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menopause-woman-hot-flash

13 Reasons the Right Exercise Matters More in Menopause

During menopause, you’re more susceptible to negative effects of stress. Avoid the wrong exercise (that will worsen stress) and do the right exercise and you can reduce or eliminate symptoms of menopause. There are at least 84 symptoms associated with menopause. This short list of 13 pesky symptoms can be supported by the right exercise.

Hot Flashes (and Night Sweats)

Hot Flashes are potentially the most well-known and most-associated signs of menopause, affecting approximately 50% of menopausal women. They are a sudden sensation of feverish heat that spreads through your body.

Why they occur for some women and not for others, or why they may happen occasionally or for a time and then be gone, is not clearly understood. Vasomotor control is the reason behind why you might experience them when a girlfriend doesn’t when both your hormones may fluctuate.

Night Sweats are excessive sweat that occur during the night. They can contribute to sleep disruption and daytime fatigue or anxiety. That of course, is not the jackpot you want. Both hot flashes and night sweats are believed in part due to fluctuating or low estrogen levels.

Exercise can help this menopause symptom if it’s the right exercise. 

Women who are more fit, with better body composition, and who exercise with adequate intensity experience up to 62% less frequent and or intense hot flashes. What you need to beware of is your tendency to jump to conclusions about how to reach higher fitness levels. Longer and “more” exercise is not the answer. Due to this fast-paced life and your midlife status, the rules have changed.

In midlife, in 2021 and beyond, if you’re still playing the exercise game according to 1980 rules, you will lose.

Will You?

The variability of progesterone related to amount of estradiol had the greatest correlation with hot flash occurrence in more than one study. Increased progesterone variability was associated with decreased hot flashes. Though there’s not much that can be done to influence the variability in your progesterone levels. However, you can exercise to optimize your natural progesterone. Namely, keep stress (cortisol) in check.

Simply start with a smart plan according to your status right now. (More tips below). Ultimately,  include high-intensity intervals at the duration, frequency, and time of day that supports you instead of throwing you under the bus.

Did you know that if the only time you can exercise is late day and you push through high intensity, instead of losing weight you could set off a cascade of events that cause you to gain? The right exercise at the right time of day is a must.

Fatigue

Fatigue is that sluggish, always-tired feeling doesn’t go away with a good night’s sleep. You feel unproductive, moody and this fatigue can cause what’s known as wired-and-tired feeling. You desperately want to get a good night’s sleep and shake it but can’t. For some women, this is like period week fatigue only it doesn’t go away.

Extended periods of fatigue can be signs you’ve just been pushing through, using caffeine or sugar or both to serve you short term. If you rely on external substances too long, that false energy you borrow is going to catch up to you in the end and you will pay back that debt.

If you rely on external substances too long, that false energy you borrow is going to catch up to you in the end and you will pay back that debt.

So, what do you do when menopause fatigue hits and your calendar says HIIT? Or Long run? You rest. You can’t build fitness on a false foundation. Fake it till you make it doesn’t work with your midlife fitness. Plan the work. Work the plan. Override the calendar and rest if your workouts or your sleep, appetite, mood, or digestion is suffering.

An entire chapter in You Still Got It, Girl! Is dedicated to Rest & Recovery. Oh, there are chapters on exercise and on sleep too but Rest & Recovery is something few of us learned to do well. Now? We have to pay attention.

The right exercise when you’re fatigued could be no exercise. We need to remember what it’s like to just move more and rest well.

Low Libido

Libido is your overall sexual drive or desire for sexual activity. It’s influenced by biological, psychological, and social factors. It’s not just that you may feel dry and a lack of interest thanks to hormone shifts. If you’re experiencing fatigue and other menopause symptoms like weight gain and belly fat, you don’t feel sexy or want to be seen or touched.

One of my first Flipping 50 TV episodes was dedicated to low libido and what you can do about it. It’s partially due to changing hormones. But a lot of midlife women don’t realize that the exercise they’re doing (or not doing) is also destroying libido.

The right exercise will boost your testosterone. The wrong exercise kills it and the mood, girlfriend. Simply said, from the boardroom to bedroom this hormone is important. Last, exercise that gets your hips moving increases blood flow there and so it’s not all intense. Whether it’s dancing for you or it’s Pilates or Yoga is up to you.

Make this flip: Stop the endurance exercise and get on the short, intense train. Plus? If your partner snores? You may need to just have play dates together and sleep separately or the libido will keep being a problem. Sleep deprived and sexy don’t belong in the same sentence.

Sleep Disorders & Insomnia

Sleep disorders & Insomnia are often brought on by night sweats. Anxiety & Depression (below) can also be to blame. If your mind just won’t shut down and quiet when your body is crying for relief from fatigue, there are things you can do. If you think of your symptoms as little messengers something isn’t quite right, it may not just be hormones. Or it may be that your hormones will be helped by some gentle shifts.

It may be a micronutrient deficiency showing up. After all, at midlife, several things may be catching up to you. Have you had a less-than-5-star diet? Are you pretty passionate about your coffee and your wine both? Have you neglected your exercise? Just review your last month and get honest. If “busy” got in the way of you exercising and your regular routine is now a random one, get back on it if only for sleep. Truth is just 10 minutes of exercise can boost sleep by 33% according to a poll by National Sleep Foundation.

It could also be exposure to EMFs (too many screens, electronics) in your lifetime or at least right now. Our bodies weren’t made to handle all of this.

There are about 20 different things you can do (and stop doing) to support sleep. Try them sequentially, not randomly and adjusting until you’ve eliminated each one or find it works is something most of us struggle to do on our own. “I’ve tried everything,” too often means I’ve randomly tried this and that for a while.

The right exercise to help with sleep depends on how you’re currently sleeping.

The Short List

Menopause Symptoms Lessened or Eliminated by (Proper) Exercise

  • Hot flashes
  • Fatigue
  • Night Sweats
  • Libido
  • Sleep Disorders
  • Weight Gain
  • Incontinence
  • Muscle Tension
  • Osteoporosis
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Belly fat

Weight Gain

If you’ve experienced weight gain, I have good and bad news for you. First, you can do something about it. Second, menopause is not to blame. Hormone fluctuation may have caused sudden weight gain. But often at a deeper level there is some behavior change that either did or needs to happen.

You may, as I did, find yourself in a perfect storm. Everything that happened for me in 2019 put me in a place of toxin exposure (hormone disruption), physical and emotional stress (hormone imbalance x 2), and related time and financial stress (hormone disruption). By the end of the year I’d gained 10 lbs. Now, at first glance, it’s possibly reasonable. However, I was training for an Ironman (that’s 140.2 miles of swimming, biking, and running in a day).

Endurance activity has the potential to throw women in midlife (and others) under the bus with adrenal fatigue and it certainly did me. I’d successfully trained for 7 prior to it, with excellent health (albeit, I modified my protocol intentionally for optimum training as opposed to volume).

During menopause, what you’ve been able to get away with until then, you may not.

Depression & Anxiety

Depression & anxiety are mood disorders more common among women than men. Dropping estrogen can negatively influence production of neurotransmitters (brain hormones) like dopamine and serotonin that regulate mood. Combined declining levels of progesterone and estrogen make it hard to restore happiness after incidence of sadness or anxiety.

During the pandemic if you’ve had a little more struggle with this, though perfectly natural and normal with a decrease in our social connections, as a woman in midlife you may struggle a bit more than you would have going through this say 10 years ago.

What can you do? Mood boosting exercise is a big part. Get outdoors and move and lift weights. Both are associated with increase in serotonin, and reductions in anxiety & depression.

Belly Fat

Belly fat didn’t make many “common symptom lists.” For over 90% of the women I’ve worked with belly fat is a big complaint, whether or not they’ve gained weight. Fat deposits tend to favor the belly.

There are two types of belly fat, visceral fat and muffin top or the pinch-an-inch type.

Visceral belly fat is internal around your organs. Muffin top is that spare tire, often in front and back for women.

The two types of fat respond to exercise differently. The right exercise for targeting menopausal visceral belly fat is high intensity interval training. Altering exercise to include high intensity intervals a few times a week can be enough. However, the muffin top requires more. You’ve got to do intervals and cut out your extra-curricular carb intake.

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis and osteopenia (less than optimal but not quite to the 2.5 Standard Deviations from optimal bone that is osteoporosis) are both growing concerns for midlife and older women.

For good reason. Bone loss on average can be between 1-3% of total bone density per year if you’re not doing something about it.[Resistance weight training has the greatest positive influence on bone density. High impact weight-bearing exercise is second. The emergence of vibration therapy also contributes to bone density. However, vibrational therapy has to be combined with function stability movement for optimal prevention of falls and fractures.]

During the 3-5 years around a woman’s menopause bone losses can accelerate to 3-5% loss annually.

What’s the answer, or rather, what’s the answer while you’re at home, opting not to go to the gym during the pandemic? At the gym using the leg press, chest press, and seated row for strength will help most to load your hips, wrists, and spine. At home focus on squats, lunges, bent over row and chest press.

You’ve been conditioned to believe any exercise is better than no exercise. During menopause the right exercise for each woman is unique.

For Fitness Professionals: Offer Your Female Clients a “Hormone Balancing Exercise Prescription”

Gain the information, tools, and resources needed to coach and train this steadily growing population with Debra’s 8-hour online course with MedFit Classroom, Stages of Menopause and Exercise Intervention.

Given the number of women who have not exercised previously, and the current void in proper hormone balancing exercise prescription, there exists numerous, lucrative opportunities for fitness professionals to positively impact the lives and health spans of a great many women still seeking answers.


Reprinted from flipping50.com with permission from Debra Atkinson.

Debra Atkinson is the #youstillgotitgirl who is flipping 50 and changing the way thousands of women think about their second half. She’s the host of the Flipping 50 TV Show and the Flipping 50 podcast. As a master personal trainer, strength and wellness coach with over 30 years fitness industry experience, she works with women who are pro-aging with vitality and energy. She is an international fitness presenter, author of hundreds of articles and multiple books. Visit her website, flippingfifty.com

 

References

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30502745/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22409782/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6459070/

https://journals.lww.com/menopausejournal/Abstract/9000/Depression,_anxiety,_and_fear_of_death_in.97144.aspx

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2018853/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3568069/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19211823/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3858421/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26676059/

mature-senior-woman-home-exercise-yoga

Menopause Exercise: The Depression or Well-being Determinant?

Wonder if your menopause exercise prescription makes a difference? It turns out your hormone ride during menopause deems exercise more necessary than ever. Your hormones reveal more than your likelihood to store belly fat or hot flash.

Brand new research published in the Menopause Journal says your likelihood of being depressed or feeling positive lies in your physical activity level. The study addressed menopause, movement, and mental well-being.

One of 7 levels of physical activity was assigned to each subject:

  1. I do not move more than is necessary in my daily routines;
  2. I go for casual walks and engage in light outdoor recreation 1 to 2 times a week;
  3. I go for casual walks and engage in light outdoor recreation several times a week;
  4. Once or twice a week, I engage in brisk physical activity(eg, yard work, walking, cycling) that causes some shortness of breath and sweating;
  5. Several times a week (3-5), I engage in brisk physical activity(eg, yard work, walking, cycling) that causes some shortness of breath and sweating;
  6. I exercise several times a week in a way that causes rather strong shortness of breath and sweating during the activity;
  7. I do competitive sports and maintain my fitness through regular training.

Which level describes you?

Based on that you fall into one of these categories:

  • Low (1 to 3)
  • Medium (4 and 5)
  • High activity (6 to 7)

Subjects in the study with the highest level of activity had the lowest incidence of depression and the greatest sense of well-being.

That’s the bottom line.

What’s most interesting is that researchers measured not only self-reports of depression but hormone levels. So the study was both objective and subjective.

Given we’re in a time when positive mood, attitude, optimism are so important to how we get from day to day, this is just one more message to get moving.

There’s More

Menopause has historically been associated with negative feelings about aging and with greater incidence of depression than in younger women or same age men. The proper menopause exercise prescription, however clearly has the ability to change your well-being.

In fact, many women report that this is a time of great life satisfaction.

Menopause Exercise Rx

The high activity level word descriptions used in this study are exact descriptions of the High Intensity Interval Training and strength training to fatigue that are a necessity for women who want to flip 50 feeling not just well, but outright full of energy and vitality during and beyond COVID19.

Often when I talk about the After 50 Fitness Formula for Women, and a critical part of it – “Less Exercise, More Food” inevitably an audience member will comment. She may say something like, “I’m so glad you said women over 50 need less exercise.”

I get nervous with that simple statement. Because like a recent podcast I created about “Moderate Exercise,” that is too open to interpretation.

So let me take some real estate in this post to get clear:

  • You are not a flower.
  • You are not delicate.

You absolutely need to push limits in your workouts – for seconds at a time. That’s true when you’re in good times and when you’re in COVID19.

You need moderate amounts of:

  1. High Intensity exercise that gets you breathless
  2. High Intensity strength training that takes you to muscular fatigue
  3. Fill in with low to moderate exercise that you love

It is #1 and #2 above that have the best opportunity to change your hormones for the better, and in doing so changes your mental well-being, your visceral belly fat, your hot flashes and night sweats, and reverses the effects of 179 genes associated with aging.

Careful Clarification

Advice to do less exercise is often interpreted as advice to do “light” exercise or following a doctor’s vague advice to “walk.” It’s not enough. And walking 3 or 4 miles a day as many women do in an effort to overcome weight or fat gains in menopause only makes matters worse. Greater volume of the same ineffective exercise will not get you better results.

Yes, you want less exercise. Less than you think, and of the right type (of intense exercise).

It’s true that if you’re just beginning you start with habits. We get you hooked and regular first. Yet, yes, you can do interval training when you start. COPD patients and asthma sufferers often do best with intervals. If they can you can. We simply apply a progressive plan for you.

Before you start intervals it may be appropriate for you to “restore before more.” If you’re already exhausted, suffering from mood swings, your first step is to restore yourself with rest, sleep, nutrients and movement, NOT exercise.

Menopause exercise is not a generic prescription for all women in menopause. It should be based on your unique condition now, your current hormone status (assessed by a fitness specialist by your signs & symptoms), and your personal preferences and schedule.

Yet, menopause exercise has the power to make this second half better than the first.

For Fitness Professionals: Offer Your Female Clients a “Hormone Balancing Exercise Prescription”

Gain the information, tools, and resources needed to coach and train this steadily growing population with Debra’s 8-hour online course with MedFit Classroom, Stages of Menopause and Exercise Intervention.

Given the number of women who have not exercised previously, and the current void in proper hormone balancing exercise prescription, there exists numerous, lucrative opportunities for fitness professionals to positively impact the lives and health spans of a great many women still seeking answers.

 


Reprinted from flipping50.com with permission from Debra Atkinson.

Debra Atkinson is the #youstillgotitgirl who is flipping 50 and changing the way thousands of women think about their second half. She’s the host of the Flipping 50 TV Show and the Flipping 50 podcast. As a master personal trainer, strength and wellness coach with over 30 years fitness industry experience, she works with women who are pro-aging with vitality and energy. She is an international fitness presenter, author of hundreds of articles and multiple books. Visit her website, flippingfifty.com

 

Reference:

https://journals.lww.com/menopausejournal/fulltext/2020/04000/the_role_of_physical_activity_in_the_link_between.6.aspx

Debra-TedX-Screengrab

Truth About Women’s Fitness in Menopause | My TEDx Talk

Women’s fitness in menopause is a hot topic. This is what I shared in a recent post when I began to spread the word about my TEDx talk:

I think I just threw up a little bit.

That’s how I titled my post. Here’s why.

My TEDx Talk Story

Let me tell you what happens when you get accepted to do a TEDx talk… and have less than 4 weeks to prepare it.

While you’re training for an Ironman happening two weeks after. And the weekend before you’re at a Thursday-Sunday conference knocking out a huge block of time you needed to prepare.

Then you do the talk and walk off stage feeling like you just had an out-of-body experience. You have no idea if you even said all the important things that made you do this, on your own dime and time.

Then you wait, and wait, and wait… for 7 months to it to be published (almost unheard of). And it risks getting banned because it’s controversial and in spite of a dozen+ research studies quoted and the basis of it: it flies against tradition.

It’s released… exactly what you wanted… except then you have to watch yourself and your midget mindset says, “what will people think?” You wonder if you’ve done the women whose stories you told justice. You wonder how many fitness pros will hate it because, well, they’d rather keep doing what they’re doing than accept we might be wrong.

(and of course, I’m human… I think while watching… I definitely look like I had gained that 10 lbs in 2019 I hinted at – ugh!) Keep reading beyond the video to learn more.

Well, hence the original subject line. I opened with. My TEDx talk is wayyyyyy harder to share than I anticipated.

I’ve been talking about women’s fitness for 3 1/2 decades. I’ve been diving deep into the research and protocols on exclusively women’s fitness in menopause for 10-14 hours a day for eight years. And still…

The Resistance

Somehow in my head it went different, you know? It was going to be a huge celebration and something I couldn’t wait to share.

So if I tell you when it all goes peachy and smooth, I have to tell you when it’s a sh#* storm for me.

That’s just personal doubt coming up. And I have it too. So it is fair for me to tell you, when you think maybe something won’t work for you or you can’t do this, these feelings are going to come up.

This resistance is harder than any weight you will ever lift.

So, I’ve got to say to you and to I both… lift the damn thing anyway.

We have to honor what’s happening for us at the moment we’re in no matter what that includes.

Now, a humble ask.

Will you watch my TEDx talk? 

It may help you know you’re not doing anything wrong. It may help you realize you’re doing more than you need to right now. Fitness in menopause is tricky.

Will you share it if it will benefit a friend or a health coach or trainer? 

We need to have some change in the way we think about women’s fitness in menopause order to change women’s fitness and health for the better. You deserve energy and vitality and you’re not going to get there by starving or exercise that causes extreme fatigue.

You can share the link from my website, flippingfifty.com/tedx (scroll below the video and see share buttons to put it directly on your favorite social media site) or from the TED YouTube channel directly.

And know, I appreciate it so much.

Here’s News I Haven’t Shared

Literally, the day after my TEDx talk went live, while I was still pulling up my big girl panties to share it and stop second-thoughts, I got my body fat tested. Here are the results.

Pretty amazing for a woman in post menopause at 56. From walking…. And 2 20-minute interval sessions (start to end) and 2 strength training sessions (about 30 minutes each) AT HOME during COVID19.

Now, if I changed that sentence:

Pretty amazing for a woman in post menopause at 56. From walking…. And 2 20-minute interval sessions (start to end) and 2 strength training sessions (about 30 minutes each) AT HOME during COVID19

Still true.

If I change it again:

Pretty amazing for a woman in post menopause at 56. From walking…. And 2 20-minute interval sessions (start to end) and 2 strength training sessions (about 30 minutes each) AT HOME during COVID19

Still true. (even at gym where you might think it’s easier)

So…You Need to Know

Listen, girlfriend. Please do not let that nasty, second-thought voice inside your head say you’re too old, you can’t get results, or it takes time and effort you don’t have or don’t want to put in.

Women’s fitness in menopause, and let’s get personal, your fitness in menopause may come from far less exercise than you’ve been led to believe.

Had you seen the BEFORE numbers… back in December of 2018 when I tested before beginning Ironman training … I was at 127, 24% body fat. So now… the negative impact of a year full of cortisol elevating stressors – including endurance training – become much more apparent. At my highest weight just before the Ironman I saw 139 on the scale. A number I’ve only ever seen before this when I was when pregnant. On a 5’4” frame that’s not healthy, and it’s mysterious given the exercise I was doing and high quality diet I have. Or so you might think!

Endurance exercise… causes a spike in cortisol.

You add that with many more major life stressors (I clearly got in the wrong line at some point in 2019) and you will GAIN weight. Add hitting menopause mid-year and you’ve got a perfect storm.

And no, many blessings to those who said, oh it’s muscle. Honey, um no. A girl knows. Muscle is more compact, not bulky. You can see the increase in body fat percent… 27% is not bad… just not something that makes sense with my lifestyle.

You Don’t Have to Go That Far (Please Don’t!)

I did an experiment in extremes here. You don’t have to be doing Ironman triathlon training to gain weight with too much exercise.

Please check your default thought pattern that more exercise is better.

Better exercise is better. Like walking…. Walking … for a woman used to running 3 hours, biking 4 and 5 hours… swimming for 1-1.5 hours … could also make you lose weight if it is the right Exercise is Medicine dose for you right now.

There will be a time when I can do some more of the endurance I love again. We have to listen to our bodies, adjust the exercise, as you would medication if your status changed.

For Fitness Professionals: Offer Your Female Clients a “Hormone Balancing Exercise Prescription”

Gain the information, tools, and resources needed to coach and train this steadily growing population with Debra’s 8-hour online course with MedFit Classroom, Stages of Menopause and Exercise Intervention.

Given the number of women who have not exercised previously, and the current void in proper hormone balancing exercise prescription, there exists numerous, lucrative opportunities for fitness professionals to positively impact the lives and health spans of a great many women still seeking answers.


 

Reprinted from flipping50.com with permission from Debra Atkinson.

Debra Atkinson is the #youstillgotitgirl who is flipping 50 and changing the way thousands of women think about their second half. She’s the host of the Flipping 50 TV Show and the Flipping 50 podcast. As a master personal trainer, strength and wellness coach with over 30 years fitness industry experience, she works with women who are pro-aging with vitality and energy. She is an international fitness presenter, author of hundreds of articles and multiple books. Visit her website, flippingfifty.com

Hormone Balancing Fitness for Women in Midlife

Before hormone balance can be a goal you need a clear definition of what it or hormone imbalance looks like! It’s never just hormones though is it? For the majority of women in midlife and beyond, there’s also a special condition, a joint issue, or a crazy schedule that also needs to be addressed.

If any of these describe you:

  • You’re putting on weight lately no matter what you do
  • You have belly fat even though you’re weight is OK
  • You have cellulite on your thighs, belly, bum, or on your upper arms
  • You can’t seem to develop any muscle tone in your legs
  • You’ve got a saggy bum in spite of so many lunges and squats you can’t sit down
  • You’ve turned up the exercise and eat carefully but still no results
  • You’ve got saggy chest and neck skin

Plus:

  • You have touchy joints from prior or current injuries
  • You have had breast cancer surgeries
  • You’ve had other invasive surgery or joint replacement
  • You have a chronic condition

And potentially:

  • You can’t sleep well
  • Even if you do sleep you don’t wake up refreshed
  • You have high levels of stress right now
  • You’ve tested your hormones and you’re “normal” but don’t feel it
  • You still don’t have any idea how to exercise “normal” or not
  • You have depression or anxiety
  • You’re taking medications for the above or other things with side effects
  • Your digestion is off (even if you thought that was “just me”): You don’t poo every day at least once (more is better); You have rabbits or pudding instead of snakes, You have gas or bloating you just tolerate

And finally:

What you used to do doesn’t work any more.

Then this is definitely for you… if you want to change. Changing is the obstacle for a significant percent of women that express interest in change. If you aren’t willing to change habits, change beliefs, change what you eat and when, change how you exercise and when, then this will just be another blog. No set of exercises, videos, menu plans will ever help until you decide you are 100% in.

Throw Away the Textbook

Exercise for hormone balance is not your textbook exercise. “I’ve never heard that before,” is not a good excuse to dismiss something as true. How many research studies did you read last week about menopause, hormones, and exercise? They’re at anyone’s fingertips in today’s world. So holding onto old ideas without researching for yourself or finding a voice you trust instead of going by an outdated text is irresponsible. A published textbook is outdated by the time it goes to print. Research in this area is accelerating. Get help and get up to speed on research on hormone balance.

Approximately 6000 women a day go into menopause right now. That’s 2 million a year. Yet, 39% of all sports medicine and exercise research features females at all. It’s safe to say a small slice of that focuses on women in perimenopause, menopause, and post menopause and the hormones that influence and are influenced by her exercise.

It’s time to change the way we prescribe exercise during the change. If a woman begins perimenopause in her mid 40s and lives to her mid 80s she spends 40 years in menopause. Shouldn’t we be optimizing exercise for this large population of currently 38 baby boomer women, 25 million Gen X women and coming soon, an even larger number of millennial women? Fitness is either going to open a new level of health for women, who ultimately influence 80% of household decisions including health, or fail miserably. Conventional exercise prescriptions contribute to hormone imbalance.

Your hormone balance exercise

Start lifting weights focused on major muscle groups. Even if you swear by functional movement patterns, insulin, cortisol, and the half dozen more hormones that influence her fat and health are key for reducing risk of disease. Even if you want to tone those arms, you want to start with major muscle groups. Even if you want a flat belly, start with major muscle groups. Stop long slow exercise sessions and long endurance activity.

Increase your protein at every meal and eat regularly. Get to bed early and make sure you control your environment. If you love your wine or nightcap, you’ll want to stop that. All of these things kill testosterone, a key hormone for building lean tissue and libido. Testosterone gives you a kick of confidence too also important for libido.

These are but a few scenarios of exercise changes you can make for more hormone balance. Each woman has a unique set of health history, physical status, signs and symptoms that make her unique.

For Fitness Professionals: Offer Your Female Clients a “Hormone Balancing Exercise Prescription”

Gain the information, tools, and resources needed to coach and train this steadily growing population with Debra’s 8-hour online course with MedFit Classroom, Stages of Menopause and Exercise Intervention.

Given the number of women who have not exercised previously, and the current void in proper hormone balancing exercise prescription, there exists numerous, lucrative opportunities for fitness professionals to positively impact the lives and health spans of a great many women still seeking answers.

 


Excerpt from the original blog post by Debra Atkinson for Flipping 50

Debra Atkinson is the #youstillgotitgirl who is flipping 50 and changing the way thousands of women think about their second half. She’s the host of the Flipping 50 TV Show and the Flipping 50 podcast. As a master personal trainer, strength and wellness coach with over 30 years fitness industry experience, she works with women who are pro-aging with vitality and energy. She is an international fitness presenter, author of hundreds of articles and multiple books. Visit her website, flippingfifty.com

High intensity interval training workout

How Much High Intensity Exercise is Too Much?

Are you doing too much high intensity exercise? High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has been the holy grail of fitness trends for the past several years. Is it the Holy Grail for YOU? Here’s what a recent study says and how to interpret that if you’re a woman flipping (or wanting to) her second half with flare.

Exercise is stress. High intensity exercise is greater stress. Stress causes cortisol.

Cortisol plays two roles in our lives. It’s both the stress hormone and the energy hormone. The perfect amount of stress makes you feel alive and thrive. Too little or too much cortisol each causes problems.

When you’re exercising with the right amount of “overload” or stress you create a positive, not negative, stress response. That’s not to say (because I hear you saying that’s how you negate stress) that exercise doesn’t relieve stress. It can. But we sometimes don’t give ourselves the right dose, frequency or intensity to optimally relieve stress without having it come back to bite us you-know-where.

Better Stress

The key is to find your personal optimal exercise. I’m an advocate for the right exercise for you right now. Women in midlife are more susceptible to the negative effects of stress as they go through other major hormone changes. What worked once – even as recently as months ago or last week – may not be your ideal exercise this week.

That doesn’t mean you’re going to suffer, gain weight, get moody or any of the above. If you adjust your exercise according to what’s going on, respond to it even if you can’t predict what changes will be, you’ll sail through those years from peri-menopause to beyond menopause better. That sets you up for a full Flipping 50 (49-99) feeling as young as your habits will allow you. It’s habits that determine how your genetics express or suppress (epigenetics).

What’s the best exercise?  The answer is not the same for you and for every other woman over 50. We’ve got common denominators but your details are unique to you. If you’re deconditioned, conditioned, or an athlete it changes your exercise prescription. If you’re in adrenal fatigue, you’re estrogen dominant, or have low testosterone will change what I suggest you do. If you have osteoporosis, are trying to prevent it, or you have 20 or more pounds to lose, each of these (and more) will change the exercise plan that’s best for you.

A recent study of weight training performed as high intensity interval training (HIIT) was created to determine if HIIT weight training was better than traditional weight training. Researchers asked, is heavy weight training better than the moderate-to-light weight training recommended for decades?

A side note here: the fear of “bulk” from strength training is legit. The three sets of 10-to-12 repetitions taught for decades, as some kind of gold standard actually IS a bulk-building protocol. Ten or fewer repetitions is the optimal strength, bone building, and fat reducing/lean increasing protocol while higher repetition ranges are best for performance enhancement and influencing smaller muscle activation.

Your personal exercise protocol is also influenced by whether you’re a mesomorph, endomorph, or ectomorph. Each body type can respond differently to a protocol.

ACE Research

According to the study performed by the American Council on Exercise, a leading authority in fitness, moderate or average exercise should occur between 70 to 80 percent heart rate intensity, HIIT training requires at least 85 percent heart rate intensity, the study says. Les Mills’ researchers (creators of Body Pump) wanted to determine how to best achieve a healthy balance between one’s HIIT volume (minutes of HIIT per week) and one’s positive stress response. Their hypothesis was that more than 30 or 40 minutes of weekly HIIT volume would prompt a reduced positive stress response.

“A positive stress response to exercise is a critical part of creating the bio-chemical changes in the body that help build new muscle and improve fitness,” the study says. “The stress response can be measured effectively by examining cortisol and testosterone concentrations in saliva.”

Not to repeat myself but as mentioned earlier, this is really what we refer to as the principle of overload in fitness. The stimulus of exercise must be adequate to provide overload such that the body responds after (when between sessions fitness occurs IF you have adequate rest, food, and sleep).

Remember Your Hormones

It’s key for YOU to remember, Flipping 50 friend, that you have another thing to consider. The status of your hormones, not just of your mind’s desire to lose fat, or get in shape needs to be considered when designing your exercise program. Pushing through … following lame social media memes suggesting that “sweat is fat crying” can backfire on you and increase fat storage when stress goes the wrong way. When you read “move more” interpret it as walking down the hall to deliver a message as opposed to going to boot camp 6 days a week or doing two-a-days.

Let me take a step back here and describe what it feels like to lift at a level defined as HIIT. There’s a lot of confusion about HIIT. Anything that gets you breathing slightly harder is NOT HIIT. Lifting with a weight that causes fatigue at 10 repetitions correlates with 80% intensity. So in order to lift and a HIIT level of 90% as per the study, you’d be lifting a weight closer to 5 repetitions.

Don’t panic. You definitely progress to this point. You also can reduce the weight slightly and use power, increasing speed on the lift but always controlling the lowering (eccentric) phase of exercise to achieve this overload without a heavy weight. You do this in daily life… the wind grabs the car door, the door to a store is heavy, or you heft the garbage bag out to the curb… so if you’re worried about injury (valid) do consider whether your daily activity warrants the work so you’re prepared.

Fatigue vs Tired

Moving fast to get breathless is not necessarily overloading the muscles in a way that muscle changes and creates lean muscle tissue that assists in fat burning.

THIS is a key distinction most program creators and attendees fail to make. Going to a boot camp where you’re moving fast from a strength exercise to a cardio exercise to a core exercise will likely tire you. Tired is not muscle fatigue. Muscle fatigue must be reached so your body changes.

Will it burn calories right now? Yes. Will it change your body, your body composition, and set you up for years of a stronger leaner body? No.

The study used strength training as the mode of high intensity exercise. Researchers compared one set of 5 repetitions for each of 10 exercises to 1 or 2 sets of 10 repetitions for 10-12 exercises. The subjects were both male and female and ages up to 59.

The results showed body fat decreased significantly for both groups. Blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol decreased only for the HIIT group.

“When it comes to HIIT, adding volume doesn’t deliver better results,” the report says.

“It actually hinders. To get the full benefits of HIIT and prevent overreaching, our recommendation is to…

Do a maximum weekly HIIT sessions that are above 90 percent maximum heart rate for 30-40 minutes…

…and balance them with other less demanding workouts.”

“It’s also imperative that you let your body recover properly after a HIIT session. This way, you’re likely to perform better when you do your HIIT workouts and benefit from the positive results,” researchers added.

The key exercise flips:

  1. More is not better when it comes to High Intensity exercise
  2. An understanding of what constitutes high intensity interval training is key if you’re to reap benefits
  3. The more health markers (blood pressure and cholesterol) you’re trying to target with your exercise, the more HIIT could benefit you done with adequate progression
  4. low volume of HIIT (no more than 40 minutes a week) is far better for results (and reduction of injury) than more volume (frequency, or duration)
  5. If you’re doing high intensity exercise that is also high impact cardio or high intensity strength training every day you may be inhibiting your recovery and results.

This distinction of when to work hard and when to recovery is so important. It’s not intuitive for a generation that witnessed the work harder, get better results discipline of our parents.

Article reprinted with permission from Debra Atkinson. Originally printed on flippingfifty.com.


Debra Atkinson is the #youstillgotitgirl who is flipping 50 and changing the way thousands of women think about their second half. She’s the host of the Flipping 50 TV Show and the Flipping 50 podcast. As a master personal trainer, strength and wellness coach with over 30 years fitness industry experience, she works with women who are pro-aging with vitality and energy. She is an international fitness presenter, author of hundreds of articles and multiple books. Visit her website, flippingfifty.com