Getting older, getting stronger


Following menopause, women experience a number of changes that can impact long term health and independent functioning. These potential changes include

Loss of muscle mass

Decreased strength

Increase in intramuscular fat

Increased risk for osteoporosis

Weight gain

Increased risk for cardiovascular disease

Increased risk for type 2 diabetes

Most of us who are in any of the stages of menopause have been told by our primary care providers to do “weight bearing exercise” to decrease the risk of osteoporosis, and we appreciate the benefits of resistance training for bone mineral density. But research has shown a number of other benefits for strength/resistance training for the menopausal woman. Resistance training has been shown to have the following benefits for women:

Increased bone mineral density

Increased muscle mass and muscle strength

Beneficial effects on blood pressure

Improvements in arterial stiffness

Decreased risk for type 2 diabetes

So, what is the right amount and right type of resistance training? Research has shown high load, low repetition resistance training to be more effective than low load, high repetition training in increasing bone mineral density, muscle mass, and muscle strength. That means, do resistance training exercises with a load that allows you to do 8-12 repetitions of the exercise, but you could not do 15-20 repetitions of the exercise. Often, women are reluctant to use that heavier weight, and really that is what you need to do if you are going to get the most benefit from resistance training. The current recommendations of the American College of Sports Medicine are to perform resistance training exercise for all the major muscle groups a minimum of two days per week. A typical training session consists of 8-10 exercises that engage all the major muscle groups, with the exercises being performed with a resistance that allows 8-12 repetitions of each exercise to be performed. Although, one set of each exercise is the minimum recommendation, additional benefit may be obtained from completing 2-3 sets of each exercise.

References

Asikainen, T. M., Kukkonen-Harjula, K., & Miilunpalo, S. (2004). Exercise for health for early postmenopausal women: A systematic review of randomized control trials. Sports Medicine, 34(11), 753-778.

Kerr, D., Morton, A., Dick, I., & Prince, R. (1996). Exercise effects on bone mass in postmenopausal women are site‐specific and load‐dependent. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, 11(2), 218-225.

Messier, V., Rabasa-Lhoret, R., Barbat-Artigas, S., Elisha, B., Karelis, A. D., & Aubertin-Leheudre, M. (2011). Menopause and sarcopenia: A potential role for sex hormones. Maturitas, 68(4), 331-336.

Nelson, M. E., Rejeski, W. J., Blair, S. N., Duncan, P. W., Judge, J. O., King, A. C., ... & Castaneda-Sceppa, C. (2007). Physical activity and public health in older adults: recommendation from the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association. Circulation, 116(9), 1094-1105.

Sigal, R. J., Kenny, G. P., Boulé, N. G., Wells, G. A., Prud'homme, D., Fortier, M., ... & Jennings, A. (2007). Effects of aerobic training, resistance training, or both on glycemic control in type 2 diabetes: A randomized trial. Annals of Internal Medicine, 147(6), 357-369.

Sowers, M. R., & La Pietra, M. T. (1994). Menopause: Its epidemiology and potential association with chronic diseases. Epidemiologic Reviews, 17(2), 287-302.

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