Fenix Fitness Why is Strength Training so Important for Women, Especially Around Menopause?

Menopause marks the end of the trials of excruciating cramps, unpredictable mood swings and many other symptoms during each menstrual cycle. Even though menopause sounds like a peaceful end to a woman’s cycle, you tend to develop other issues. You will most likely experience physical symptoms such as hot flashes and intense perspiration, decrease in oestrogen production and increase in visceral fat. You may also struggle with your mental health when experiencing these bodily changes. Moreover, you could become prone to significant health problems, including osteoporosis and sarcopenia.

Could strength training really be the key to alleviating all these menopause-related concerns? Yes. Research has highlighted that resistance training can be beneficial for improving menopausal symptoms, as well as consequent hormonal and metabolic responses (Capel-Alcaraz et al., 2023).

This journey may seem daunting, but you are not alone and FENIX is here to offer you support.

What happens to women during menopause?

Menopausal transition occurs generally between 45 and 55 years old. It can last from 7 to 12 years. During this period, the main symptoms that our bodies experience are: Vasomotor symptoms (VMS), decrease in oestrogen, as well as an increase in visceral fat. 

Vasomotor symptoms (VMS) refers to an acute sensation of heat at various body parts including our face, neck and body. According to a Harvard study, up to 80% of women experience hot flashes and intense perspiration (Ferrari, 2020). VMS also affects mood, sleep and concentration.

When female bodies experience a fall in oestrogen production from the ovaries, it may lead to serious medical conditions such as osteoporosis, diabetes, and heart disease.

Due to a decrease in metabolism and an increase of ​fat distribution towards abdominal fat, women undergoing menopause also experience an increase in visceral fat. This is known to increase the risks of metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease after menopause (Stefanska et. al., 2015).

TL;DR: Women undergoing the menopausal transition experience a myriad of changes that can affect both physical and mental health. Some of the physical health risks are significant.

How does strength training counteract the effects of menopause?

  1. Strength training eases physical symptoms you may be experiencing, such as hot flashes, poor sleep and low moods.

According to a study, the frequency of hot flashes decreased by almost 50% with resistance training across a period of 15 weeks (Berin et al., 2022). It was concluded that the release of endorphins had affected the thermoregulatory centre of the brain, thus reducing the amount of hot flashes. Also known as the ‘feel-good’ chemicals, endorphins are hormones produced during activities such as exercise to relieve pain, reduce stress and elevate mood (Bruce, 2022). With the increased production of endorphins during strength training, not only do you feel good, you also get to relieve your hot flashes.

With strength training, your sleep quality improves. Your body requires and uses up energy when you train. As energy (Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP)) is broken down into Adenosine, you tend to feel drowsy later in the day, falling asleep more easily. One of the most important functions of adenosine is sleep regulation, but it is also sometimes referred to as a ‘master regulator’ because it is equally important in improving blood flow, protecting the heart, nerves, and other body parts from damage and disease, as well as balancing immune function (Cohen, 2022).

If you’re struggling with vasomotor symptoms from menopause, you need to get into strength training as studies have proven that it is an effective and safe treatment option (Berin et al., 2022).

TL;DR: Strength training eases physical symptoms you may be experiencing, such as hot flashes, poor sleep and low moods.

  1. Strength training benefits your mental health.

According to NHS Scotland, “Some of the physical changes that women can experience as they go through menopause can affect the way they feel about themselves, their confidence and self-esteem.” Duringmenopause, some women may feel insecure with bodily changes, such as the increase in visceral fat around the abdominal area, and may notice a dip in confidence levels as they may feel ‘less of a woman’.

In the same study conducted by Berin, it was found that many women started feeling stronger and more energised, on top of experiencing the physical benefits of training. It was concluded that strength training had helped to cultivate a healthy mindset and had positive effects on their mental health (Berin et al., 2022). Moreover, owing to the coaches who listened to their needs and checked in on their progress online and offline, these women felt safe and reassured. Strength training with the right coaches and environment ultimately made them motivated to strive towards and achieve better physical and mental health.

TL;DR; Strength training is not only about working towards an aesthetic transformation, but also improved strength to handle daily activities of life and an improved mental state.

3. Strength training improves physical health in the long run.

Why do we emphasise strength training, especially for older adults? As we age, we tend to be more susceptible to potential health risks such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, sarcopenia (the loss of muscle strength and size) and osteoporosis (the reduction in bone mineral density).

In a recent Straits Times article, Professor Yong Eu Leong has urged Singaporean women to include resistance exercises in their daily regime as a public health measure, because middle-aged women with poor muscle strength have been found to face twice the risk of diabetes (Abdullah, 2023).

Women are also especially vulnerable to sarcopenia and osteoporosis, because of the reduction of oestrogen that leads to decrease in muscle mass and strength, as well as decrease in bone density and increased bone loss.

Research has highlighted that sarcopenia is a widespread and prevalent issue, as the statistics for sarcopenia among older adults in Singapore range from 13.6% to 25% (Lim et al., 2022). Since resistance training leads to increased muscle strength and volume, it’s no surprise that it is currently recommended as a first-line treatment for sarcopenia (Hurst et al., 2022).

Strength training further helps with osteoporosis by strengthening bones and increasing bone mineral density. Studies have shown that when your body undergoes mechanical stress during strength training, bone forming cells (osteoblasts) are stimulated. Osteoblasts form bone tissues, which in turn aids with increasing your bone mineral density and reduces your risk of getting your bones damaged or fractured.

Besides, your basal metabolic rate (BMR) increases when you have more lean mass. For women between the ages of 30 to 80 years old, the decrease in approximately 15% of lean body mass correlates with the decrease in the overall BMR (Bushman & Clark-Young). When your BMR increases, you get to burn more calories while at rest.

TL;DR: As you age, the inevitable happens… you lose muscle strength and size. However, when you undergo strength training, you are essentially building muscle size and strength, reversing that effect!

We want to let you know that you are not alone in your menopause journey and that it is brave of you to take the first step to better understand your body and what you’re going through.

All women will go through the process and have to face these symptoms and risks. So, why wait when you can take charge, and more importantly, take better care of your health right now for a better future?

Here at FENIX, we focus on our Client’s needs. Our Coaches thoughtfully design programs for you, provide you with expert care and guidance, and create an inclusive space for you to work out in. The majority of our Clients are women and the majority of our Coaches are too. Book your FREE consultation and Fit3D scan here today.

This article was contributed by Coach Raihan.

Works Cited

Abdullah, Z. I. (2023, February 22). Middle-aged women with poor muscle strength face twice the risk of diabetes: Study. The Straits Times. Retrieved February 27, 2023, from https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/middle-aged-women-with-poor-muscle-strength-face-twice-the-risk-of-diabetes

Berin, E., Spetz Holm, A.-C., Hammar, M., Lindh-Åstrand, L., & Berterö, C. (2022, July 30). Postmenopausal women’s experiences of a resistance training intervention against vasomotor symptoms: A qualitative study – BMC Women’s health. BioMed Central. Retrieved March 3, 2023, from https://doi.org/10.1186/s12905-022-01900-0

Bruce, D. F. (2022). Exercise and depression: Endorphins, reducing stress, and more. WebMD. Retrieved March 6, 2023, from https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/exercise-depression

Bushman, B., & Clark-Young, J. (n.d.). Strength training during Menopause offers multiple benefits. Human Kinetics. Retrieved March 3, 2023, from https://us.humankinetics.com/blogs/excerpt/strength-training-during-menopause-offers-multiple-benefits

Capel-Alcaraz, A. M., García-López, H., Castro-Sánchez, A. M., Fernández-Sánchez, M., & Lara-Palomo, I. C. (2023, January 9). The efficacy of strength exercises for reducing the symptoms of menopause: A systematic review. MDPI. Retrieved March 7, 2023, from https://www.mdpi.com/2077-0383/12/2/548

Cohen, J. (2022, December 15). Adenosine: Sleep, receptors, effects + 3 ways to increase. SelfHacked. Retrieved March 6, 2023, from https://selfhacked.com/blog/adenosine-health-effects/

Ferrari, N. (2020, August 14). Menopause-related hot flashes and night sweats can last for years. Harvard Health. Retrieved March 7, 2023, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/menopause-related-hot-flashes-night-sweats-can-last-years-201502237745

Lim, W. S., Cheong, C. Y., Lim, J. P., Tan, M. M. Y., Chia, J. Q., Malik, N. A., & Tay, L. (2022). Singapore Clinical Practice Guidelines For Sarcopenia: Screening, Diagnosis, Management and Prevention. The Journal of frailty & aging, 11(4), 348–369. https://doi.org/10.14283/jfa.2022.59

Scottish Government. (2022). Menopause and your mental wellbeing. NHS inform. Retrieved March 6, 2023, from https://www.nhsinform.scot/healthy-living/womens-health/later-years-around-50-years-and-over/menopause-and-post-menopause-health/menopause-and-your-mental-wellbeing

Stefanska, A., Bergmann, K., & Sypniewska, G. (2015). Metabolic Syndrome and Menopause: Pathophysiology, Clinical and Diagnostic Significance. Advances in clinical chemistry, 72, 1–75. https://doi.org/10.1016/bs.acc.2015.07.001

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