A specific interval training program can help lose menopausal excess weight and build muscle in as little as two months, a study suggests.
Autor: Dr. med. W. Tönnes
Sprint – and stay lean and fit after menopause!
Many women tend to gain excess weight and lose fitness after menopause. At the same time, there is an increased loss of muscle with an accelerated increase in fat mass. Consequently, this also increases the risk of common chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease.
Researchers at the University of New South Wales found in April 2019 that a particular exercise program – interval sprinting on a fitness bike three times a week – led to significant health improvements after just two months. The consequences of menopause described above (obesity and muscle loss) did not occur or were reversed.
The training program
The training lasted only 20 minutes each time, so in total it was no more than 8 hours in the two months with great results. However, for the warm-up and for the cool-down, 8 minutes of moderate cycling were added in each case.
“Interval sprinting is an extremely efficient type of training that has quite a few health benefits,” said study leader Dr. Yati Boutcher. After warming up, participants cycle for 20 minutes at the following rate:
8 seconds of sprinting (cycling as fast as you can), then 12 seconds of moderate cycling, then 8 seconds of sprinting again, 12 seconds of moderate cycling, 8 seconds of sprinting, and so on – until the 20 minutes are up.
Already after two months 0.7 kg muscle gain
Participants in the study were 40 overweight women, all of whom were already in menopause. Until then, they had all led a predominantly sedentary lifestyle. Half of them took part in the training, the other half did not.
In the sprinter group, the women gained 0.7 kg of muscle mass in their legs and lost 0.4 kg of body fat in just two months – after only 8 hours of total training time. At the same time, their fitness improved by 12 percent.
Interval sprints build more muscle than strength training
“The increase in muscle mass equates to 86 grams of muscle gain per hour of training, which exceeds even the muscle gain of strength training, which generally results in muscle gain of only 40 grams per hour for menopausal women,” Dr. Boutcher said.
“Of course, the training must not be stopped again after the two months, because then the muscle mass immediately decreases again. Therefore, training three times a week simply has to be part of the normal weekly schedule from now on.”
Of course, the training described helps not only women in menopause, but also young women and men, regardless of whether they are overweight or normal weight – as previous studies by Dr. Boutcher’s team have shown. In this group of people, too, interval sprinting on the fitness bike helped with continuous muscle gain and fat loss.
- Daniel Zhang et al, Cardiovascular response of postmenopausal women to 8 weeks of sprint interval training, European Journal of Applied Physiology (2019).
- University of New South Wales, Eight hours of interval sprinting can reverse negative effects of menopause, April 18, 2019.