Every year, over a million women in the United States undergo menopause. This natural transition can disrupt their fitness regimen due to uncomfortable symptoms. It’s understandable that anyone might want to skip the gym after spending sleepless nights dealing with hot flashes.
Known as “the change of life,” menopause is an event that every woman experiences, usually occurring between the ages of 45 and 55. While symptoms differ from woman to woman, for some, menopause can be a challenging time.
According to Marlyne Perez, a registered dietitian nutritionist, certified personal trainer, and physique and NASM bodybuilding coach, “Menopause, marked by hormonal changes, affects various aspects of well-being. Symptoms during menopause vary widely, with some experiencing no or minimal effects, while others face severe disruptions impacting daily life. Common symptoms include hot flashes, night sweats, menstrual irregularities, vaginal discomfort due to dryness, incontinence, insomnia, and mood changes.”
These symptoms not only affect daily life but can also hinder gym sessions, especially when experiencing insomnia.
The good news is that there are natural ways to ease menopausal symptoms and improve health and well-being as you age.
From strength training to providing the body with essential nutrients, Perez shares valuable tips that can offer support during menopause and beyond.
Exercise as a Key Tool in Menopause
Whether you’re a regular gym attendee or haven’t visited in years, exercise is a fantastic tool to keep your body strong during menopause.
If menopausal symptoms have disrupted your fitness routine, these exercise tips can help you get back on track.
“Research has shown that strength exercises can enhance strength and have a positive impact on metabolic rate and hormone levels,” explains Perez, who strongly advises against skipping weights during menopause. “Resistance training, along with weight-bearing exercises, can improve body composition by enhancing lean body mass, which can boost metabolism.”
With that, here are Perez’s top workout tips to overcome menopause challenges!
8 Exercise Tips to Navigate Menopause
- Gradual Progression: Start with a weight that allows you to perform each exercise with proper form. As you get stronger, gradually increase the weight to keep challenging your muscles.
- Vary Intensity: Mix intensity in your strength training routine to continue challenging the muscles and maximizing growth. This can involve using heavier weights for fewer repetitions and lighter weights for more repetitions. Changing the number of repetitions and sets performed can prevent plateaus and keep workouts challenging.
- Warm Up: Warm up your muscles before the strength training session to increase blood flow and flexibility. Cooling down afterward can aid in recovery and reduce muscle soreness.
- Focus on Compound Movements: Compound exercises work multiple muscle groups simultaneously and are highly effective in building overall strength.
- Balance Cardio and Strength Training: Incorporate cardiovascular exercise for heart health and overall well-being. Moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking or swimming, can relieve stress and improve aerobic output, helping burn calories and belly fat.
- Consistency: Regular strength training sessions, ideally two to three times per week, are key to seeing progress.
- Adapt to Your Body: Pay attention to how your body responds to strength training and modify exercises if needed to protect your joints.
- Mind-Body Connection: Focus on the mind-muscle connection during strength training to maximize effectiveness and muscle gains.
Additional Tip: Stress Management is Vital. “Chronic stress can contribute to belly fat, especially when estrogen levels are imbalanced, so reducing cortisol levels can help women in menopause manage belly fat deposits and improve overall body composition,” explains Perez.
Finding healthy ways to manage stress is crucial. Take it to the gym and leave it there.
Nutrition to Nourish Your Body (and Mind) in Menopause
In addition to exercise, Perez shares nutrition tips that will fuel your body and mind as you navigate this new phase.
Nutrition plays a crucial role in managing menopausal symptoms and promoting overall well-being. Here are Perez’s top 6 nutrition tips:
- Hydration is Key: Proper hydration can combat symptoms like night sweats, hot flashes, nausea, and headaches, while improving brain function, skin health, and muscle function.
- Lean Proteins: Opt for lean protein sources such as poultry, fish, tofu, and legumes to support muscle mass, maintain a healthy weight, and hormone production.
- Calcium and Vitamin D: Ensure adequate intake of calcium and vitamin D to reduce the risk of bone loss. Include dairy products, leafy greens, and fortified plant-based milk in your diet for calcium and obtain vitamin D from sunlight and foods like fatty fish.
- Healthy Fats: Include healthy fats from avocados, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish to support heart health and manage weight.
- Fiber-Rich Foods: A diet rich in fiber can support digestive health and weight management. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes are excellent sources of fiber.
- Phytoestrogen-Rich Foods: Include foods rich in phytoestrogens, such as soy products, flaxseeds, and whole grains, to alleviate some menopausal symptoms.
Menopause may be a unique experience for everyone, but with a consistent workout routine and intentional nutrition, you can help manage symptoms while building physical and mental health.