OK, so maybe there’s no fountain of youth, but there is a next best thing: exercise. The tricky part is finding the right exercise, especially once you’re a women over 40 and perimenopause starts. Of course, hitting the gym is a great move at any age but it turns out that too many personal trainers aren’t as familiar with perimenopausal women’s needs as they should be. And that’s a problem.
If your trainer sucks, or in any case, doesn’t understand perimenopause, your workouts won’t do you much good, and you might even risk an injury. Avoid these common mistakes to make sure you’re doing the right workouts at the right time—and getting the most out of them.
Big Mistakes Trainers Make With Women in Perimenopause
1. NOT UNDERSTANDING HOW PERIMENOPAUSE AFFECTS YOUR BONES
Perimenopause is the season when a woman’s body starts the transition out of fertility, and though it generally starts sometime in your 40s, it can occur as early as the mid-30s.
Estrogen, the main female hormone, falls unevenly during perimenopause, which affects the rate your body builds new bone. Declining estrogen levels mean the body loses bone mass much more quickly, increasing the risk of osteoporosis and weak bones. It’s important to know your density levels before taking on a new regimen, since weak bones could be injured if not handled properly. You want to know where you stand so you can plan a path to build stronger bones without risk of getting hurt.
2. NOT SETTING REALISTIC GOALS
In their 30s, most women start noticing that fat doesn’t burn off as easily as it used to. After age 20, a woman’s metabolism rate drops by one to two percent each decade, which means fewer calories are needed to maintain the same weight. In other words, staying fit means working harder, but many trainers don’t understand that perimenopausal women’s needs require a slightly different regimen. The ultimate goal should be total health and wellness that will serve you now and in the coming decades.
3. NEGLECTING BALANCE TRAINING
Balance is a key component in aging well. Why? Because the better your balance, the less likely you are to fall. Falling is serious at any age, but perimenopausal, menopausal, and post-menopausal women are at an increased risk of fracturing a bone if they fall because they likely have lower bone density.
Most trainers are going to focus only on strength training and cardio, and while these are essential, balance should also be at the top of the list. A great trainer will help you improve your balance with exercises at the gym and extras to practice at home and encourage balance practices such as yoga to further increase your ability to stand your ground at all times.
4. FAILING TO EMBRACE THE RESISTANCE
Osteoporosis prevention requires bone-jarring impact aka “impact level force.” This means your trainer should have you do a series of tough weight reps a few times a week.
If you’re totally new to lifting, your trainer can start you off with elastic bands or light free weights, but over time, you should move to heavier weights. Doing reps will help fight osteoporosis but if you really want to protect your bone health, look for something called osteogenic loading. The natural process is pain-free and sweat-free but lets the body resist impact level force that can dramatically increase new bone production—even to the point of reversing osteoporosis.
5. FORGETTING TO WORK WHILE WALKING OR RUNNING
Staying with the theme of impact that builds stronger bones, consider changing your cardio routine to something with a little more bounce. If you always cycle or swim, add some brisk walking, jogging, running, or aerobic dance to boost your body’s ability to build new bone. Even jumping in place can contribute to better bone health over time. Osteogenic loading will always be the fastest, most efficient way to build lots of new bone but these activities also contribute.
6. SKIMPING ON THE WARM UP AND COOL DOWN
Your trainer should encourage you to do a solid warm up and cool down to help prevent injury. Instead of jumping straight into the tough part of a workout, take a few minutes beforehand to loosen up, do some light stretching, and gradually increase your heart rate. This will not only help prevent injury but help you perform at your peak.
After the workout, gradually cool down to a lower intensity then finish by doing deeper stretches to loosen and relax the muscle groups you just worked. A proper warm up and cool down will help your body get the most out of your exercise time and keep you from getting hurt.
John Jaquish is the inventor of patented bioDensity technology used by OsteoStrong, the health and wellness system that helps clients between ages 8 and 98 build stronger bones, improved strength, and better balance in less than 10 minutes a week.