Menopause and the Aging Athlete: Five Tips for Fighting Back

Dec 9 | , , , , ,

If you ask 100 menopausal athletes what frustrated them most about menopause, chances are the majority will say how it changed their body. 

Menopause comes with all kinds of exciting changes. From hot flashes and belly fat to lean muscle loss and bone deterioration, it creates challenges in the female body that require a new way of thinking and doing. 

Why Does the Body Change During Menopause?

Beginning around age 40, the production of estrogen and progesterone slows. These hormones do much more than regulate your reproductive system. With their decline, the body has trouble regulating temperature, burning fat, falling and staying asleep, and is more prone to broken bones. Thankfully, there are things the aging female athlete can do to fight back. 

Five Tips for Staying Active and Healthy During Menopause

  1. Stay cool. First and foremost, you have to keep moving. Mobility is critical for healthy aging. One thing that age teaches us is that we have to roll with the punches. We live in an age where we can pivot based on what life throws at us. If overheating is your concern (as it is for 75% of menopausal women), drink ice water when exercising to cool your core temperature. You can also adjust your workout attire to moisture-wicking fabrics and wear a cooling neck bandana or scarf. 
  2. Get enough protein. The protein requirements for menopausal athletes goes up based on activity levels. The average recommendation is 1.1 grams of protein per pound of body fat, consumed throughout the day. After a challenging workout, your cortisol levels are elevated, and your muscles are used as fuel. To lower cortisol levels and repair muscles, most experts recommend consuming 25 grams of protein within thirty minutes of wrapping up your workout. Greek yogurt and cottage cheese are also excellent options for a post-workout snack. 
  3. Strengthen your bones. One of the most significant risk factors for the aging athlete is broken bones. You can combat this by ensuring your body receives adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends a total daily intake of 1,200 mg calcium and between 800 – 1,000 IUs of vitamin D. 
  4. Don’t ignore your pelvic floor. According to a national poll on aging, around half of all women over the age of 50 say they leak urine. If you are experiencing leakage issues, schedule an appointment with a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic health. These specialists are trained to identify weak areas in the pelvic floor and provide therapy to strengthen them.
  5. Pump iron. At around age 30, both men and women begin to lose muscle mass at a rate of approximately 10% per decade until they reach 50. Then the muscle mass loss jumps to 15%, according to this research. To prevent the loss of muscle mass, you should add resistance training to your exercise regimen. Estrogen promotes muscle recovery and enhances muscle growth. To replace the lost estrogen that comes from menopause, it is important to stress your muscles with some intense weight training. Experts recommend 20-30 minutes three days a week to help prevent the loss of muscle mass.

Age doesn’t have to prevent you from doing the things you love and excelling at them. Finding safe and effective ways to stay active and healthy means partnering with a team of health professionals who work together to ensure your total health as you age. Be sure to check in with your healthcare provider before beginning a new exercise regimen. If you have concerns about an injury or pain, schedule an evaluation with our physical therapists. They can provide a program that builds with time and can safely get you through menopause and beyond.