As a personal trainer for over twenty five years, strength training has always been something that I am very passionate about.
Feeling strong, resilient and empowered even outside of the gym, is an unbeatable feeling that I want all women to experience. This has never been more true than during perimenopause.
Like many of you, I had a truly rotten perimenopause experience that left me exhausted and depressed, fighting chronic migraines and mood swings. The idea of working out was the last thing I wanted to do, there were some days where I could barely get out of bed! Yet deep down I knew that I had to keep moving. My body, mind and soul needed it.
Twenty years ago when I started in this business, you never saw many women pumping iron in the gym. I remember often being the only woman fighting for the squat rack amongst the men. Thankfully times are changing, yet there is still some reluctance amongst women our age to start strength training. Maybe they have some preconceived ideas that they will get big and bulky (yes that misnomer still exists) or maybe it’s more emotional, many women are scared to take that leap of faith and set foot in a gym. That is completely understandable. I’m here to tell you that you can and should start strength training, and that you don’t have to be intimidated about stepping into a gym.
So why is strength training so important, especially during menopause? To persuade you to get started, I have listed my top five reasons for strength training during menopause.
A reason study by Dr Rosanne Woods, indicated that women who have a higher lean body mass, which essentially means more muscle than fat, will have reduced vasomotor symptoms of menopause by up to 70%. Strength training is the determining factor in this statistic and the report highly recommends strength training as a means to controlling hot flushes and night sweats.
Muscle is metabolically active
You can never outtrain a bad diet. We’ve all heard of the expression that abs are made in the kitchen. And this is absolutely correct. To lose weight you must be in a calorie deficit, weight loss must start with your diet. Strength training will help you build lean muscle, and lean muscle uses up your calories really efficiently. That’s why the combination of a great nutrition plan and strength training is perfect for weight loss.
Well maybe not forever, but the evidence shows that building lean muscle can help you live longer. If you have more muscle mass, rather than fat mass, you are less likely to die prematurely. After menopause, women are at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, some cancers, osteoporosis and other risk factors. Strength training plays a significant role in keeping these diseases at bay.
There is a direct link between your mental health and strength training. Studies have shown how strength training can help reduce anxiety and improve depression. We live in such a stressed out world right now, and during menopause the reduction of estrogen and progesterone, leave us less able to cope with stresses than before. Introducing strength training can help release endorphins that can improve your well-being and state of mind.
My favourite benefit. I’ve seen it with my own eyes, women who didn’t feel that they were capable of becoming dynamic and unstoppable. Our confidence can take a beating in menopause, women tell me that they don’t recognise themselves, they feel unsure and lack belief in their own abilities. To be honest, I went through a period of these feelings myself. Strength training can help you with that. Lifting weights can help change your hormonal profile and how your body responds to them, leaving you feeling a sense of euphoria and confidence that carries over into all aspects of your life.
And if all of these reasons aren’t enough to get you lifting weights, consider this. Lifting weights will likely make you shrink. Muscle takes up less space than fat, so most women see a drop in their dress size when working out regularly and see a change in their shape that helps boost their confidence just a little more.
Guest Post by Amanda Thebe