With thanks to plummeting estrogen levels, the menopause is often accompanied by a host of not-so-welcome physiological changes. This includes decreased lean muscle, bone density reduction and a higher chance of fat storage particularly around the tummy.
If left with no intervention, postmenopausal women carrying extra body fat are at a much higher risk of developing insulin resistance. This is where cells can’t absorb sugar from the blood as efficiently, leading to higher blood sugar levels and raising your risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The good news however is that you have the power to intervene.
You read that correctly.
YOU really do.
The exercise strategies below have all been selected for their unique ability to reduce symptoms of the menopause and enhance your overall quality of life.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
A study published earlier this year out of Brazil discovered HIIT to be a time efficient strategy for postmenopausal women looking to reduce body fat and increase/maintain lean body mass. A reduction in visceral fat (internal fat around the organs) was also noted. To perform an effective HIIT session firstly select a method of exercise from the lift below:
Let’s start with a simple protocol of 15 seconds on, 45 seconds off. During your 15 seconds work period go as fast as you can. Look to raise your heart rate to 80% or above. Or if using a scale of 1-10 (10 being you’re about to pass out!) shoot for 8/10. During the rests go slow and allow your heart rate to drop back down. Repeat for 15-30 minutes.
Resistance training is so so so important to help prevent muscle atrophy and increase bone density. Not to mention the improvement in strength you’ll experience. As far as changing body composition (less fat, more muscle!) resistance training is the penultimate training protocol. Focus your time around compound movements. These are ones that work across more than one muscle group. Good examples include squats, deadlifts, chest presses, lunges and rows. Go for 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps. Select a weight that allows you to get 12 reps but no more. Keep your rest periods between sets short and sweet too – no more than 60 seconds. This will keep your heart rate elevated and help you burn more calories from your session.
Stability And Balance Work
As already mentioned, bone density can decrease during this time in a woman’s life. Making the above two points a part of your weekly exercise routine can help to reverse those effects. But as a safety net – improve your stability and balance. I’m thinking outside the box here, but think about it. If you trip or fall over and your bone density isn’t what it used to be, you’ll be much more likely to break something. If however your balance and stability is up to scratch you’ll be able to either:
A) Stop yourself from falling in the first place.
B) Recover yourself to safety if you do happen to have a fall.
Yoga And Meditation
No two women will experience the menopause in the same way. Symptoms are individual. However all women would no doubt benefit from some form of yoga, meditation or deep breathing session that can help to calm the nervous system and relieve symptoms such as hot flushes, irritability, fatigue and muscle tightness.