If you have a menstrual cycle, menopause is something you will go through at some point in your life. Here, I want to outline some of the symptoms of menopause as well as how it may impact training and what you can do about it.
Perimenopause (the symptoms you get before your periods cease) can start as early as your mid-thirties and can last for 8-10 years. Symptoms can include:
- Mood swings
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Insomnia/sleep disturbances
- Short-term memory loss
- Slowed metabolism
Post-menopause will see a decrease in these symptoms; however, the decreased oestrogen can increase the risk of osteoporosis and heart disease.
One key way to manage these symptoms is to keep, or start, training with a focus on maintaining and building lean muscle.
From around the age of 25, our Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR; the minimum amount of energy we need to perform the basic functions of being alive) starts to gradually decrease, generally as a result of muscle mass loss.
Furthermore, as oestrogen and progesterone drops during menopause, while sensitivity to stress increases, people going through it may experience greater difficulty losing body fat and see an increase in body fat particularly in their midsection.
However, as muscle is more metabolically active tissue, the more you have, the better you can combat the slowing of your metabolism and changes in body composition as a result of menopause.
Training to increase muscle mass also improves overall strength and stability, which can be impacted by physical and hormonal changes during menopause. Strength training will also help to reduce the risk of osteoporosis, which increases post-menopause.
Continuing a regular training program throughout menopause (or even starting one if you haven’t already) will also help to mitigate the emotional symptoms of this transition. Exercise has a positive effect on mood and can be used to help treat mild to moderate depression, as well as increase energy and improve sleep, which can make menopausal symptoms easier to manage.
Symptoms of menopause can fluctuate daily so it’s important to build flexibility into your training schedule and make adjustments for days where you’re extremely fatigued, experiencing reduced movement quality, or you’re emotionally not up for a hard, heavy session.
If you have any concerns or think you might be perimenopausal, please speak with your GP.