In Pt 2 of this blog we will look at the effects of menopause on muscular and skeletal strength. As explained in the last post, in the years leading up to menopause known as peri menopause, our hormones are fluctuating and eventually oestrogen and progesterone production declines.
Oestrogen, as well as regulating reproductive functions, also directs our metabolism and more specifically how we store fat and respond to exercise. As oestrogen levels drop there is an increased tendency to store fat on our stomach as opposed to hips and thighs, similar to how men tend to store fat. In addition, the decline in oestrogen causes women to become less reactive to muscle making stimulus such as resistance training and consuming protein.
Declining oestrogen also has an impact on our skeletal strength, lowering our levels of calcium and other minerals. Bone density can decline up to 20 per cent in the 5-7 years that follow menopause. In Australia, osteoporosis affects 1 in 4 women over 75. It is also suggested that half of all women over 60 will have a fracture due to osteoporosis.
Is there any good news??
Exercise can prevent or at least reduce the impact of these effects!
It is recommended we get 4hrs a week of moderate weight bearing exercise such as walking, dancing or jogging and 2 x week of resistance training, including Pilates and weights.
Lean muscle in women decreases 3% per decade between the ages of 30 and 80 with strength declining 30% between 50 and 70. It is therefore incredibly important in both peri and post menopause, to build our strength and retain as much muscle mass as we can, in order to stay independent and active as we age. It means we need to lift weights, as heavy as we can!
Bodyweight exercises are also beneficial if we do enough to really fatigue the muscles. This effort stimulates your neuromuscular system, increasing the amount of muscle fibres. Hours of cardio such as walking or riding does not translate into this same strength and lean body mass.
Strength training is also highly beneficial for our bones and connective tissues. To prevent osteoporosis, we also need to get out in the sunshine for some Vit D, keep eating calcium and have plenty of protein in our diet.
Dr Stacey Sims, ‘Roar’ 2016.