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Stress and Weight Loss in Menopause

Updated: Dec 10, 2022

What does stress have to do with your hormones?

As we move towards menopause and our estrogen levels start to lower, our cortisol levels rise in response. So many things cause stress: medications, the environment, lack of sleep, our diet, both eating too few calories with the purpose of losing weight, or too few nutrients because of a poor diet. You may be surprised to hear me say that too much exercise with too little time to recover is stressful to the menopausal body as well.

Let’s think about exercise and how we can use it to help manage our level of stress. In menopause we need to think differently than we did in our 20’s and 30’s. Here are some changes you can incorporate right away to help you manage your stress levels and keep your hormones balanced.

First, intense exercise is best done early in the day when your cortisol levels should be at their highest. High Intensity Interval Training is a great way to get short sessions of beneficial exercise. Also, allow yourself time to fully recover after each interval. Start by warming up for 5 minutes, then try doing 30 seconds of hard exercise followed by 60-90 seconds of recovery and repeat for 15-20 minutes. End with a 5 minute cool down to start repairing your tissues from your workout. Real life example: if you're walking, walk for your warm up, run or walk up a hill or stairs for the high intensity, then walk down the hill or stairs for the recovery.

Second, strength training is a MUST for everyone, especially those of us in menopause. You want to lift heavy enough weight to fatigue at 10 repetitions, rest enough during sets. If you’re new or just getting back to strength training, you won’t start with fatiguing at 10 reps, you’ll shoot for 12-15 repetitions with lighter weight, working on perfect form. Then as your neuromuscular system understands what you’re asking of it, you’ll increase weight and lower repetitions. Give your body 72 hours of rest and recovery in between heavy weight workouts. You can do functional training, Pilates, yoga and balance training in between. Example, I do heavy weights on Mondays and Fridays. Wednesdays I do some functional training and Pilates