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5 Benefits of HIIT Workouts During Menopause

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In the realm of fitness, High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has gained a lot of traction for its efficiency and effectiveness. But how does it fare for midlife women, particularly those navigating perimenopause and post-menopause stages?

As a 59-year-old personal trainer with over three decades of experience, I’m here to tell you that HIIT can be a game-changer for us.

In midlife, we women are experiencing changes in our metabolism and hormonal imbalances. HIIT can be great way to push yourself a little harder and improve many health markers.

If you have been fairly sedentary for the past few decades, you will want to work your way up to HIIT training.  But, if you have been mildly active and are ready for more, read on and let me tell you why HIIT exercise isn’t harmful and is actually helpful for your heart health, metabolism, bone health, muscle mass and more.  

The Mayo Clinic backs me up with findings that HIIT training can reverse the aging process in older adults.

Here are the benefits of HIIT workouts during menopause:

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As we age, our metabolism naturally slows down, which can make maintaining or losing weight more challenging. HIIT workouts during menopause is an effective way to counteract this metabolic decline.

The high-intensity nature of HIIT workouts creates an “afterburn” effect, scientifically known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). This means that after a HIIT session, your body continues to burn calories at an elevated rate, even when you’re at rest.

This boost in metabolic rate helps combat midlife weight gain, making it easier to manage a healthy weight and improve overall metabolic health.

Here are a few additional resources about metabolism during menopause:

A common menopausal symptom for women is a decrease in muscle mass due to hormonal changes (decreasing estrogen and progesterone) and lack of use. HIIT is not only about cardio; it often incorporates strength training elements that are crucial for maintaining and building muscle mass.

The high-intensity intervals push your muscles to their limits, promoting muscle growth and strength.

Preserving muscle mass is vital as it supports overall metabolic rate, aids in weight management, and enhances functional fitness, helping us stay strong and active in our daily lives.

Bone density decreases as we age if we are not actively doing something to maintain it or increase it. This process naturally increases the risk of osteoporosis and fractures.

HIIT often includes weight-bearing and resistance exercises that are essential for maintaining and even improving bone density. These exercises stimulate bone formation and help slow down the rate of bone loss.

By incorporating HIIT into your fitness routine, you can support your bone health, reduce the risk of osteoporosis, and maintain a stronger skeletal structure. 

HIIT is well known for its cardiovascular benefits, which are crucial for maintaining heart health as we age. Regular HIIT workouts improve heart function, increase stamina, and enhance overall cardiovascular health.

Additionally, HIIT is known to boost energy levels, improve mood, and enhance mental clarity. The endorphin release during high-intensity exercise can help alleviate stress and anxiety, leading to a better quality of life.

These improvements extend beyond physical health, positively impacting our mental and emotional well-being.

The big thing here is to realize YOU define what “high intensity” means to you. As I’ve gotten older, what I call high intensity may feel easy to a 30 year old female. It’s about how it feels in your body and how you push yourself. 

One of the greatest advantages of HIIT is its time efficiency. In our midlife years, balancing work, family, and personal commitments can be challenging, and finding time for exercise might seem daunting.

HIIT workouts can be completed in as little as 20-30 minutes, making them easy to fit into a busy schedule.

Despite the shorter duration, HIIT workouts are highly effective, providing the benefits of longer exercise sessions in a fraction of the time. This efficiency can help you stay consistent with your fitness routine, even with a packed schedule.

Now that I’ve shared the benefits of HIIT workouts during menopause, I wanted to address the argument you may have heard against it.

Menopausal women seem to hear from their doctors and media sources that increased cortisol is the reason they are gaining belly fat and that high intensity exercise elevates cortisol levels so they need to stop. That is oversimplified and incorrect. 

Cortisol which is often referred to as the “stress hormone”, is a misunderstood topic. While it’s true that acute stress from intense workouts can temporarily elevate cortisol, it’s important to differentiate between acute and chronic stress.

Acute stress is a short-term response to a specific event or situation, such as a sudden increase in workload or an unexpected argument. 
Chronic stress is a prolonged and ongoing state of stress that can be caused by factors such as chronic health conditions, financial difficulties, or relationship problems.

During exercise, our bodies experience an acute stress response due to the physical demands placed on our muscles and cardiovascular system. This triggers the release of cortisol. In small amounts, like when you exercise, cortisol can actually be beneficial as it helps to regulate blood sugar levels and aids in tissue repair. 

However, excessive or chronic release of cortisol can have negative effects on our health. Chronic elevation of cortisol levels has also been linked to an increased risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

The real takeaway is managing balance and ensuring recovery times between workouts, which allows the body to reap the benefits without succumbing to chronic stress.

How Much HIIT Exercise Should You do in Peri and Post Menopause?

Balancing HIIT with other forms of exercise is crucial. Aim for 2-3 HIIT sessions per week, allowing one to two days of recovery between each session. Most important, listen to your body when creating your exercise plan.

This approach helps prevent overuse injuries and ensures adequate rest for muscle repair and growth.

In summary, HIIT offers a multitude of benefits for midlife women. It helps rev up metabolism, preserve muscle and bone mass, improve cardiovascular health, enhance mental clarity, and works well with busy lifestyles. You are in control of the intensity of your workout and you can keep it all low impact but still be working at a high intensity. 

By incorporating HIIT into your fitness regimen, you can enjoy a healthier, more active lifestyle, and fulfilling midlife.

Getting started with HIIT workouts can be as simple or complex as you make it. Here are a few of my favorite resources to help you get started:

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