Perimenopause and menopause are the ideal time for women to engage in strength training. That’s because once hormone levels begin to decline, especially estrogen, muscle mass, tone, and strength also begin to decrease. The risk of osteoporosis rises as does unwanted weight as metabolism slows. Hormone imbalance feeds mood swings and depression, while cardiovascular health, sleep, digestive health, and energy levels are challenged as well.
Could lifting weights and other resistance training (e.g., free weights, resistance bands, weight machines, your own body weight) be the “lift” you need to effectively handle these situations? Absolutely.
Benefits of strength training in perimenopause and menopause
Women who include strength training (weights, exercise bands, resistance training) in their lifestyle can be pleasantly surprised by the physical, emotional, and mental benefits they can enjoy. There’s no need to join a gym or fitness club (although you can if you want to) because all you need can usually be done at home using do-it-yourself hand weights (i.e., bottles of water) and resistance bands. Talk with your doctor before starting any exercise program.
The benefits of strength training for women in perimenopause and menopause are quite impressive. For example:
Improves muscles and strength. Estrogen is a key factor in the regeneration of muscle stem cells, which aid in maintaining muscle mass, tone, and strength. Numbers of these stem cells decline dramatically in menopause and can lead to sarcopenia, but resistance training and lifting weights can help generate more muscle stem cells.
Promotes bone health. According to the Endocrine Society, up to 20 percent of bone loss can occur during menopause and 50 percent of postmenopausal women develop osteoporosis. To help build stronger bones, women need to engage in resistance training, as demonstrated in a study among premenopausal women age 40 to 50. High-intensity weight-lifting resulted in improvement in bone mass density in the femoral neck (hip) and lumbar vertebrae (lower back).
Boosts metabolic rate. Muscle burns more calories than fat tissue does. Therefore, when you do resistance and strength training, you add muscle mass that increases calories burned and your resting metabolic rate as well. Over time, as you continue to do strength training, your muscles will burn more calories overall because they are larger.
Loves your heart. The higher risk of cardiovascular disease that is associated with the menopause years may be better managed by engaging in frequent strength training. In a Circulation systemic review and meta-analysis, the authors concluded they had “strongest evidence to date that resistance training is associated with reduced risk of…cardiovascular disease.”
Helps with sleep problems. If you are experiencing insomnia or other sleep problems, strength training can help. A systematic review of trials has found that resistance exercise improves all aspects of sleep, especially sleep quality.
Strength training may help you improve several important health concerns associated with perimenopause and menopause. Before you start strength training or any other type of exercise program, be sure to check with your healthcare provider.