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Not Recovering from Exercise Like You Used to Here’s What’s Happening

As women go through menopause, many notice that their bodies don’t bounce back from exercise the way they used to in their younger years. This can be frustrating and concerning. Why does a workout leave you sore for days when you used to recover overnight?

There are a few key reasons this happens:

Hormonal Changes

One of the biggest factors is hormonal changes that occur during menopause. Estrogen levels decline rapidly during the menopausal transition. This leads to changes throughout the body that can impact your ability to recover from exercise.

Estrogen plays an important role in muscle repair and regulation of inflammation. With less estrogen, muscles take longer to heal after a tough workout. Researchers also think the inflammation that accompanies muscle damage lingers for longer without sufficient estrogen levels.

Sarcopenia

Another effect of menopausal hormone changes is accelerated loss of muscle mass, which scientists call sarcopenia. All adults lose muscle mass naturally as they age, but this loss spikes for women in their 40s and 50s during perimenopause and menopause.

Having less muscle mass means each workout tears down a greater percentage of your remaining muscle fibers. This leads to more pronounced soreness since more fibers need to regenerate and heal.

Impact on Other Systems

Menopausal hormone shifts also lead to changes in your endocrine system, metabolism, and neurotransmitters that aid post-workout recovery. For example, growth hormone and insulin growth factors produced in the endocrine system enable muscle repair. But the release of these hormones declines with age and drops sharply at menopause, hampering the rebuilding process.

Furthermore, metabolism slows as you age, causing more microscopic muscle damage during exercise when the muscles are stressed by free radicals. This also prolongs inflammation and soreness.

Tips to Recover Faster

While you may not bounce back quite as fast as you did in years past, there are things you can do to ease muscle soreness and recover more quickly:

Go Slow

Ease into workouts if you are just returning to exercise after a break. Gradually increase duration, intensity, weight levels, etc. This gives your body more time to adapt without shocking your muscles.

Prioritize Rest Days

Listen to your body and schedule adequate rest days between workouts. Letting your muscles fully heal and rebuild helps prevent overuse injuries. During recovery time, try gentle activities like walking, stretching or foam rolling.

Refuel Properly

Make sure to eat a balanced diet high in protein, healthy fats and micronutrients. These nutrients repair muscle damage and reduce inflammation. Stay hydrated by drinking water before, during and after exercise.

Use Targeted Supplements

Some supplements may help middle-aged women recover from workouts. Omega-3 fatty acids fight inflammation and repair cells. Collagen peptides provide the building blocks for muscle and connective tissues. Tart cherry juice and curcumin (found in turmeric) also reduce inflammation naturally.

Employ Recovery Techniques

Try foam rolling, massage, cryotherapy chambers, Epsom salt baths or contrast water therapy to improve circulation and ease aches after a challenging workout. Yoga and other gentle, mind-body exercises also promote recovery without further stressing the muscles.

The menopause transition brings many changes that can impact your fitness level and workout recovery. Be patient with yourself and take proactive steps to help your body bounce back faster. Over time, you can adapt your exercise routine so you continue benefitting from regular activity even as hormones shift.

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