As most of you that read my blogs know, I really advocate lifting weights. I think it’s beneficial whatever age you are, it improves strength, balance, posture, mental health, physical health and really does help you in later life as the movements incorporate activities that we all do but when your older get more difficult such as sitting down and getting up (squats), climbing stairs (lunges) and picking up bags or other heavy items (deadlifts) to name but a few.
So whilst it helps almost everyone to pick up some dumbbells and start using them in your program, a group of people it really does benefit are women. If your 35+ years then you should be doing some sort of strength work in your exercise regime/program. The main reasons for this are that lifting weights or even your own bodyweight will help you strengthen your bones which will hopefully ward off the risk of the chronic bone disease Osteoporosis. This mainly affects post-menopausal women who after going through the menopause see their Estrogen hormone levels lower. It weakens your bones leading to an increased risk of fractures after falls of the hips and spine. To help combat this the earlier you start lifting the earlier you will start improving your chance of healthy, strong bones!
Estrogen is a hormone in women that protects bones, and it decreases sharply when women reach menopause, which can cause bone loss. This is why the chance of developing osteoporosis increases as women reach menopause. Eating a healthy balanced diet, exercising (especially doing high impact activities such as lifting), making sure you include the essential vitamins and minerals and getting the correct medications are all things you can do to help combat more bone strength from being lost.
As I am not medically trained I can’t give advice on the medical side of the menopause. What I can say is in the years leading up to this massive change each woman will definitely go through, there are ways to make it easier and things to do to make you yourself feel better too.
Lifting weights has been proven in some studies to boost your mental health. I myself am 45 years and feel that my mind gets a positive nudge up when I finish any weight session. I have found my 40s a stressful time as the kids are growing up and you are trying to tackle different situations such as secondary schools, mobile phones and social media it’s a tough call sometimes. I do feel that my parents had it much easier in the 70/80s - even though my mum wouldn’t agree!!
Lifting a barbell makes me feel strong and like I can deal with anything. It fills me with confidence and as your solely concentrating on THE lift your mind is refocused and in a way you reset your mindset from what it was before the session. Everytime I go in that garage to do my session I come out a different person that feels much more relaxed and able to take on whatever life throws at me!
Don’t get me wrong, cardio can help me destress and feel the same, but there are more targets involved - distances, times, etc. This can make it more competitive and can also have a negative effect, for me anyway. If I need a moment away I know that lifting will calm me more that a session on my rower.
Look at your program and have a look at switching a bit of cardio for weight. Ask your PT or someone from the gym who is knowledgeable to give you advice on the correct form and movements. Start off light and progress by upping the weights, reps, sets ( not at the same time though!). Believe me when you start lifting you will understand that my mantra of “ LOAD IT, LIFT IT, LOVE IT” really is true!!