How to Stay in Shape After Menopause. Post Menopause Health & Fitness

How to Stay in Shape After Menopause. Post Menopause Health & Fitness

image of a woman stretching before a workout

Staying in shape is challenging enough but tack on sleep struggles, memory loss, anxiety, muscle loss, and weight gain…

Sounds like an uphill battle, right?

This condition is actually something more than half of the population goes through!

It’s menopause.

In this article, we dive into a few simple, proven methods for staying in shape through and after menopause. If you’re a woman who wants to avoid experiencing the many negative impacts that menopause can have, keep scrolling.

Jump to Topic:
Strength Training and Menopause
Hot Flashes
Calorie Deficit
High Protein Diet

Menopause is defined as a “biological process,” but it might also be appropriate to describe it as a “challenge” or “health issue.” Menopause produces a number of stressful outcomes, including sleep disturbances, hot flashes, increased urination, poor memory, and anxiety (Leite et al., 2010).

Following menopause, women are susceptible to a number of fitness- and health-related issues. Postmenopause, women are also likely to gain weight, lose muscle, lose bone, and are more likely to develop heart disease (Leite et al., 2010).

Other health concerns at this time are the worsening of a few heart disease risk factors, including the rise in insulin resistance (a precursor to diabetes), blood glucose, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure.

Unfortunately, menopause isn’t avoidable. However, the issues following menopause are avoidable.

Strength training is an especially important part of maintaining health after menopause. There are several reasons why strength training helps.

Image of a happy woman about to lead a workout class

How Strength Training Can Help Post-Menopause

Health and fitness

As mentioned, menopause is often followed by a loss of muscle, bone, weight gain, and a number of health issues. Strength training reverses all of these trends. Specifically, postmenopausal women can gain muscle, strengthen bones, lose fat, and increase metabolism (fighting against weight gain) with strength training (Leite et al., 2010; Watson et al., 2017).

Weight lifting is also shown to combat all of the health concerns, leading to healthier levels of blood pressure, blood glucose, cholesterol, and insulin resistance. As a whole, strength training can help women reduce their risk of developing heart disease.

Hot flashes

Hot flashes are known for causing lost sleep, nausea, headaches, anxiety, headaches and weakness (Berin et al., 2019). Frequency varies, but some women can have them as often as every hour!

While this is not a commonly known benefit, strength training can actually reduce hot flash episodes (Berin et al., 2019). One study showed that twice-weekly strength training led to a 44% decrease in hot flashes! Strength training raises endorphin levels, which might fight against some of the internal changes that occur before a hot flash.

Other Ways to Maintain Post-Menopausal Health

Exercise is most effective for post-menopausal fitness when combined with dietary changes. Specifically, exercise and diet changes combined can maximize fat loss, maintaining or building muscle, and enhancing measures of health (Deibert et al., 2007; Foster-Schubert et al., 2012; Smith et al., 2016). Specifically, two approaches are especially helpful.

Calorie Deficit

Reducing calories is an effective way to lose fat and maintain a healthy level of body fat and inflammation (Foster-Schubert et al., 2012; Van Gemert et al., 2016). When combined with exercise, calorie control is an effective way to specifically reduce midsection body fat, cholesterol, triglycerides, blood glucose, and blood pressure (Deibert et al., 2007).

In research, a few strategies were effective for reducing calorie intake. Among the effective strategies were working with nutrition coaches, tracking their own behaviors (food journaling, etc.), learning strategies for changing behavior, using meal replacement supplements in place of two meals per day, receiving social support and accountability from others, and documenting weekly weigh-ins (Deibert et al., 2007; Foster-Schubert et al., 2012; Van Gemert et al., 2016).

High Protein Diet

Calorie restriction that includes a low daily intake of protein led to a large amount of muscle loss (Smith et al., 2016). Eating a “high-protein diet” while restricting calories can greatly reduce the amount of muscle lost during weight loss (Smith et al., 2016). A desirable protein intake for maintaining muscle during weight loss or weight maintenance is around 0.7-1.0 grams/lb of body weight per day.

For example, if you weigh 200 lbs and your goal is to maintain that weight, you should consume 140-200 grams of protein per day.

Other Ways to Maintain Post-Menopausal Health

If no intentional actions are taken, women might gain weight, lose muscle, and experience a big decline in health during menopause. Thankfully, a few actions can help women stay in shape during and after menopause.

Strength training helps women maintain muscle, avoid weight gain, and reduce the frequency of hot flashes. Eating in a calorie deficit, using strategies such as working with a coach and using a food journal, can lead to fat loss or maintain your desired weight. Combining exercise and calorie restriction can ensure great health, including maintaining healthy levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, and blood glucose.

Menopause can wreak havoc on a woman’s body, but that havoc is not inevitable. Strength training and calorie-reducing habits can lead to great health and fitness well beyond menopause.

  • Berin, E., Hammar, M., Lindblom, H., Lindh-Astrand, L, Ruber, M., & Spetz Holm, A.C. (2019). Resistance training for hot flushes in postmenopausal women: a randomised controlled trial. Maturitas, 126, 55-60.
  • Deibert, P., König, D., Vitolins, M. Z., Landmann, U., Frey, I., Zahradnik, H. P., & Berg, A. (2007). Effect of a weight loss intervention on anthropometric measures and metabolic risk factors in pre-versus postmenopausal women. Nutrition Journal, 6(1), 1-7.
  • Foster Schubert, K. E., Alfano, C. M., Duggan, C. R., Xiao, L., Campbell, K. L., Kong, A., … & McTiernan, A. (2012). Effect of diet and exercise, alone or combined, on weight and body composition in overweight to obese postmenopausal women. Obesity, 20(8), 1628-1638.
  • Leite, R.D., Prestes, J., Pereira, G.B., Shiguemoto, G.E., & Perez, S.E. (2010). Menopause: highlighting the effects of resistance training. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 31, 761-767.
  • Smith, G. I., Yoshino, J., Kelly, S. C., Reeds, D. N., Okunade, A., Patterson, B. W., … & Mittendorfer, B. (2016). High-protein intake during weight loss therapy eliminates the weight-loss-induced improvement in insulin action in obese postmenopausal women. Cell Reports, 17(3), 849-861.
  • Van Gemert, W. A., May, A. M., Schuit, A. J., Oosterhof, B. Y., Peeters, P. H., & Monninkhof, E. M. (2016). Effect of weight loss with or without exercise on inflammatory markers and adipokines in postmenopausal women: the SHAPE-2 trial, a randomized controlled trial. Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention Biomarkers, 25(5), 799-806.
  • Watson, S.L., Weeks, B.K., Weis, L.J., Harding, A.T., Horan, S.A., & Beck, B.R. (2017). High-intensity resistance training and impact training improves bone mineral density and physical function in postmenopausal women wiht osteopenia and osteoporosis: the LIFTMOR Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. DOI: 10.1002/jbmr.3284