menopause unmuted: Building Muscle, Bone Strength, and Confidence With Strength Training

Many women are intimidated by strength training, but it's a great way to build muscle and bone strength—especially in middle age.
Strength Training: Building Muscle, Bone Strength, and Confidence

Sponsored by Pfizer, Inc.

Ever wonder how to incorporate strength training into your fitness routine, especially if you are in your midlife years? No, we aren’t talking about bulking up, nor do you necessarily need to join a gym. Pfizer’s podcast, “menopause: unmuted,” has dropped bonus episodes explaining facts and common misconceptions about this stage in our lives. One episode, A Strong Menopause, explains why strength training is essential for midlife women and gives some tips on how to get started.

It’s Never Too Late

woman strength training

In a recent podcast episode of “menopause: unmuted,” titled A Strong Menopause, personal trainer and online strength coach Susan Niebergall talks with host Dr. Mary Jane Minkin about how strength training helps support women in midlife.

Women begin losing muscle mass and bone density in their 30s, accelerating during perimenopause and menopause. As part of a regular fitness regimen, strength and resistance training can help improve muscle mass and bone density and help build self-confidence.

“Our priority should be leading a functional life for as long as we can,” Niebergall emphasizes. Facing the same life challenges herself at age 62, Niebergall is passionate about inspiring other women in midlife to get fit, in part by getting stronger. “It’s never too late,” she says.

How to Start Strength Training 

Senior woman exercising at home

Some women may focus almost exclusively on cardio activities to stay fit. While this gives their hearts and lungs a good workout and burns calories, it may not help their bones. To help improve bone health and density, Niebergall encourages women to add some weight-bearing exercises into their fitness routines. That might sound a bit daunting at first, but there are simple activities you can do that are weight-bearing – even from the comfort of your own home.

Only some people are ready to pick up a set of weights and start lifting right off. Some who have no background in strength training will feel more comfortable starting with their own body weight. 

In the podcast episode, Niebergall shares functional and approachable ways to exercise using your body weight in the comfort of your own home. She takes you step-by-step through the proper ways to do the exercises and discusses how to get the most out of the workout. It’s about challenging your body to get stronger. And as it does, continue adding weight, whether by involving more of your body or items around the home if you don’t have dumbbells.

Consider a Trainer or Group Classes

Working arms at the gym

Nibergall also recommends working with a personal trainer or attending group classes at a gym to have a knowledgeable person guiding you to ensure you work out safely and effectively for your goals. 

She points out that group classes are not the same as going to the weight section of the gym and lifting weights, but they help you stay accountable and provide a social aspect. In fact, that’s how she started on her personal strength training journey.

Niebergall advises against enrolling in any program or hiring any trainer that advocates quick fixes or gimmicky solutions. “There’s only one way to build muscle mass and bone density through strength training,” she says, “and that’s with consistency and hard work.”

But there’s hard work, and then there’s too much work. “At first, I thought the more I strength trained, the better,” Niebergall says. “You know, if I worked out four days a week, then six must be even better. But with strength training, more is not better. Better is better.”

She continues, “Three to four days of strength training is plenty to get any kind of results you want, as long as on those three to four days, you are working hard, you’re pushing yourself. Strength training is not supposed to tickle. It’s supposed to be challenging and even borderline uncomfortable. Just uncomfortable. That’s very different from pain.”

Building Confidence

Women in midlife may find it difficult to change long-term habits and begin an exercise routine or expand an existing routine to include strength and resistance training. It can be especially intimidating for women to start strength training when already coping with body changes that are leading to a loss of confidence.

Niebergall and Dr. Minkin conclude that by reframing their exercise goals to building strength and maintaining good body function – rather than focusing on weight loss or achieving a particular body shape – midlife women will find that strength training can be tremendously empowering and confidence-building.

Keep in mind that this is just one of the bonus episodes you can listen to for information on menopause. Check out our previous article on A Nourishing Menopause, and keep an eye out for future reviews of this podcast here, including our thoughts on:

Until then, you can listen to “A Strong Menopause” by clicking on the image below and check out the other episodes of “menopause: unmuted” to help demystify the experience of menopause.

Menopause unmuted podcast logo




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