Strength Training, Weight Gain, & Metabolism in Menopause

By Christina Hanna, MPH, CHES • Published 2/15/2024

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Hanway

Perimenopause women strength training in her home to help boost metabolism and maintain weight

Some of the most common changes people might notice during the menopausal transition include gaining weight, losing muscle, and metabolic shifts. This article focuses on the benefits of strength training, nutrition, and taking care of your body during menopause. We’ll share some helpful tips and ideas that might just make things easier for you.

Strength training: A menopausal must

There are very few things that can be universally recommended to almost everyone going through menopause — but strength training is one of them! We may be at varying abilities and skill levels, but strength training can help almost everyone, especially as they age.

Among the many changes during the menopausal transition is a natural decline in muscle mass, reduced bone density, and altered metabolism. Strength training emerges as a powerful tool to manage these menopausal changes and promote overall health.

Loss of muscle mass

Menopause often leads to a loss of muscle mass. The medical term for this is sarcopenia. This age-related muscle loss can reduce strength, mobility, and balance. This can make you weaker and more likely to fall and injure yourself. Strength training is a great tool to counteract this change. It can help preserve, and even build muscle mass during menopause. Regular resistance exercises can help people going through menopause maintain their strength, independence, and overall quality of life.

Bone density

In addition to preserving muscle mass, strength training helps improve bone density. The decline in estrogen production during menopause can lead to a loss of bone mass, increasing the risk of osteoporosis. Strength training, particularly exercises that involve weight-bearing and impact, increases bone mass, offsets the decline of bone mineral density, and helps prevent osteoporosis.

Two perimenopausal women participating in a strength training class to help improve their health

Insulin sensitivity

You might not think of the two together, but strength training has a positive impact on insulin sensitivity, a key factor in helping people manage their weight. As we enter menopause, our bodies often experience a decrease in insulin sensitivity, making it more challenging to control blood sugar levels. Strength training enhances insulin sensitivity, helping our bodies to use insulin and regulate blood sugar levels more efficiently and effectively. This can help in weight management and lower your chances of developing type 2 diabetes.

Mental and emotional benefits

Strength training also has lots of mental and emotional benefits. Regular exercise has been shown to improve mood and energy levels. These benefits may help you better manage common menopausal symptoms like mood swings, anxiety, depression, and fatigue.

Weight management: Striking a balance

Managing your weight is an important part of staying healthy during menopause. Changes in hormones during this time can lead to more body fat, especially around your belly. This can increase the risk of chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer. 

It's important to focus on both a nutrient-rich diet and regular physical activity (both strength training and cardio). Some people think cardio is the only option to lose or maintain weight, but strength training and building muscle also helps with weight loss and maintenance.

But you may have also heard the saying “You can’t out-train a bad diet.” While exercise is an important element of losing weight, you need good nutrition, in combination with exercise, to lose weight. A healthy diet should include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Limit processed foods, sugary drinks, and too many unhealthy fats. Regular exercise, including both cardio and strength training, can help build muscle, burn fat, and improve overall health. Find exercises you enjoy (you’re more likely to stick with them) and slowly increase your frequency or intensity as time goes by. Be sure to talk to your doctor before starting or changing any exercise program.

Perimenopausal women focusing on strength training to help improve her metabolism during the menopausal transition

Metabolism: Navigating the shifts

The decline of estrogen production during the menopausal transition can cause the body to burn energy more slowly. This can make it harder to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. In addition, many people experiencing menopause often lose muscle and gain fat, which may also make it harder to control their weight. 

Think of strength training as the superhero(ine) that can help your body fight against some of the changes that happen during menopause. When you do strength training, you build muscles and keep them strong. This is important because muscles burn more energy than fat, so having more muscles can help you burn more calories, even when you’re not exercising. 

Incorporating strength training into a regular exercise routine is important during menopause because it helps you stay healthy and manage your weight. Here are some recommendations to consider for building a routine:

  • Do exercises that work your legs, back, chest, and shoulders.
  • You can do these exercises using free weights, weight machines, resistance bands, or even your own body weight.
  • Try to do strength training 2-3 times per week, for about 20-30 minutes each time.
  • Start with a weight or resistance level that’s challenging but not too heavy, and then slowly make the workout harder and longer as you get stronger.

Remember, strength training is all about getting stronger and healthier, so have fun, be safe, and enjoy yourself!

Last Updated 3/20/2024



Related Products