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How you can manage your perimenopause & menopause symptoms with strengthening exercise.

There’s no doubt that many menopausal women experience a whole raft of detrimental health effects when they enter the perimenopause and menopause.

These menopause symptoms include increased cardiovascular risk, loss of muscle mass and bone density, increased weight gain, sleep disturbance, fatigue, irritability, nights sweats, hot flushes, mood swings, anxiety, palpitations, genitourinary problems to name just a few. [1]

It is well recognised that regular physical exercise can improve mental & physical health at all stages of life but during this significant transitional stage of women’s lives, it is critical to engage in habit forming exercise to help manage the symptoms & reduce the risk of chronic disease later in life.

Cardiorespiratory fitness improves with both aerobic and resistance training and is effective in preventing and treating cardiovascular disease in postmenopausal women. [4]

What is the perimenopause & menopause?

Menopause Perimenopause Strength Exercise Zestforlifefitness Cornwall

Menopause is a point in time 12 months after a woman's last period.

The years leading up to that point, when women may have changes in their monthly cycles, hot flushes, or other symptoms, are called the menopausal transition or perimenopause. The menopausal transition most often begins between ages 45 and 55 and last anything from 7 - 14 years.

As we age, we naturally lose muscle mass, particularly if we do nothing to combat it.

Sarcopenia is defined as age-related muscle loss.

Sarcopaenia usually begins around the age of thirty in both sexes but rapidly increases in women during menopause and can contribute towards the development of further conditions such as osteoporosis as well as loss of bone density, power, balance, joint strength & stability. [2]

With a more domesticated, sedentary lifestyle, muscle loss can really accelerate during these years so the sooner we do something about it the better.

The promising news is that this accelerated muscle loss can be reduced with strengthening exercise.

Zestforlifefitness Step Strength Class Cornwall Menopause Perimenopause Exercise Class

Weight gain in the menopause.

Many women are most upset by the increased weight gain usually around the midsection and often overlook the benefits of strength training as they don’t wish to become more “bulky.”
This couldn’t be further than the truth! Focusing on building skeletal muscle can actually promote fat loss by improving insulin sensitivity, stimulating protein synthesis, regulating hormones and can be harnessed to actually improve cardiovascular performance. [1]
Focusing on skeletal muscle strength can improve sleep quality, protect bone health, improve posture, improve pelvic floor health and lower the risk of injury & back pain.

Why is resistance training a better exercise choice for menopausal women?

Depleting oestrogen levels and hypersensitive hormone receptors in the joints during the menopause can mean you are more susceptible to injuries so it’s advisable to avoid explosive exercise during this time and favour lower impact activity such as strength training.

And what about all the other unpleasant menopausal symptoms?

Increasing skeletal muscle can also reduce symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats and sleeplessness. [7] Not only that, increased trunk lean mass may actually protect against these symptoms as people with higher BMI and body fat composition are more likely to experience increased menopausal symptoms.

“Muscle is the organ of longevity.”

Dr Gabreille Lyon

The tremendous benefits of strength training for women both before, during and after menopause cannot be understated. As strength training can be less frenetic than some aerobic exercise and you absolutely don’t need to be in a gym environment, it can be more appealing to those who are nervous about starting out.

Why not join a Functional Strength or a Step Class, where we mix up compound exercises to maximise output and share the improvement together?

zestforlifefitness Step Menopause Perimenopause Exercise Strength Cornwall


Sources & further reading:

[1] Bailey TG, Cable NT, Aziz N, Dobson R, Sprung VS, Low DA, Jones H. Exercise training reduces the frequency of menopausal hot flushes by improving thermoregulatory control. Menopause. 2016 Jul;23(7):708-18. doi: 10.1097/GME.0000000000000625. PMID: 27163520.

[2] Dionne IJ, Kinaman KA, Poehlman ET. Sarcopenia and muscle function during menopause and hormone-replacement therapy. J Nutr Health Aging. 2000;4(3):156-61. PMID: 10936902.

[3] Hulteen RM, Marlatt KL, Allerton TD, Lovre D. Detrimental Changes in Health during Menopause: The Role of Physical Activity. Int J Sports Med. 2023 Jun;44(6):389-396. doi: 10.1055/a-2003-9406. Epub 2023 Feb 17. PMID: 36807278; PMCID: PMC10467628.

[4] Khalafi M, Sakhaei MH, Habibi Maleki A, Rosenkranz SK, Pourvaghar MJ, Fang Y, Korivi M. Influence of exercise type and duration on cardiorespiratory fitness and muscular strength in post-menopausal women: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Front Cardiovasc Med. 2023 May 9;10:1190187. doi: 10.3389/fcvm.2023.1190187. PMID: 37229231; PMCID: PMC10204927.

[5] Moilanen JM, Mikkola TS, Raitanen JA, Heinonen RH, Tomas EI, Nygård CH, Luoto RM. Effect of aerobic training on menopausal symptoms--a randomized controlled trial. Menopause. 2012 Jun;19(6):691-6. doi: 10.1097/gme.0b013e31823cc5f7. PMID: 22334056.

[6] Maltais ML, Desroches J, Dionne IJ. Changes in muscle mass and strength after menopause. J Musculoskelet Neuronal Interact. 2009 Oct-Dec;9(4):186-97. PMID: 19949277

[7] Woods R, Hess R, Biddington C, Federico M. Association of lean body mass to menopausal symptoms: The Study of Women's Health Across the Nation. Womens Midlife Health. 2020 Sep 15;6:10. doi: 10.1186/s40695-020-00058-9. PMID: 32944260; PMCID: PMC7490966.


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