7 Benefits of Strength Training during Menopause

Within this article, we will explore 7 important benefits of strength training for women moving through the menopausal period.

Changes In Women’s Hormones And Health 

Women between the ages of 47-65 undergo a natural phenomenon known as menopause (Ren et al., 2009). This is a transition over time and is broken down into perimenopause, menopause and postmenopause. As women transition throughout this time, they will experience a reduction in oestrogen and progesterone resulting in them no longer having a menstrual period.

An associated risk of this hormonal change is a decrease in bone mineral density and a loss in muscle strength (Sathaden, 2020). Many other physiological changes occur during this time and further training on this topic is advisable for all fitness professionals working with female clients.

Benefits Of Strength Training for Women 

#1 More Skeletal Muscle 

Research suggests that strength training can minimise age-related muscle loss and potentially reverse some of the sarcopenic (muscle wasting) effects seen amongst women transitioning through the perimenopausal to postmenopausal stages.

A classic 2003 study by Teixeira and colleagues analysed the effects of resistance training on lean muscle tissue. After a year of thorough observation, the researchers found that 60-75 minutes of resistance training 3 times per week had a similar effect to hormone replacement therapy in promoting lean muscle tissue and strength.

The researchers also highlighted those post-menopausal women who neither engaged in strength training nor hormone replacement therapy experienced a gradual decline in skeletal muscle.

Since greater levels of lean muscle tissue are associated with improved metabolic health, reducing the risk of obesity and other health-related conditions, the evidence confidently confirms that strength training is essential for maintaining skeletal muscle mass.

#2 Improve Pelvic Floor Health

Strength training shouldn’t just target the large muscles we associate with most exercises but also focus on targeting the deeper muscles which provide the support network to all women. A huge benefit of strength training is to be able to activate and control the pelvic floor muscles and deep core muscles. Together, these will help with a range of symptoms or additional conditions that can develop as women age such as incontinence, prolapse, back pain and fear of exercising. It is outside the scope of this blog to explore the huge importance of this area but training a female client should always include improving pelvic floor health and as required strength training should apply to this area too!

#3 Better Bone Density

Approximately 2 million women are living with osteoporosis in the UK (NICE 2021). Since oestrogen helps to build bone, a change in hormonal status will directly influence the associated risk of developing this condition and the statistics reflect this prevalence.

Strength training promotes load bearing on the bones (improving osteoblast activity) which is hugely beneficial so land-based activities which encourage a significant stimulus on the whole musculoskeletal system are highly recommended.

Kidsuda et al. (2021) conducted a meta-analyses on the effects of high load resistance training on bone mineral density in elderly patients with osteoporosis and osteopenia. A total of 143 patients were elderly women.

The research concluded that high load resistance training, significantly increased bone mineral density, compared to no strength training for elderly women. We are not referring to peri and post-menopausal women as ‘elderly’ here but illustrating the impact that resistance training can have regardless of the stage of life.

Always consider the safest and most appropriate form of resistance training for each client since those without osteoporosis will likely be able to participate in higher impact forms of exercise whereas those at risk of osteoporosis/diagnosed with osteoporosis would benefit from lower impact forms of exercise. Keep it functional too!

#4 Lower Injury Risk and Back Pain

We have already established that strength training can increase or at least preserve skeletal muscle in older women.

One important fact to remember is that skeletal muscle is functional mass. This means it may aid mobility (movement), balance and coordination (Santo et al., 2021). In turn, this can reduce the risk of falls and in the unfortunate event of a fall, there should be a lesser chance of a bone fracture (Santo et al., 2021).

Postural changes can also occur as a result of reduced muscle mass and osteoporosis. This can contribute to higher incidences of back pain reported during the menopausal period. If strength training focuses on improving the functional strength of postural muscles throughout the transition period then there is the potential to reduce this commonly reported symptom.

#5 Lower risk of hypertension 

Oestrogen protects the lining of the artery walls therefore the decrease associated with menopause causes the risk of coronary heart disease to increase. Additionally, metabolic changes can result in higher levels of fat mass which are also associated with an increased risk of hypertension.

Strength training is now considered an important aspect of a healthy balanced exercise programme for individuals with heart disease with evidence demonstrating it can positively reduce the risk of hypertension. Additionally, we know that strength training has many beneficial influences on metabolic activity and therefore can improve body composition for this demographic too. (Shimojo et al, 2018)

#6 Lower Risk of Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes

The loss of oestrogen does not directly cause weight gain, but it does change how the body stores fat and may lead to overall weight gain, particularly abdominal adiposity. As stated above, strength training can improve metabolic activity and help women to have a greater level of control over their weight. It’s important to appreciate this isn’t a simple mechanism which will work for all women so be empathetic and support women accordingly.

The same applies to type 2 diabetes risk. The more efficient your body is at controlling blood sugars, the lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. Resistance training in combination with aerobic exercise is effective at managing or improving insulin sensitivity.

#7 Improve mental wellbeing

Strength training is reported to improve mental well-being for everyone but is particularly beneficial for women going through this life-changing transition. It provides endorphin release and develops a sense of control, confidence and empowerment. Learning what your client feels comfortable doing is fundamental to achieving this benefit and ensuring you adapt to any symptoms or conditions that they are also living with will help shift the experience from a potentially negative one to a positive one.

Take home message 

All women go through menopause and this is a topic every fitness professional should learn about if they train female clients. Many physiological adaptations occur as a result of it but once we understand these changes, we can support women to become and remain active throughout this time. Strength training has many benefits for the whole population but ensuring a balanced programme is created for the woman’s stage of life is going to help them offset or minimise the development of other symptoms experienced through perimenopause and to the postmenopausal period.

References.

Age UK (2022) ‘Osteoporosis’ Available at: https://www.ageuk.org.uk/information-advice/health-wellbeing/conditions-illnesses/osteoporosis/ (Accessed 18 March 2022)

Anagnostis, P., Irene, L., Stevenson, J.C., et al. (2022). ‘Menopause-associated risk of cardiovascular disease’ Endocrine Connections 1 (aop)

Antagonistic, P., Theocharis, P., Lallas, K., et al. (2020). ‘Early menopause is associated with increased risk of arterial hypertension: a systematic review and meta-analysis’ Maturitas 135(3):74-79

Anagnostis, P., Irene, L., Stevenson, J.C., et al. (2022). ‘Menopause-associated risk of cardiovascular disease’ Endocrine Connections 1 (aop)

Kitsuda, Y., Wada, T., Hisashi, N., et al. (2021). ‘Impact of high-load resistance training on bone mineral density in osteoporosis and osteopenia: a meta-analysis’ Journal of Bone and Mineral Metabolism 39 (5): 787-803

Ren, Y., Ming, Z., Liu, Y., et al. (2019) ‘Association of menopause and type 2 diabetes mellitus’  Menopause 26 (3): 3325-330

Santo, J.E., Almazan, A.A., Amat, A.M. (2021). ‘Menopausal Symptoms, Postural Balance, and Functional Mobility in Middle-Aged Postmenopausal Women’ Diagnostics 11(12):1-10

Sathanadan, M. (2020). ‘Menopause transition-physiology, symptomatology and management’. Sri Lanka Journal of Menopause 1 (2):1-4

Teixeira, P.J., Going, S.B., Houtcooper, L.B., et al. (2003). ‘Resistance training in postmenopausal women with and without hormone therapy’ Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise 35(4):555-62

Wang, Q., Ferreira, S., Nelson, S.M., et al. (2018). ‘Metabolic characterization of menopause: cross-sectional and longitudinal evidence’ BMC medicine 16 (1):1-12

Wang, Z., Ying, Z., Bosy-westphal, A., et al.(2011) Evaluation of specific metabolic rates of major organs and tissues: comparison between men and women. American Journal of Human Biology 23(3):333-338

 

Advance your knowledge Join the PTD Hub today

And get 10% off any of our courses

Offer valid on annual membership plan immediately or monthly membership plan after minimum 3 months
Join now