Antonietta Vicario is a mover & educator, mother, cancer survivor, and life-lover. Once a professional dancer, she transitioned into a career in fitness and is currently the VP of Talent and Training at P.volve, a functional movement-based fitness method that integrates physical therapy-inspired exercises with resistance-based equipment to strengthen the body and correct musculoskeletal imbalance. She collaborates with a Clinical Advisory Board of medical experts to create science-backed workouts that meet members’ needs, including movement interventions to mitigate the symptoms of menopause created in partnership with Elektra Health.
Where are you in your hormonal health journey?
Postmenopause. I am a two time Hodgkin’s Lymphoma cancer survivor and underwent a Stem Cell Transplant in 2017 that sent me into early menopause at age thirty-eight. I am currently on hormone replacement therapy, and I integrate movement, mindfulness, and nutrition to maintain muscle, retain bone and heart health, and keep in check with stress levels, keeping my body strong and resilient.
We know menopause can be challenging, but it can also be funny, enlightening, liberating, energizing, and more. Do you have an anecdote or reflection that shows another side of menopause, beyond what we’re conditioned to “fear” as women?
The more I dive into the science of how movement and exercise can help mitigate some of the natural loss we as women experience over forty—loss in muscle mass, bone density, and pelvic floor integrity—the more empowered I feel. It’s enlightening to arm yourself with knowledge and information so there is less to fear and less “unknowns” about this process.
I am absolutely living my best life now and wouldn’t want to go back to my twenties and thirties. I know who I am and have this confidence and glow that comes from the wisdom I’ve gained through my life experiences. So much of what society consumes equates youth to beauty, and that is just absolute nonsense! I feel like my menopause transition has empowered me to become even more detached from those patriarchal ideas of beauty, and I just move with so much more swagger now!
So much of what society consumes equates youth to beauty, and that is just absolute nonsense!
Have you made any major changes to your routine at any point in your menopause journey?
Naturally, I’ve made a ton of changes in how I approach exercise like incorporating heavier weights to retain muscle mass and more impact exercises to strengthen my heart and stimulate my bones. I knew I had slight osteopenia as a result of my chemotherapy and radiation, so I had to double down with impact and weight-bearing exercise. I also started supplementing differently.
Taking “routine” in a different direction, I have started to try more things outside of my comfort zone like surfing, rock climbing, and skydiving. I’ve become more inclined to say yes to new experiences and change up my routine as this transition (among other factors) taught me that there is no better time than the present.
In your role at P.volve, you’re working on some exciting upcoming menopause programming. What’s your advice for women going through menopause when it comes to fitness?
My biggest advice for women going through menopause is to know that there are many strategies to help them manage symptoms and address bodily needs and changes. Diving into information can really help you feel more in control and that you are working with your body, not against it.
Prioritizing lifting heavy weights and not feeling intimidated by this kind of exercise is so important, as we naturally lose 2% muscle mass year over year after forty! Heavy weights will help keep muscle on the body, increasing our resting metabolic rate and thwarting body composition changes.
Understanding and incorporating pelvic floor exercise can help prevent pelvic prolapse, incontinence, hypertonicity, and can improve one’s comfort during sex. Multi-directional plyometrics adds necessary stimulus to the body to help with bone density, managing blood sugar, and brain health by increasing blood flow into our brain receptors.
Also, prioritizing breath work and stretching can dramatically shift one’s relationship to insomnia, mood swings, and even hot flashes.
There are just so many ways that movement helps relieve common menopause symptoms
For many women, menopause is a journey filled with both physical and mental shifts and challenges. What are some preventative ways women can use fitness to relieve common menopause symptoms like muscle mass loss and mindset or mood changes?
Fitness can play such a pivotal role in mitigating some of the symptoms of menopause and flip the script on this life transition. As I mentioned earlier, lifting heavier weights builds muscle to offset natural muscle mass loss which slows down metabolism and it just feels so empowering to be able to lift heavy load!
Our bodies respond to shorter bursts of higher intensity so prioritizing 45-60 seconds of high intensity movements interspersed throughout a workout can help maintain bone density, improve blood sugar levels, and even improve cognition and memory. The thing to remember here is that we don’t want to spike too much cortisol, which can further rob the body of much needed estrogen and lead to inflammation, so short sessions of about 20 minutes of cardio is all you need when alternating between all-out sprints and recovery.
This works out perfectly, since women in this life stage are often juggling career, family, and prioritizing their own needs. You can get a lot of benefit by pushing to your max for a shorter duration. Breathing and mindfulness techniques can help stimulate our parasympathetic nervous system, our rest and digest response, to lower stress and cortisol in the body which may help with sleep, reducing inflammation, and weight maintenance.
All in all, there are just so many ways that movement helps relieve common menopause symptoms, so I hope everyone in this community checks out the program we built that addresses everything I’ve mentioned.