Menopause affects 13 million women worldwide and it can have a butterfly effect on the people around you. This is why I believe, regardless of whether you are going through menopause yourself, your partner, your mum or just someone you know, then you should sit up and listen! The more you know the better the experience will be!
As part of a recent certification I have been undertaking I have dipped my toe into the world of women's health and to say that it's fascinating is an understatement. What the body goes through in a women's lifetime is so intriguing and learning the patterns of hormone changes causing physical, mental and cognitive symptoms is, in my view, beyond fascinating.
A bit about hormones
Menopause typically starts between your late 40's and 50's with the average age of menopause at 51yrs in the UK, so if you get this far and think you're a while away from that age bracket just keep reading. The perimenopausal stage can start up to 10yrs before this, so from your late 30's your body could be preparing you for this journey.
Through our 20's up to our mid 30's estrogen levels are at an all-time high to prepare our body to produce children. When our estrogen levels are high we have great bone health, collagen levels are great, and it's easier to improve our strength and manage our weight. There is a fairly consistent level of progesterone and a higher level of testosterone. It's at this point we should start to be considering our fitness and try to manage our health to put it in the best position before the hormone levels start to change.
From our mid 30's this estrogen level starts to decline by a fairly significant amount each year. Estrogen is crucial for our bodies' bone health. This is why to have stronger bone health before we start to climb down into the hormone levels during perimenopause we should be doing lots of strength-based exercises to this and why, even after estrogen has started to decline, we should continue in order to maintain what strength we already have.
Why strength training is important before, during and after menopause
As our bone health inevitably decreases with age, for both men and women, this is when you may hear the words such as osteopenia and osteoporosis floating about. This used to be quite a scary diagnosis but recent scientific findings have made advances and the guidelines have more recently been changed. Osteoporosis is a big topic of discussion and can sometimes be a bit of a trigger so we can discuss that in more depth in another blog post. As well as a change in our bone density collagen through the body decreases causing less elasticity making our tendons feel stiffer and joints achier. This is why lots of eccentric movements (Lengthening a muscle under load eg lowering your arm in a bicep curl) are important as it lengthens the stiffer tendon whilst also addressing strength.
How often should I be doing Pilates to see a difference?
According to recent studies, in order to see a significant difference in your lower body, strength, flexibility, core strength and menopausal symptoms you should be practising pilates 2 to 3 times per week and over an 8 to 12-week period, there will be a noticeable difference. By gradually overloading the tissues through strength training, meaning you start at your current ability and progressively increase repetitions, sets and resistance through bands and equipment your strength level and ability should see a dramatic change. This should help you to feel like the fittest and strongest version of yourself, ready to embrace the changes your body is imminently about to embark on.