Exercise: Peri to Post Menopause — A Crucial Connection to Longevity!
Part 1 - Strength Training
For many of us grew up thru the 60's to 90's, the key message was : Cardio More - Eat Less. And this still is a mantra in some weight loss circles today. But one thing we are learning, as we experience greater obesity and more reliant on mobility aids and nursing homes as we age, from a health and longevity approach, it is possible this approach doesn't serve us so well and we need to look at it differently moving forward so that we have an exercise program that may serve us better!
The Importance of a Balanced Exercise Regimen - Why Cardio Alone Won't Cut It
If you are still doing the some old cardiovascular exercise routine day in and day out and finding you are getting softer, that podge around your tumy is getting bigger and you just don't seem to be improving - then now maybe the time to revisit what you are doing. Cardiovascular exercise, like walking, running or cycling, is excellent for your heart health, no doubt. But when it comes to aging, focusing solely on cardio activities can be a bit like putting all your eggs in one basket.
A well-rounded exercise routine that also includes strength training, flexibility exercises, and even mindful practices like yoga can offer a more comprehensive approach to managing your health long-term and also help manage those symptoms head on.
In today's post we are solely focusing on the benefit of strength training and (very briefly) touching on its benefits.
THE POWER OF STRENGTH TRAINING
One of the most important gifts you can give yourself is an introduction to strength training. Traditionally, strength training is seen as purely the males domain and it consisted of sitting on machines (boring!) or lifting weights (unattractive and you will build muscle!!) But strength training isn't just about building muscle; it's about building a better quality of life during and post menopause and beyond. Studies have shown that strength training can help with a myriad of issues we face as we get older, such as:
Improving Bone Density.
Strength training is proven to reduce the risk of osteoporosis - even contributing to improving bone density. This is something that becomes a fear as we move into our 60's and beyond with the increased risk of falls and loss of mobility.
Addressing Weight Gain
Improving your lean muscle mass has a direct impact on your metabolism. The more muscle you carry - the more efficient your metabolism is, making improvements in hormonal function (insulin, cortisol etc), gives you an increased BMR (which allows you to eat more (no more starvation), gives you better muscle tone.
Plays a role in Balance and Fall Prevention
We consider falls being something only somebody in their 70's should be concerned about, but did you know that hospitalisations for adutls in their 40's and 50's is just as high? Strenth training builds the foundation for improved balance and power. Now I hear you go - balance is good but why do I need power? Power is your ability to walk up the stairs, get out of a chair, be able to move quickly out of the way of obstacles and hold your body upright when you trip. So it is really important as we hit mid-life.
Strength training has a direct effect on the brain. That's right! The amygdala, a tiny almond-shaped cluster of nuclei in the brain, plays a significant role in our emotional regulation. Interestingly, strength training has been shown to have a positive impact on the amygdala, helping to regulate mood swings and emotional responses commonly experienced during and post menopause.
And they are only some of the benefits of including strength training into your fitness regime.
THE HORMONAL SYMPHONY
Strength Training, Hormones and Neurotransmitters
Exercise has a direct effect on increasing and suppressing different hormones. Hormones responsible for fat gain - such as Estrogen, Insulin and Cortisol all play a part in weight management. Likewise, hormones such as testosterone and Human Growth Hormone (HGH) and neurotransmiters such as seratonin, epinepherine/norepinepherine also play a part in healthy body composition. Not only that, but they also play a role in managing your libido, stress levels and much more.
For instance, high intensity training and strength training increases HGH, which is controlled by other hormones and nuerotransmitters such as epinepherine/norepinepherine that are responsible for fat burning. Which is why this style of training is recommended for older women in their overall training program.
The Serotonin Connection
Exercise, including walking and strength training, has been shown to increase serotonin levels. This "feel-good" neurotransmitter can help alleviate some of the mood swings and depressive symptoms often associated with aging and menopause.
So there you have it. While strength training shouldn't be the only modality of exercise in a balanced health and fitness program, it is an important inclusion with many benefits. Strength training can have a really positive effect when included in your exercise regime. Two to three strength sessions per week are recommended. BUT remember - like with all exercise, consult with your health practioner before commencing and get a health check to make sure that there is nothing you need to be cautious of. And don't just jump into it with an all or nothing approach.
So, there you have it, ladies. Exercise isn't just about keeping your weight in check or your heart healthy—though those are fantastic benefits. It's about aging gracefully and independently.
If you need help with your program, you can book a call with us today, and we would be happy to help!
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"Menopause and Physical Activity," Menopause Journal, 2019.
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"Exercise as Treatment for Chronic Pain," Australian Journal of General Practice, 2019.
"The effects of physical exercise on hormonal and Sertoli cell number modifications during the aging process," Andrologia, 2014.
"Effects of progressive resistance training on growth hormone and testosterone levels in young and elderly subjects," Mechanisms of Ageing and Development, 1989.
"Serotonin and the neurobiology of depression. Effects of exercise," Sports Medicine, 1994.
"The effects of Tai Chi on depression, anxiety, and psychological well-being: a systematic review and meta-analysis," International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 2013.
"Physical Activity and Cardiovascular Disease: How Much is Enough?" American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 2008.
"Exercise, appetite and weight management: understanding the compensatory responses in eating behaviour and how they contribute to variability in exercise-induced weight loss," British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2012.
1. Diversify Your Routine
Don't just stick to one form of exercise. Incorporate strength training, cardio, and mindfulness practices to create a well-rounded routine.
2. Listen to Your Body
Your body always tells you a story. It will let you know when what you are doing is not right. So listen to it always. Whether that involves adding strength training in or taking the exercise back down and just walking. It knows what it needs.
3. Consult the Experts
Before you dive into a new exercise regimen, consult with healthcare professionals, especially if you're experiencing pain and mobility issues.
4. Stay Informed
Knowledge is power. Stay updated with the latest research on menopause,aging and exercise to make informed decisions about your health.