Why weightlifting is beneficial before and after menopause
For many women, menopause symptoms begin around the age of 50.
When hormones begin to fluctuate and change, women can experience a range of symptoms including hot flashes, joint pain, low mood and vaginal dryness.
Menopause can also come with a number of physical changes – including loss of muscle mass, loss of bone density and a slower metabolism.
Fortunately, regular exercise — especially weight lifting — can help moderate these changes somewhat and improve overall health and well-being.
Here are just a few examples of how weight lifting can be beneficial for menopausal women.
- Increases bone density
Weightlifting not only challenges your muscles, but also your bones.
In fact, resistance exercise (like weightlifting) has been shown to stimulate the formation of new bone tissue, which can increase bone density.
This can be particularly beneficial for postmenopausal women who are at risk of osteoporosis (brittle bones).
Research has shown that bone mineral density increases significantly in women who do resistance training on a regular basis, including in the hips and spine. Higher bone density can also reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
- Maintains muscle mass
As women age, they tend to lose muscle mass and strength, which can increase the risk of falls, fractures, and injuries. Menopause can contribute to this loss of muscle mass.
However, research shows that for older adults – including women – weightlifting is an effective way to maintain and even increase their muscle mass and strength.
In postmenopausal women, research has shown that those who engage in regular resistance training are less likely to experience a loss in muscle mass and strength than those who engage in other forms of exercise, such as stretching and flexibility exercises.
Other research has also found that strength training can also be beneficial for perimenopausal women.
The study found that perimenopausal women who did regular strength training — as opposed to standard aerobic exercise (like running or walking) — gained about three times less belly fat, on average, over a two-year period.
- Increases metabolism
Lifting weights can increase muscle mass, which in turn can help boost your metabolism and burn more calories at rest.
This can be especially important for women just before and after menopause, as hormonal changes can lead to a decrease in metabolism and an increase in body fat.
In a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, postmenopausal women who participated in a 12-week strength-training program showed a significant increase in resting metabolic rate, which may help manage weight gain.
- Improves mood
Menopausal women can experience mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.
But exercise — including weightlifting — can have numerous mental health benefits, including reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety.
One study found that women who participated in a 16-week combination strength-training program reported improved mood and emotional well-being compared to a program that included only healthy lifestyle guidance.
Additionally, self-esteem, mood and fatigue have been shown to improve after prescribed resistance training in older adults – suggesting that weight lifting may have a positive effect on quality of life.
Although this particular study was not specifically conducted on menopausal women, it is likely that exercise could have a similar effect.
Women who suffer from insomnia and hot flashes can also experience decreased quality of life and mood.
However, resistance training has been shown to be an effective way of regulating body temperature, which can improve emotional well-being.
Weightlifting’s effects on mood may be due to the release of endorphins, which are natural painkillers and mood-enhancing chemicals in the brain.
Given the many benefits that weightlifting can have for women at this stage of life, you may be keen to get started.
However, if you have never tried strength training or weight lifting before, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Start with a Qualified Trainer: Working with a qualified personal trainer or strength and conditioning coach can be beneficial, especially early on in your fitness journey.
They can help you learn proper lifting techniques, create a safe and effective exercise program, and progress at a pace that suits your fitness level and goals.
Focus on form: Proper form is crucial when lifting weights, especially as you get older. Poor form can increase your risk of injury and prevent you from realizing the benefits of weightlifting.
Take the time to learn proper technique and start with lighter weights until you feel comfortable and confident. Using a mirror or recording videos while exercising can help ensure your form is good.
Start with compound exercises: Compound exercises are exercises that work multiple muscle groups at the same time. These exercises are great for building overall strength.
Some examples are squats, deadlifts, and bench presses. Try to do this about two to three times a week.
Once you have a good foundation for these compound exercises, start incorporating exercises that focus on a specific muscle or promote stability – such as B. Shoulder presses or lunges.
Make Gradual Progress: As you become more comfortable with weightlifting and feel that the weights you’re lifting aren’t as challenging as they used to be, you can gradually increase the weight or intensity of your workout to help make progress achieve.
Just be careful not to progress too fast as this can increase the risk of injury.
Weightlifting can have many benefits — and if you do it consistently, you can maintain good physical and mental health not only before and after menopause, but also as you age.
Be sure to consult your doctor before beginning any new exercise program, especially if you have any pre-existing health conditions or concerns.
Written by Athalie Redwood-Brown, Jennifer Wilson. The conversation.
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