We all know exercise is important for health. Yet, many people don’t get enough exercise on a regular basis for one reason or another. Several surveys and studies have also found that women are typically much less active after menopause than before menopause. Many scientists believe this may be due to hormone changes during menopause, particularly lower estrogen levels. Researchers are still studying the relationship between estrogen and activity levels. However, some studies suggest estrogen replacement therapy may help you feel more motivated and may even increase your capacity to work out.
Before we learn more about how estrogen affects exercise, let’s talk about why exercise is so important as we get older and approach menopause. There are many reasons to be physically active throughout your life, including weight management, increasing muscle tone, getting stronger, and improving your overall health. Regular exercise is even more important as you reach menopause to help counteract certain health risks that increase around this time.
As hormone levels begin to decline, bone density and lean muscle mass begin to decline as well, while body fat can increase. Around this time in a woman’s life, there’s also a higher risk for many chronic diseases as well as cardiovascular disease. Engaging in an active lifestyle can help reduce these risks for many people. Regular physical activity helps promote bone health and muscle mass and can also help with body fat management. Exercise in later life can help improve and preserve flexibility and mobility and can also improve heart health. Regular exercise has also been linked to fewer instances of chronic diseases common as we get older.
In addition to physical health, exercise can also be helpful for other areas of well-being, such as mental health. Being physically active can also boost energy and mood and can even help combat some of the symptoms of menopause, such as insomnia. Overall, exercise can be an important part of maintaining quality of life as we get older.
Despite knowing that exercise is helpful for many areas of health, many women have a difficult time exercising on a regular basis, particularly after menopause. There may be many reasons for this, but some researchers believe hormonal imbalances may be a factor. Many studies are researching hormones, exercise, and whether estrogen replacement therapy after menopause can help improve activity levels for some women.
Menopause can cause many symptoms that can make everyday life difficult or even downright impossible. Hot flashes, insomnia, fatigue, and depression are all common symptoms of menopause that affect your quality of life. These also frequently make it difficult to exercise, which may explain why many women are more sedentary after menopause. It’s easy to understand why you might have a hard time going to the gym when you’re experiencing such troublesome symptoms. Working up a sweat can be anxiety-inducing if you’re already suffering from frequent and severe hot flashes. Insomnia and fatigue can leave you feeling worn out, making a workout sound plain exhausting. Menopause depression can zap your motivation for getting your heart pumping with a quick exercise routine. This is one theory behind why lower activity levels tend to coincide with declining estrogen levels during menopause.
The good news is hormone replacement therapy relieves many women’s menopause symptoms. Hormone therapy helps replace some of the hormones lost during menopause, which may improve your symptoms. As menopause symptoms improve, many people find it easier to take part in regular exercise for your health and well-being. This may be one explanation behind why menopausal women who use estrogen replacement therapy tend to be more active than those who don’t according to research.
However, there are other theories behind how hormones affect exercise after menopause. Some believe estrogen may have a more direct effect on exercise. A new study suggests estrogen may act on the brain to improve motivation for exercise. The study looked at estrogen levels and physical activity levels in female mice to determine if hormones play a role in exercise.
The urge to exercise begins in the brain. You feel motivated to exercise, so you act on that motivation. There are also many estrogen receptors in the brain, which may affect your impulse to work out. The study looked at how estrogen affected brain processes through a specific gene. Melanocortin-4 receptor gene (Mc4r), is a gene that plays an important role in energy regulation, food intake, body weight, and the motivation for physical activity. Estrogen binds to the Mc4r receptor and can help activate it. With higher estrogen levels, Mc4r caused increased protein production for the mice in the study. Those mice with higher estrogen levels tended to be more physically active than the mice with lower estrogen.
Researchers are still studying the effects of estrogen on the brain. However, the scientists in the study believe this may offer some evidence that estrogen is important for exercise motivation. The researchers noted that while the study involved mice, humans have similar anatomies, physiologies, and genetics. Therefore, they believe estrogen in humans may have similar effects on exercise and physical activities. They noted that their research may suggest that estrogen replacement therapy may help improve motivation levels for exercise for menopausal women.
Menopause can also affect how difficult exercise is, which may explain why many women are less active after menopause. Research shows that menopause may reduce exercise tolerance and oxygen consumption during exercise. This can make it feel harder to exercise, often leading to feeling more breathless, feeling muscle weakness, and other symptoms of low exercise tolerance, which can be discouraging and lead many women to exercise less than before menopause.
One study looked at exercise capacity for women before and after menopause. The researchers looked at many different factors to determine exercise capacity, which is the maximum amount of activity you can keep up. Some of the factors included the dilation of blood vessels, maximum workload, and peak oxygen consumption. Some of the group received estrogen replacement therapy for three months. The study found that estrogen significantly increased exercise capacity based on the factors they measured. The HRT group even achieved similar results to the pre-menopausal women in the study after just three months of hormone therapy. Therefore, this is just one other way estrogen may help with exercise after menopause.
Our team at HerKare is committed to providing quality healthcare for women at all stages of life. We help with everything from hormone imbalance treatment to well woman care for patients of all ages. We believe in empowering women to take an active role in their health. Our clinic is owned and managed by women for women. We understand the need for convenient care from healthcare professionals that listen to you and take time to understand. Let us help you feel like yourself and feel good again. Book an appointment at one of our clinic locations to get started with the HerKare process.