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Lifestyle Hacks For Stronger Bones and Muscles During Menopause

A busy midlife woman's weekly chores

Does that look like a page out of your planner?


Midlife is often the busiest time in a woman’s life on all fronts: work,  family, elderly care, parental challenges, financial commitments…, which keep her always on her toes. But, to sustain peak efficiency, is it enough to only have a mind that works at the speed of light?




Unfortunately not. The body must follow suit as well. However, ironically…


Women experience joint problems and muscle fatigue earlier in life and more than men.

This happens because their bones and muscles are sensitive to estrogen, which aids in bone formation and strengthening. In addition, estrogen supports processes that upkeep muscle mass and the force-generating capacity of muscles. The FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) helps in the breaking down of bones. 


Therefore, the decline in estrogen and rise in FSH during the menopausal transition hit a double-whammy on bone health by accelerating the rate of bone loss and diminution of muscle strength.


Bone density deterioration with estrogen dip during perimenopause

When life throws lemons in the face of women (aging and menopause-associated hormonal fluctuations), can they make lemonade out of it?


Read on to understand how women can turn the tables to their advantage.

 

Lifestyle changes to the rescue


Fortunately, there are workarounds, but it requires discipline. For most of us, the challenge lies in making proactive and conscious changes to our daily routines. The challenges level up, especially in situations that compel you to indulge. However, if you are persistent, you can not only slow down bone/muscle degeneration but might even be able to build your bones and muscles. Here, we break down the dos and don’ts for you when it comes to being the fittest you can be even as you age.


Food as a Fuel


Make sure you include the following components in your daily diet. A chart of relevant food sources is given below.







Foods for good bone health in midlife women



Fitness as a Stimulus


Exercise, and more specifically strength training, is another crucial component. Here’s why:

  • Greater Bone Density: Weight-bearing exercises and resistance training stimulate bone cells to grow, as long as you provide good nutrition, making up for the negative hormonal impact.


  • Increased Muscle Mass: Strength training (using body weight or external weights) builds and maintains muscles, provided good nutrition and sufficient recovery time are provided.


  • Improved Metabolism: More muscle means more calorie-burning power and insulin sensitivity, which is closely linked to hormonal levels in women and often declines with the dip in estrogen during perimenopause. This helps you keep your weight in check, which further benefits bone health.


The best way to devise a training plan that suits you is by talking to an expert.


Fitness trial class booking

In general, 45-50 minutes of strength training, 3-4 times a week is recommended if you are healthy. You can use heavier weights or increase the intensity as your strength improves. But don’t write off activities like walking, dancing, or stair climbing just yet. Staying active throughout the day does wonders for your bone and muscle health too. You can incorporate these activities every day of the week, or, at the very least, on your off days from strength training. 


Other Habits That Count


While you may be on the money with diet and exercise, the following habits can make or break your efforts too.


  • Hydration: Your muscles are 79% water and your bones 31%.  Aim for 2.5-3.5 liters daily (depending on the weather conditions and your sweat rate) to meet your daily requirements. You may need more if you are overweight or have a high level of physical activity.

  • Alcohol and Smoking: Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption weaken bones and hinder muscle growth. Consider tapering or eliminating these habits.

  • Sleep: Good quality sleep for 6-8 hours per night, helps your body repair and rebuild. Follow a predictable sleep schedule for best results.

  • Stress: Chronic stress impacts overall health. While you may not be able to do away with your stressors, you can manage them effectively with yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises.

  • Weight: Being overweight puts additional stress on bones and muscles. If need be, take the help of a certified professional to adopt a customized weight management program. 



If you want to know your exact bone density or muscle mass, there are simple tests to check that. A bone density scan (DEXA scan) can assess your bone health and a body composition analysis (BCA analysis) can determine your muscle and fat mass. Talk to your healthcare provider to know more.


Remember, it's never too late to start working on yourself! Be regular and consistent with your efforts, and the results will be there for you to see. And, your body will definitely thank you for it.


 



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