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Why Does Strength Training Help So Much During Menopause?

Updated: Dec 20, 2023

Last night I met up with some women friends I hadn’t seen in a long time. It was my friend’s 40th birthday. Naturally the conversation revolved around menopause and women’s changing bodies. They all had amazing questions and I couldn’t answer all of them. So I’ll try to answer some of them here over the next few posts and blogs.


Question #1: Why does strength training help so much during menopause?

This is an amazing question and one I hear often. Maybe because of the existing stigma around weight training and that it’s mostly a masculine sport? What woman wants to look buff? Why do women even need to bother lifting weights if we don’t want to look buff? [this is a myth anyway - women have a really hard time getting buff because we don’t have as much testosterone as men. AND, some women DO want to get buff! What's wrong with that? Buff women are beautiful and sexy, in my opinion.]


It all comes down to, you guessed it, your hormones. When we are in our reproductive phase of life, we have naturally abundant and fluctuating responsive levels of estrogen and progesterone, as well as testosterone. Our bones, joints, muscles, skin, brain, eyes, etc. all have estrogen and progesterone receptors. Estrogen, in particular, is anti-inflammatory, and helps to keep things lubricated, rebuilds tissues and supports healing, and keeps our soft connective tissues flexible and elastic. Estrogen, paired with exercise that builds muscle, is an amazing powerful combination. It helps with muscle repair and ligament healing and bone formation. It also helps keep our brains sharp, and our skin luscious and smooth.


When our hormone levels start changing in our perimenopause years, and ultimately declining in postmenopause, our entire body needs to adapt. Our metabolism slows. Our ability to rebuild and repair muscle slows. Our energy levels drop and we may have even less capacity to exercise. We become at higher risk of injuries because of more rigid connective tissue. Our bones lose mass and our risk for osteoporosis and osteoarthritis skyrocket when we reach post menopause, as do our risk for cognitive decline, and metabolic and heart disease. We also get busier as we get older and may spend less time exercising or engage in less intense exercise. 


Strength training, or resistance training, has been shown in research to be the top exercise type and one of the top lifestyle hacks to offset or mitigate many of these risk factors, not to mention reduce incidence and severity of menopause symptoms such as vasomotor and mood symptoms. I’m not sure what the mechanisms are exactly, but it has to do with the immune system’s response to muscular break-down and repair. Simply speaking, resistance training is also anti-inflammatory. And as we lose the anti-inflammatory powerhouse that is our estrogen and progesterone combination, resistance training is able to fill in the gap, at least in part.


But usually that’s not enough in menopause as low-grade systemic inflammation increases, and that’s where other lifestyle changes also play a role, like stress management, mindful nutrition, and possibly hormone or other therapy to help us manage our current symptoms and reduce our long-term health risks.


And that takes us to the next question I was posed, which is: 


Question #2: why do we need hormone therapy in the first place? Isn’t that trying to prevent nature from taking its course, and trying to stay forever young? Shouldn’t it be possible to age gracefully and healthfully without trying to replace our hormones?


I will address that question in my next post!



Sarah Lussier is a Menopause Health Mediator and Strategist. She teaches strength training and other lifestyle hacks to menopausal women, and guides women in investigating and exploring evidential strategies and navigating healthcare resources to achieve their best health as they transition through menopause and beyond. Explore her services further at www.rootedskysolutions.com, or contact her at sarah@rootedskysolutions.com to book a free session to see how she can best support you.




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