By Michael Torchia
Can Exercise Override Perimenopause?
They say that 40 is the new 30. That’s certainly not news to me. Walk along any street and you can see 40-something women dressing the same way as females half their age, going to the same nightclubs and many times, eating the same foods. Unfortunately, once you start perimenopause, the phase before menopause actually takes place, when ovarian hormone production declines and fluctuates, a woman’s body doesn’t react or bounce back the same way it did 15 or 20 years ago. Hormone levels, stress factors, time management and years of “weekend-warrior” athletics are all factors that contribute to this. “But wait,” you say, “I work out hard to keep my figure!” Do you really?
Studies have shown that we aren’t as exercise-minded as we think! According to the National Center for Health Statistics a whopping 62% of adults over 44 years old do no exercise at all! Only 27% do some kind of workout one to two times per week and only 11% workout five or six days a week. Is it possible to stay trim and toned like a 30 year old? ABSOLUTELY!! You just may need to be in that 11% to do it! Menopause-related hormonal changes usually begin in your late 30’s to early 40’s. Physical changes triggered by hormonal fluctuations during this time frame include: irregular menstrual patterns, hot flashes, sleeping problems, slowed metabolism and bone loss. One reason metabolism declines with age is the loss of muscle mass. Muscle burns more calories than fat, so when you lose that muscle, about 1/2-lb a year, you don't burn as many calories.
The good news is that regular exercise can combat these symptoms and in many cases keep them at bay. Weight training is one of most important things you can do to help yourself fight off symptoms of perimenopause. Women are especially prone to osteoporosis because of declining estrogen hormones. Strength training with weights helps keep your bone density higher and helps retain calcium. In Prescription Alternatives, Professor Earl Mindell and Virginia Hopkins detail these findings: "In a recent study on bone density and exercise, older women who did high-intensity weight training two days per week for a year were able to increase their bone density by one percent, while a control group of women who did not exercise had a bone density decrease of 1.8 to 2.5 percent. The women who exercised also had improved muscle strength and better balance, while both decreased in the non-exercising group." You can, of course, include Yoga and Pilates in addition to weight training. These help with balance and will help keep your muscles limber and body aligned. You should also be doing at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise 4 times a week to keep your heart healthy and bodyfat down.
As you start working out, don’t try to keep up with the 20-somethings when out jogging or in the gym lifting weights. Your body isn’t used to it. Your first step should be to go to your doctor for a physical before starting any kind of fitness program. Have them check your hormone levels to make sure they are balanced. Then, find a certified personal trainer who will listen to you and guide you slowly, but firmly toward your goals. Lastly, work with a qualified nutritionist to keep your diet healthy. You want to be able to fit into the newest, trendiest clothes, but you want to be safe and smart while doing it.
In conclusion, it is quite possible to keep those pounds off, those buns perky and that energy high. By incorporating a fun but challenging fitness and nutrition program into your lifestyle, you’ll not only be able to tell people you’re the new 30, you’ll look like it, too.