This month (October) features menopause awareness month with the whole month focussed on improving understanding and raising awareness of some of the best ways to manage menopause symptoms. Not everyone will suffer in the same way but one thing is for sure – strength training really will help. A question I am often asked is “What form of exercise should I be doing, especially as I hit my 40s and beyond?” Cardio (especially running) has always been at the forefront of the media when it comes to fitness whilst strength training has often been overlooked. But things have really changed and strength training is being shouted about in the media for good reason!
Did you know that just 30 minutes of resistance training three to four times per week is one of the best things you can do for your health and fitness especially as we head into midlife? I’m passionate about this style of training and want to spread the word! This year the focus of menopause month is on raising awareness particularly of cardiovascular health. Strength training can really contribute to improved heart health ~ by building lean muscle mass which in turn helps to burn extra calories & improve cholesterol levels. Combined with at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity (at least 5x a week) this will really strengthen your cardiovascular system.
What is strength training?
Strength training which is also called resistance training or weight training is basically just using your body weight and/or resistance bands and weights to add load to your workout. Don’t panic if you have associated weight training with images of body builders and big bulging muscles, this couldn’t be further from the truth! Often, we are using 2-4 kg dumbbells mixed with bodyweight exercises. Over time you may decide to gradually increase the weights or the number of reps – this is called progressive overload and will help you get stronger and fitter. The increased load and demand on the muscles forces them to adapt and grow stronger over time – building lean muscle. But the benefits of strength training don’t just stop at the muscular system…
Why is strength training so important for women?
The list really is almost endless! Not only does it contribute hugely to building and retaining lean muscle mass and very importantly improving our bone density (both of which naturally reduce as we age especially post menopause) but it can also have such a positive effect on many aspects of the body including:
- Reducing back pain by enhancing core strength and stability
- Reducing the risk of trips and falls by building strength by improving posture and balance
- Enhancing mental wellbeing – lowering stress levels and releasing endorphins for that mental boost
- Boosting our immunity
- Improving sleep
How about strength training and body fat?
One of the most frustrating symptoms of perimenopause/menopause is weight gain especially around the middle. You will be pleased to know that strength training can help if your goal is to reduce body fat. Whilst the workout itself may not burn as many calories as a run or a pure cardio workout, one of the key benefits of strength training is weight management – by increasing muscle mass and reducing fat. The increased muscle mass contributes to a higher metabolism or metabolic rate which helps regulate body mass long term & long after the workout has finished whilst the body repairs. However, it is important to make sure that whilst you’re asking your body to build extra muscle and work hard you fuel it sufficiently to do so – so a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of protein – take a look at this recent blog if you would like to know more on this.
How do you start to strength train and how often…
Research has shown that 30-45 minutes three to four times a week is ideal. Strength training three times a week gives your body enough time to recover between sessions whilst still pushing it enough to see the results. If you’re new to fitness and training you may need to start more gently with very light weights and build up over time (keep your eyes peeled for a blog on exactly this coming soon).
I have long since been an advocate of strength training, particularly for women, and with this in mind I built my platform – Caroline’s Circuits. My workouts are 4 times a week for just 30 minutes. They are interval strength training circuits which work different muscle groups and challenge the body – they give the perfect mix of strength and cardio for the best results. There are also shorter 10/15 minute sessions if you are building up slowly.
The online workouts are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday (they are all recorded and available to you immediately if you can’t make them live). Classes have been specifically designed to suit all fitness levels and create fitness habits which last & which produce results.
Any questions as always please do get in touch!