Sarcopenia (the loss of muscle mass) can start to manifest in some women from as early as 30 years old. From the age of 50 muscle is lost at a rate of 10-15% per decade. Once women start to enter the menopause, we often see changes in tendon properties due to a drop in oestrogen, which can lead to a greater risk of developing overuse tendon-related disorders.
Weight gain is invariably one of the most unwanted side-effects of the menopause. It’s important to recognise that some weight gain is normal, but in excess it is a risk factor for heart disease and associated conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type-2 diabetes. It can be harder to shift weight because the post-menopausal metabolism requires fewer calories due to a decline in lean body mass, so it’s necessary to adjust our intake of food accordingly.
The risks of cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and low bone-mineral density (osteoporosis) increase post menopause. Osteoporosis often goes undiagnosed until it’s too late and a fracture occurs after a fall.
The post-menopausal female athlete is still faced with the ‘load recovery paradox.’ (Load that is safely managed may result in improved athletic capacity and performance, and injury and illness risk reduction.)
Strength and resistance training has been shown to mitigate all these conditions to some extent. It will help to maintain and build muscle, raise metabolism, strengthen tendons and slow down the effects of osteoporosis. Coupled with heavy resistance training, plyometric exercises and balance work, strength training can aid with the prevention of many menopausal side effects.
How will hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) be beneficial?
Incorporating HBOT into the training and health regime of a post-menopausal female athlete will help maintain the training levels necessary to offset the unwanted effects of the drops in oestrogen (especially if coupled with HRT). The increased oxygen delivery coupled with better blood flow and increased healing capabilities allows connective tissues to recover faster and re-gain lost function resulting in better, longer and stronger performances from the female athlete.