Menopause and Strength Training

Menopause and Strength Training

Interviewer: Gail Edgell

Gail Edgell: You know a lot about the myths of strength training, what women are saying to you on a daily basis. What is some of the current research out there?

Joan Pagano: Current research is focused on how strength training can help preserve health and defend against the aging process. As with your bones, it is easiest to build muscle early in life. When you hit your 40s, you begin to lose muscle mass, which causes a decrease in metabolism of about 3 percent every decade. So you no longer burn as many calories with the same activity level. The average weight gain during perimenopause is 10 pounds.

In spite of all the benefits that have been making headlines, a lot of myths persist about strength training.

Gail Edgell: One of the biggest myths that I can think of pertains to lifting weights. Will it bulk women up especially during their menopausal years?

Joan Pagano: Yes, women are so afraid of bulking up if they lift a weight. This probably presents one of the biggest obstacles for women — the fear of “building.” But it will only happen if they      have high levels of testosterone and lift very heavy weights. Most women lack the necessary hormones and strength to build muscle mass. Female bodybuilders are genetically predisposed to build big muscles. They also follow rigorous exercise and diet regimens to maximize muscle size. The average woman who lifts weights actually shrinks in body size by losing fat and shaping the muscles.

Gail Edgell: I can vouch for that because I used to be a fitness competitor. What you are saying is exactly right.

One of the other myths I have heard is that you shouldn’t lift weights if you are an older adult, overweight or out of shape. Is that true?

Joan Pagano: Years ago health professionals were afraid that giving weights to older adults would lead to injury. But this thinking was debunked by studies done with the frail elderly, ranging in age from 86 to 96, at Tufts University in the ’80s. In just eight weeks, they improved their strength by an average of 175 percent. It is never too late to start strength training. And the sooner you begin, the longer you benefit.

If you are overweight, strength training can help reinforce your joints, allowing you to increase the intensity and duration of your cardio workouts so you can burn more calories. Strength training also builds lean body mass, raising your metabolic rate and aiding in weight control.

If you are out of shape, start slowly. Lay a foundation of four to six simple exercises that are manageable, and gradually progress by increasing the level of difficulty and adding exercises.

Gail Edgell: Are there any other myths out there?

Joan Pagano: I think some people feel that if they are thin, they don’t need to build lean body mass by lifting weights. Appearances are deceiving when it comes to body composition — being thin is no guarantee that you are lean. Without weight training, you steadily lose muscle and gain fat as you age. In fact, a woman in her 20s who doesn’t lift weights will lose about 6 pounds of muscle and gain 5 pounds of fat by age 50. So even if you maintain your scale weight perfectly, over time there are subtle changes occurring in body composition.

Gail Edgell: That is interesting. Is there anything else?

Joan Pagano: I think there is still a persisting myth that weight-training exercises help you spot reduce. You will see people doing hundreds and hundreds of crunches, thinking they’re going to make their abdomen less fatty. You can spotstrengthen and shape a body area. But fat belongs to the whole body and needs to be reduced all over through expending more calories than you consume. Weight training can help balance out your proportions. For example, if you have broad hips, use lighter weights with higher repetitions for the lower body and heavier weights with fewer repetitions for the upper body. High-repetition training will keep the hips trim, while using heavier weights to strengthen the upper body can make the hips look more in balance.

Gail Edgell: I know that spot reducing, especially around the abdomen, is a huge issue for women when they start gaining that weight in their perimenopausal years.

What aerobic activities are the most effective for losing weight?

Joan Pagano: I think that strength training has been making inroads. But for people who just hang on to their aerobic activities, we need to advise that losing weight requires a balanced exercise program of cardio exercise to burn calories and weight training to speed up the metabolism. Cardio activities cause the greatest total caloric expenditure, while weight training develops leaner, toned muscles. Lean body mass is metabolically more active than fat, burning more calories at rest. You need both types of exercise to lose weight . . .

Gail Edgell: . . . especially if you are over 40 years old, I will add. Strength training is a necessity to really increase that metabolism, change the circumference and makeup of the body.

Joan Pagano: Exactly.

Gail Edgell: Can you summarize everything that you talked about regarding the myths of strength training?

Joan Pagano: The fact is that strength training is part of a well-rounded workout. It is appropriate for you regardless of your condition, fitness level, age or weight. It is a valuable aid in reducing and managing weight. It changes your body composition; you build more lean body mass. You can defend against the aging process, which is working against muscle mass by slowly decreasing it, decade by decade. With strength training, you can maintain your muscle mass, metabolism and shape.

Thin people should lift weights, too. They need to maintain their body composition — they are very gradually losing muscle mass and gaining fat with the aging process as well.

Strength-training exercises can help improve the shape of your body and your muscles, giving you beautiful contours. It’s one of the two kinds of exercise that are important for weight loss, the other one being aerobics. You need aerobic exercise to burn calories and strength training to build lean body mass and rev up the metabolism.

Note: This article is an edited transcript of an audio interview. Changes have been made.

Strength Training for Women – The Myths

Strength Training for Women – The Myths

Weight Training and Strength
Expert’s Name:  Gail Edgell

Finally, Menopause Support You Can Trust

It is no secret that there are a number of benefits when it comes to strength training, also known as weight lifting or resistance training; increased bone density, increased muscle mass, and a lower risk for many age related diseases top these benefits. With all the positive effects of strength training, particularly for menopausal women, it is still not widely accepted by the masses as effective exercise. Partially to blame are all the myths surrounding strength training for perimenopausal and menopausal women. The following are some common myths, and the truths behind them.

1. The Big Fat Lie, Strength Training Will Bulk Up Women

It is easy to see how this myth got started considering the number of men focusing on increasing their mass through strength training. However, men and women are different on a number of levels; remember, men don’t have to deal with hot flashes and menopause. The truth is menopausal women will not bulk up from strength training unless they are producing levels of testosterone found mainly in men. Additionally, bulking up takes muscle strength that typical women don’t have.

2. A Weak Farce, Some Older Women Aren’t Strong Enough for Strength Training

Back before the 80s it was common practice for doctors to avoid recommending strength training for older patients, particularly women, because of the fear that the strain of these exercises would injure their weak bodies. This is simply not true. Although I would recommend consulting your doctor first – the fact is older women can ward off pre menopause symptoms by engage in resistance training.

3. Thin Veils, Slender People Don’t Need Strength Training

Contrary to popular belief, thin does not equate to healthy. In fact, weight lifting is imperative for all women, and the earlier you start the better off you will be. It is said that young women that do not strength train will shed up to six pounds of muscle and replace it with as many pounds of fat by age 50. Just because a woman is thin and “appears” healthy does not mean that she is.

4. Spotty Logic, Weight Lifting Can Help Women “Spot Reduce”

For a lucky few, their bodies are exactly where they want them to be, with the exception of one or two “problem areas.” Popular belief says that resistance training can remove these trouble spots; this is simply not true. While strength training can help tone specific areas, body fat, as the name implies, belongs to the entire body, and spot reducing will prove ineffective.

Menopause Symptoms: Injuries

Menopause Symptoms: Injuries

As we’re getting older, a few injuries start to occur on a regular basis with people over the age of 40. That is tennis or golf elbow, plantar fasciitis and heel spurs.

When you go to your physician, typically they will tell you to take anti-inflammatories because it is inflamed and they may even suggest that you to get a cortisone shot. The problem with the cortisone shot is cortisone stays in your body for a lifetime and you can only get a cortisone shot in one spot a few times before it starts to deteriorate a tissue around it.

So I am going to tell you 2 alternatives that you can do to alleviate and perhaps get rid of your tennis or golf elbow, plantar fasciitis and heel spurs.

  1. Active release technique. Typically, a chiropractor is certified in this and it is the opposite of massage. A massage is when someone is moving their hands over your body up and down, front, back, all over while active release is they’re actually fixating their hands typically on a point of insertion or origin a muscle such as golf elbow or tennis elbow.  They are moving your arm over a range of motion so what is happening you are moving that ligament and tendon underneath where there pressure is. This starts to breakup scar tissue.
  2. Graston technique. Again, probably most chiropractors are certified in it. Typically what they use are instruments.  They are heavy steal gauge instruments to tear up scar tissue.

I can’t tell you how many times I have relied on these two techniques to get me out of trouble when I have a hamstring injury. Now, if you’re afraid of chiropractor I’m sure there are other people who do this process or you can request a chiropractor not to crack your neck or back and just perform this technique. You might want go to the internet and look up Graston or active release technique and see who is certified in your area.

Menopause Relief: High Intensity Training

Menopause Relief: High Intensity Training

I’ve been doing an extensive research with regard to exercise. As some of you know, I have a degree in Exercise Science and I will tell you that this field is always changing.

One thing that was interesting is that women in their peri-menopausal years do not respond to traditional aerobic exercise. You see a lot of women walking on a treadmill in a moderate intensity and if anything they’re gaining weight. What they’re finding is that if a woman does high intensity cardiovascular exercises, they are actually seeing a better response and more body fat loss.

So what do I mean by this?

Cardiovascular exercises are treadmill, elliptical, aerobics class, recumbent bike, cycling outside, walking outside, running outside or even swimming. All of those are excellent choices for cardiovascular activities.

So what do I mean by high intensity training?

About 20-30 seconds bout of high, high intensity exercise. Meaning, a 100% intensity. And I am not talking about 70% or 80%.  I want you at the end of this 20-30 seconds to say “oh my goodness I can’t wait to stop”.  So you want to be exhausted at the end of this 20-30 seconds and then recover for about 2 minutes or until you feel comfortable to go again. The key is to do this for 6 or 7 rounds. At the end of that 6th or 7th round, you should feel like thank goodness this is all over with.

So get a 30 second bout of high intensity as hard as you can go then about a 2-minute recovery. Try that for your next workout and see how you feel. If you like more information, go to