“I don’t feel as strong and flexible as before”. This was what a female patient in her mid-40s told me the other day. Well, I would say this isn’t just her concern. The majority of the women nearing their 40s complain of weak muscles.
Before we discuss the impact of menopause on muscles, let me acquaint you with some interesting facts. There is a decrease in muscle mass at 3 to 8% each decade since the time one crosses 30.
The decline is greater in those aged 60 and above. Older people, irrespective of gender, experience a loss in muscle mass. However, muscle fatigue is more common in females than their male counterparts. The reason is that females have more fat and less muscles than males. This puts them at risk of poor bone and muscle health by the time they reach their 50s and 60s.
Additionally, when women are transitioning into menopause, their bone and muscle health is impacted immensely. I would like to give you an insight into the impact of menopause on muscular comfort. However, before that, let me introduce myself.
Hi, this is Dr. Karen Pike. Besides being associated with the medical field for a long, I have even founded the website Simply Menopause, where I try my utmost to assist women going through this phase. Even before I experienced menopause, I realized that most of the female patients I treated had minimal knowledge about menopause. That’s when I decided to reach the maximum number of women through my writings to empower and help them understand menopause better. So, let’s get started.
What Impact Does Menopause Have on the Muscles?
Most of the symptoms women face during the menopause transition phase are because of the reduced estrogen levels. In the transition or perimenopause stage, the estrogen and progesterone levels go through their cycles of ups and downs.
The role of estrogen isn’t just confined to reproductive functions. It is instrumental in controlling other functions of our body like our heart, brain, skin, digestive system, hair, etc. Evidence has suggested the positive impact of estrogen on skeletal muscle. So, low estrogen levels often result in a reduction in muscle mass.
We cannot ignore the role of stress in lessening muscle strength and flexibility. Everything seems connected. Menopause triggers stress because of hot flashes, sleep issues, and other symptoms women go through. When so much is happening physically, controlling your stress levels becomes difficult.
Moreover, estrogen has a link with the stress hormone cortisol. Low estrogen levels mean your cortisol levels will spike, triggering a stress response. Increased stress causes the muscles to tense up, making you more susceptible to aches, pains, fractures, and falls.
Our muscles comprise a layer of connective tissues that contain protein fibers, either elastic fibers or collagen. When estrogen levels reduce in menopause, it even lessens the connective tissue’s collagen content. This causes the muscles and joints to stiffen, making them less flexible. So, now we know the impact menopause will have on our muscles.
Tips to Lessen the Effects of Menopause On Our Muscles
Caring for your bones and muscles is always important, and in menopause, the need is even more. Here are some tips to keep your muscles in good shape, especially when transitioning into menopause.
Follow a Proper Exercise Regime
For a fit body, exercising regularly is a mandate for all, irrespective of gender. In menopause, staying fit becomes even more important to keep yourself healthy. Dedicating at least 30 minutes to an hour for exercise may include a brisk walk or even running and jogging.
Swimming and activities like mowing your lawn and climbing stairs are good cardio that help improve your overall health.
If you mention exercises to strengthen your muscles specifically, those that top the list include squats, sit-ups, and push-ups. As a starter, 20 push-ups would be fine. You could eventually shift to 50 and then 100 push-ups. Avoid overstraining yourself in a go. If you have any underlying medical condition, talk to the doctor before doing so. When I started squats, I wouldn’t do more than 20 at a time. I increased the count eventually.
-Another way to strengthen your muscles is by lifting weights and using resistance bands. Cycling, dancing, doing heavy gardening, and even climbing the hill improve your muscles and keep them fit. It also minimizes muscle and abdominal aches and cramps during and after menopause.
Control Your Stress Levels
As I mentioned, menopause and stress are often synonymous. So, it is essential to consciously take initiatives to keep your stress levels under control. I usually opt for meditation and relaxation techniques to manage my anxiety levels in menopause. That’s what I advise my patients as well. If I were to discuss the relaxation techniques for menopause, there are many. To work on breathing, deep breathing would be a great way to relax yourself. Visualized breathing is another helpful technique. Select a comfortable spot and combine your breathing with your imagination.
As you inhale, imagine the air reaching your nostrils through your lungs, abdomen, and chest. When exhaling, follow the same technique. It will make you relaxed and ease muscle tension immensely.
Q. Will diet help ease muscular discomfort during menopause?
Yes, diet plays a significant role in improving bone health and muscle mass. The role of protein in facilitating muscle growth and repairing the tissues isn’t unknown. So, you should include protein-rich foods in your diet. You would need to consider mainly legumes, lentils, eggs, chicken, dairy products, turkey, fish, etc.
When transitioning into menopause, it would help to seek your doctor’s advice regarding foods that could strengthen your bones and muscles. Your healthcare provider will be able to give you the recommended amount of protein and other nutrients you will need for healthy muscles.
Q. Will hormone replacement therapy be effective for strengthening the muscles?
Hormone replacement therapy is significant in managing several menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, sleep issues, etc. It also enhances your muscle, mass, and bone health. However, alongside HRT, you must also improve your lifestyle by following a healthy diet and proper exercise regime to remain healthy.
I hope this article will help you understand menopause’s impact on your muscles. Moreover, if muscular discomfort becomes an issue and comes in the way of your daily life, do not delay consulting your healthcare provider.