The effects of age + menopause on our pelvic floor

Author: Mish Wright

December 8, 2020

Gravity and time affect us all. We see this in our skin, as a natural part of ageing. The saggy and thinning effect on the outside, is equally reflected on the inside. Now add into this mix the hormone upheaval of menopause. For many women who managed the whole saga of childbirth and lifting babies, menopause is often the straw that breaks the camel’s back.  

For the 50% of women who experience prolapse statistically; they are most likely to do so during this changed hormone environment of menopause.

The main hormonal changes that come during menopause, is the decline of estrogen. Estrogen is responsible for elasticity and repair of our tissues. Estrogen decline is not only responsible for wrinkles, but also our loss of bone density. Weight training is essential for all older women to ensure strong bones for the later stages of life.

You will know that one of the wonderful benefits of weight training is how it improves bone density. Older women are disproportionately affected by osteopenia and its much more dangerous older sister, osteoporosis.  

Therefore, it is essential that older women engage in weight bearing exercise. But not at the expense of their pelvic floor!

Most fitness programs have been designed on men, by men, for men. They simply don’t accommodate the changing hormones in your life cycle of pregnancy, post-natal and menopause.

If your client has a prolapse or a weak pelvic floor, it is essential that you encourage them to visit their local pelvic health physio to get the right diagnosis. Follow up this appointment and find out everything you can to ensure your program design is adhering to the recommendations of the allied health professional.

However, here are 3 simple ways to help mitigate risk:

  1. Train in the morning. The pelvic floor rests overnight – due to lack of weight bearing from gravity that happens across the day. You may encourage “time off your feet” to allow recovery following a strong weightlifting session. Keep asking questions – your client will be your best guide as to what works and the effects of weight lifting on their pelvic floor
  2. Bridge is your best friend. There are so many exercises that can be performed in bridge position and it has two-fold benefit. Firstly, encourage squeezing glutes to keep the bridge position. Strong glutes = better functioning pelvic floor. 

Secondly, with high hips, the pelvic floor is being supported by gravity. Get creative!

  1. mishfit® 1,2,3 rule. Great posture, exhale on exertion and pelvic floor awareness are the building blocks to all exercise cues. This is covered in depth in this education.

Did you know that prolapse is also hereditary? Ask your clients, if their mother / aunt / grandmother experienced prolapse. This may make their chance higher still. Asking these questions is not about scaring clients but enabling them to understand their particular set of risk factors. And you, as their trainer, can plan better programs to mitigate that risk.

The skills to training older women effectively should absolutely be in your trainer tool kit.  This is a population too big to ignore. Understanding their needs, mitigating risk and showing your awareness around these issues are the simple ways to keep your client’s injury free and committed to you as their trainer.

To find out more information on building your trainers toolkit when working with older women – click here.

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Blog distributed by: Michelle Wright

Michelle Wright

Writer. Educator. Speaker.

As an avid writer, I contribute articles to many online and print publications. I am also regularly invited to speak at fitness conventions and business events.

I have created many independent courses in both women’s health and business. My own personal journey led me from teaching (B.Ed and Dip Teach) to the fitness industry, first as a group fitness instructor/personal trainer and then creating and running the award winning fitness franchise, mishfit®.

I created the Women’s Health & Fitness Summit in 2014 and grew it to be a two-day event held at beautiful venues such as Crown, RACV and The Grand Hyatt. This event hosted the most revered and respected women’s health and fitness presenters and trainers from around the world and was attended by hundreds of women. Many returning every year.

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