Exercise and Estrogen
Staying Healthy through Menopause
Estrogen is present throughout the body, including in the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and connective tissue. The hormone estrogen improves muscle and bone function by reducing stiffness and therefore injury risk. During menopause, there is a greater risk for injury with exercise because of lower estrogen levels. Ligaments and tendons are stiffer and require more time for warm-up. Exercise is needed to keep bones and muscles strong, since they become weaker after menopause, putting one at risk for injury and fracture.
Hormone replacement therapy, beneficial for some women, helps to maintain bone mass and muscle mass after menopause, however, long-term use is associated with smaller, stiffer tendons. Tendons attach muscle to bone, so a stiff tendon can increase the risk of muscle injury during exercise. More research is needed on how nutrition, exercise, and hormones can maximize performance while reducing injury.
Strengthening principles that are known to build or maintain bone and muscle strength after menopause include:
- Specificity: Choose exercises that target muscles and bones throughout your body to keep you strong and healthy.
- Overload: Challenge yourself to exercise just beyond the point of fatigue (without hurting yourself).
- Variability: Avoid doing the same exercises, the same way, every time you exercise. Change it up to challenge your muscles and bones in different ways, and they’ll be stronger as a result.
- Dynamic loading: Incorporate movements in various directions when exercising.