Menopause is a significant transition in the lives of women. When a woman reaches her 40s or 50s, reproductive hormones naturally decline. Menopause is signalled 12 months after the last menstruation.
The menopausal transition lasts 7-14 years on average. Lifestyle factors such as smoking, age, race, etc., determine this duration. Menopause affects each woman differently. For example, the body utilises energy differently; fat cells change, and women may gain weight more quickly.
Women in their early postmenopausal years gain fat mass as their oestrogen levels fall. In addition, bone density, heart health, body shape, composition, and physical function also change.
The abdomen is where the maximum weight accumulates. Although losing weight during menopause can be more difficult, there are a variety of strategies that many women find beneficial, with exercise being a vital part of the strategy.
Menopause and Weight Gain
When in their 40s and 50s, women may often gain weight due to the following reasons:
Oestrogen Levels Drop
One of the sex hormones in women is estrogen which is involved in,
- Physical aspects of sex
- Maintaining bone health
- Regulating menstrual cycles
- Lowering cholesterol levels
The distribution of body fat gets influenced by changes in hormone levels. For example, many women put on weight when oestrogen levels drop during perimenopause and early post-menopause. Conversely, a study shows that high and low oestrogen levels might lead to increased fat storage.
Muscle Mass Loss
When estrogen levels drop, muscle mass (also known as lean mass) diminishes. Since lean muscle mass burns more calories at rest, a decrease in muscle mass can lead to weight gain.
Other Ageing-Related Issues
Many other changes occur as women age, leading to weight increase. Consider the following situation:
- You’re less inclined to engage in physical activity. 60% of adults are insufficiently active, which rises with age.
- While exercising, the rate at which you can expend energy slows down. Therefore, to lose weight, you must increase your exercise time and intensity,
The HealthifyMe Note
The end of a woman’s menstrual cycle refers to as menopause. When it occurs after the age of 40, it is a normal part of ageing. However, it can also be due to surgery or damage to the ovaries. Menopause’s hormonal changes may increase your chances of gaining weight around your abdomen, hips, and thighs. To minimise menopause weight gain, increase your physical activity and eat a healthy diet.
Physical Activities that Help Lose Weight During Menopause
It would help if you kept all these routines in mind, including adjustments for those of you suffering from joint pain caused by menopause or an old injury.
However, if weight loss is your prime goal, incorporate cardio and strength training into your exercise routine. These are two different kinds of exercise, but they form an effective fat-loss combination.
Cardio for Weight Loss
Cardiovascular exercise, often known as aerobic exercise, is vital at any age, especially during menopause. It involves performing an activity “with oxygen.” It increases your heart rate, causing your blood to pump more quickly.
To lose weight, you must be in a calorie deficit, which means you must burn more calories than you ingest. You can achieve a calorie deficit by changing your diet or exercising more. Still, the best approach is to combine the two.
People lose weight when their energy input is lower than their energy output. For example, suppose a person consumes the necessary number of calories but burns more calories through aerobic workouts. In that case, their output will exceed their intake, resulting in weight loss.
Not all cardio is created equal. Each type burns a different number of calories and takes a varied length of time. Furthermore, the energy required for exercise varies significantly between men and women due to differences in body composition (muscle mass, etc.).
However, low-impact, low-intensity cardio, such as rowing, incline walking, biking, high-intensity interval training, kickboxing, and weight training, are the best exercises to help with weight loss.
Low Impact, Low-Intensity Cardio
Low-impact cardio benefits everyone, whether someone exercises regularly or is just starting. It’s a workout that raises heart rate while putting the least stress on joints. Many common cardio routines, such as running or jumping squats, have a high impact on your joints, whereas low-impact exercises do not.
There are many different types of low-impact activities that qualify as cardio. Listed below are some great low-impact cardio workout options during menopause.
Walking is a low-impact, low-intensity cardio activity included in all sweat regimens. It’s ideal for all fitness levels because you can choose the intensity and do it practically anywhere without equipment.
Ellipticals are low-impact exercise devices that can get used in a stationary setting. They imitate the motion of jogging without the impact on joints and provide a full-body workout because you must move the machine with your arms and legs.
Swimming is another low-impact cardio workout choice. It elevates the heart rate and strengthens the muscles throughout the body. It also relaxes you and alleviates stress. It is a mild form of low-impact therapy.
Cycling is an excellent technique to raise your heart rate while having little impact on your joints. You can do it on a stationary bike at home, in the gym, or by riding a bike outside.
High-Intensity Interval Training (H.I.I.T.)
Suppose you’re short on time yet want a highly effective routine. In that case, a high-intensity interval training (H.I.I.T.) program is a good option.
It is a type of training in which participants exert maximum effort for long periods before resting for short periods. Each session consists of many rounds designed to increase heart rate, providing a quick and effective cardio option.
The H.I.I.T. sessions provide you with opportunities to push yourself. It means you should work hard, but not to exhaustion. If you are a beginner, try one to three minutes at closer to 80% of maximum effort, followed by up to five minutes of lower-intensity exercise. A study found it helpful for weight loss in obese people.
Tabata is a high-intensity interval training (H.I.I.T.) program that tries to provide significant results in the shortest amount of time. Do a challenging activity for 20 seconds and rest for 10 seconds between each set. Then, repeat the exercise eight times. Thus, it gets performed at a higher intensity than a typical H.I.I.T. session.
Here are a few short H.I.I.T. routines to get you started:
- For 30 seconds, cycle as hard and quickly as you can on a stationary bike. Then pedal for 2–4 minutes at a modest, comfortable pace. Repeat this procedure for 15–30 minutes.
- Sprint for 15 seconds as fast as possible as a warm-up after jogging. Then walk or jog slowly, for 1–2 minutes. Repeat this process for 10–20 minutes.
- Perform squat leaps as quickly as possible for 30–90 seconds. Then stand or walk for the next 30–90 seconds. Repeat this process for 10–20 minutes.
While these examples can help you get started, you can customise your regimen to suit your needs.
Strength Training for Weight Loss
Strength training, often known as resistance training, is a type of exercise that helps people gain muscle. ‘Strength training’ refers to moving your body against a restricting or resistant force. The high risk of osteoporosis makes strength training critical after menopause.
Weight training, like other forms of exercise, burns calories. However, a regular weight training session burns fewer calories than a hard aerobic session. Therefore, both together help you in achieving your weight-loss objectives. You should undertake some strength training for an hour, three to five times per week, to maximise the benefits of strength training.
The best exercises to perform under strength training are compound movements that activate numerous muscle groups at the same time.
Some instances are as follows:
- Lower Body: Back squat with a barbell, deadlift with a barbell, lunges with a dumbbell, squat variations with splits.
- Vertical Pressing of The Upper Body: Shoulder press with dumbbells, handstand push-ups, or timed handstands.
- Vertical Pulling of The Upper Body: Variations on pull-ups, pull-down variants for the lats.
Focusing on F.I.T.T. Principles
It’s natural to be frustrated if you’re exercising for an extended period and not losing weight. That is when you need to take a step back and make some adjustments to your program, you can use the F.I.I.T. principle to help you. It’s convenient if you thrive on the structure because then this regime would be easier to follow. It’s also helpful in tracking your cardiovascular and strength-training progress.
The term FITT stands for:
It refers to how frequently you work out. The goal is to achieve your objectives without putting your body under too much stress.
- With respect to cardio, aim for at least three sessions each week as a general rule. Regarding strength training, perform it three to four times per week.
It relates to the level of workouts. When it comes to strength training, start with exercise program at a comfortable level and gradually raise the intensity as your strength and endurance improve. Don’t make the plan too difficult as a beginner, as it could lead to injury or burnout.
When it comes to cardiovascular exercises, your heart rate, measured in beats per minute, can be used to determine how hard you work. First, determine your desired heart rate zone based on your fitness level and age. The heart rate zone you should aim for gets calculated as a percentage of your maximum heart rate.
It refers to how long each workout lasts. A minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise per week is recommended. A cardio workout should last at least 20 minutes, while resistance training should last between 45 and 60 minutes. Depending on your present fitness level, age, weight, health, and other considerations, you can extend or shorten this time.
It refers to the activity you’ll undertake as part of your cardio or strength training routine.
Metabolic Conditioning and Circuit Training
Metabolic conditioning, often known as Metcon (or MetCon), is a type of exercise that uses direct and intermediate energy pathways. To use these pathways, perform metabolic conditioning exercises at a specific time and intensity. Metcon allows the body to burn fuel more efficiently using moderate to high-intensity interval sessions.
In metabolic conditioning programs, the amount of time and effort you put into the workouts is more important than your exercises. By altering the repetitions, doing the exercises into a circuit, or adjusting the rest times, you may adopt many activities for higher or lower intensity programs.
This training requires hard work; therefore, it takes a long time for the body to re-establish balance. In addition, it results in a significant increase in calorie burn.
The HealthifyMe Note
Moving more is one of the most basic strategies to maintain and reduce weight during menopause. Choose an activity you enjoy and stick to it to stay active and fit. It varies from person to person, as does the amount of exercise required to lose or maintain weight. On the other hand, adults must do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of HIIT per week.
Mind Body Activities
Stress can provoke the signs and symptoms of menopause. According to a study, stress leads to weight gain. The mind-body activities combine body movement, mental focus, and controlled breathing to promote strength, balance, flexibility, relaxation, and overall health. Yoga, tai chi, and simple breathing exercises can assist in managing stress and reducing weight. You can also use walking as a form of relaxation and meditation.
A variety of variables can influence weight gain during menopause. Your weight can be affected by changes in fat and sugar metabolism, body composition, gut microbiota, and lifestyle factors. Be physically active, get plenty of rest, and eat a balanced diet. Minimise processed foods to avoid weight gain during menopause. Commit to a healthier lifestyle and for a healthier you.