasons Why Moving During Menopause Is the Best Time to Exercise
Exercises to Build Muscle Mass
Grab a set of the heaviest weight load you can manage with proper form and shoot for 8 reps to max out your muscles and improve your muscle mass. We recommend targeting each muscle group you can. Incorporating exercises such as bicep curls, shoulder presses, deadlifts, lunge to overhead presses, bridges with the heavy weight resting on the hips are just some examples of movements we execute in the Moving With Menopause program and this type of training should be prioritized two to three times per 3[week for best results. Since the weights are heavier, you’ll want to ensure you’re being safe and moving properly to avoid injury. With the way P.volve prioritizes functional movement, you learn how to move well and with your body, therefore with these underlying movement mechanics, you can safely add more load and power.
Heart and Brain Health
Heart health is important for all adult women. Heart disease is still the leading cause of death for women in the United states, and about 1 in 16 women over 20 have coronary artery disease. During perimenopause, women should continue to work their heart muscle with cardiovascular exercise. However, because of the changes and fluctuations in hormones, the best way to do this is interval training. Doing short bursts of high intensity exercise which get the heart rate up, followed by slower or rest periods will help to improve blood sugar levels more effectively than doing long bouts of cardiovascular exercise. This type of workout will not only improve your heart health but also reduce the risk of insulin resistance which can also occur in this phase of life, as well as even improve cognition and memory as blood flows into our brain receptors. A key thing to note is we don’t want to spike too much cortisol, which can further rob the body of much needed estrogen and lead to inflammation so short bursts of all out cardio (30 seconds max) pushing yourself to your threshold with 2 – 3 minutes recovery time in between for a total of about 20 – 25 minutes is all you need when doing cardio intervals.
Exercises for Heart and Brain
The name of the game here is short durations of all-out movements to spike the heart muscle followed by a few minutes of low intensity recuperative movements. You can try fast jogs in place, switch jumps, jacks, power ups, etc. and add directional changes to help improve coordination and power, which we tend to lose as we age. Working your fast-twitch muscle fibers through prioritizing power and speed will help you maintain strong reflexes and positively impact your heart and brain.
Estrogen protects our bones so as it declines in menopause, so does our bone density. Weight-bearing, resistance training and multi-directional plyometrics are some of the best things we can do to stimulate our bones and help maintain and even improve their density. Stability training also creates muscular support and control to protect against falls and is a great strategy for keeping our body healthy long term. Creating forces through our limbs in a deliberate and controlled way can improve bone density as well as focus on balance to reduce the risk of falls, reducing the risk for fractures.
Exercises for Bone Density
Weight loading exercises such as single leg balances, all 4’s positions, and planks as well as plyometric exercises with quick directional changes will help stimulate your bones and protect against the effects of estrogen decline which makes bones more susceptible to breaks. The cardiovascular circuit-style training in the Moving with Menopause program helps protect our heart, brain and bones and should be prioritized two times per week.
Pelvic Floor Strength
Connective tissue becomes thinner and less lubricated with the drop in estrogen, including vaginal tissue. Understanding and incorporating pelvic floor exercise can help prevent pelvic prolapse, incontinence, hypertonicity and may even improve one’s comfort during sex all of which are real issues for women in menopause as the vaginal tissue changes. The good news is there is so much we can do to protect our pelvic floor once you know how to incorporate this muscle group into your routine along with other topical solutions that one can inquire about with their doctor. Through proper exercise, working the pelvic floor through its entire range of motion and in coordination with the core and breath will help improve blood flow to the area and ultimately improve pelvic floor symptoms.
Exercise for Pelvic Floor Health
Start seated and feel the bottom of the pelvis in contact with your chair. Place your hands on your lower belly and breathe fully in and out, allowing for the full expansion of the belly as you inhale. Once your breath is moving fully, as you exhale, contact vaginally, rectally and imagine stopping the flow of urine and passing gas. Think of the bottom of your pelvis drawing in and up like an elevator going from the basement to the top floor. Release all these sensations as you inhale. Once you have this established, add the navel pulling in and up with each exhale. You can integrate this bottom-up contraction when lifting heavy objects and when balancing for extra support.
Stress Reduction for Mood, Sleep, and Mindset
Prioritizing breathwork and stretching can dramatically shift one’s relationship to insomnia, mood swings, and even hot flashes. There are specific breathing strategies that stimulate our parasympathetic nervous system, shifting our bodies out of a high cortisol stress state into a rest and digest state, which has real health benefits for our heart muscle, our mood, even body composition. Employing these strategies to wind down at the end of the day, during hot flashes, or stress-inducing moments in general can help reset the body. Ultimately, menopause is a natural life transition and when we approach it as such, with information and education around how we can work with our bodies, we can move from fear about this life stage into feeling empowered and tune into our bodies to help us to navigate the tough moments, breathe and focus on letting them happen.
Exercises for Stress Reduction, Mood, Sleep, and Mindset
Laying down on the floor, let your body fully relax. You can scan from your feet up through your head and work individually to release each body part into the ground. Once fully relaxed, try breathing in for 3 and out for 5 to lengthen the exhale and feel the calming effect this breath pattern has on the body.