While hot flashes may have you feeling like you want to rip off all your clothes or move to Antarctica, building up body heat through exercise in perimenopause is exactly what we want to do. Getting hot and sweaty from the inside out can stimulate the hypothalamus, your body’s thermostat. When the hypothalamus is working properly, it does a good job regulating your body temperature all day long.
And the really good news is that research suggests women who exercise have fewer hot flashes than those who do not.
If you’re moving your body in a way that makes you hot and sweaty (think interval training workouts), you’re activating your body’s thermostat. You’re also stimulating your body’s human growth hormone production. HGH is a necessary part of the hormonal cocktail that prevents weight gain. So if you’re 40+ and struggling with unexplained weight gain, amp up the intensity of your workouts.
Exercise in Perimenopause: Fight fire with fire.
If you want to reap the benefits of greater HGH production, you need to up the intensity of your workouts.
Interval training workouts offer you the hard work/short rest format that will benefit you. For those of you who work out at home, do not fear! A few simple bodyweight exercises will still offer you a productive challenge. If you need more structure to your workouts, check out Balance Virtual Bootcamp for a series of workouts you can do in your own home with minimal equipment. All will get you hot, sweaty, and producing HGH.
Don’t shy away from weights!
Look around any gym, and you’ll see men 40+ in the weight area, trying to hold on to their glory days. Where are the women? Most of them are over on the cardio machines, trying to hold on until the dreadmill tells them their hour of mindless torture is over.
This cultural arrangement isn’t doing you any favors, Ladies.
I’m here to tell you Cardio Bunnies that you should hop off the machines and hop over to the weights.
(If you don’t feel confident working with free weights, you can use weight machines. Most of those have images on the side that show you how they work. I always recommend a session with a trainer so you know your form is correct. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!)
First of all, adding strength training to your workouts will help you build muscle. Adding muscle has lots of great benefits, including increasing your metabolic rate and helping to strengthen your bones.
Get off the treadmill!
There’s another reason you should stop slaving away on the elliptical: long periods of moderately-intense exercise may actually exacerbate unpleasant perimenopausal symptoms.
If you suffer from greater anxiety now that you’re 40+ than you have before, an hour long steady-state workout is sending the wrong message to your body. While you want your body to be hearing “Get Strong! Fight Fat!” it’s actually hearing “We’re still running away from whatever it is we’ve been running away from for the last hour. More adrenaline! More cortisol!” And that’s exactly what we *don’t* want!
So if you’re doing long, steady-state cardio and not seeing any shift in your weight, your body could be responding to your workout thinking you WANT to be running away from something. It produces cortisol, a stress hormone that triggers fat storage around the abdomen.
The good news is that exercise in perimenopause can (and physiologically SHOULD) be done in short, intense bursts. So if you’re drowning in responsibilities and struggle to fit in fitness, know that a 20-minute high-intensity workout (or two 10-minute bouts) will deliver positive results when done on a regular basis.
Just make sure you’re getting hot & sweaty.