Diet & Exercise in Post-Menopause

The study titled “Effects of combined dietary intervention and physical-cognitive exercise on cognitive function and cardiometabolic health of postmenopausal women with obesity: a randomised controlled trial“, conducted by Puntarik Keawtep and colleagues, provides valuable insights into the health benefits of proper nutrition and strength training for postmenopausal women. This research, published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity in March 2024, explores the comparative effects of diet, exercise, and their combination on cognition and cardiometabolic health in postmenopausal women with obesity.

Study Overview

The study involved ninety-two postmenopausal women with obesity, randomly assigned to one of four groups: a diet group (intermittent fasting 2 days/week for 3 months), an exercise group (physical-cognitive exercise 3 days/week for 3 months), a combined group receiving both interventions, or a control group. The primary outcomes measured were executive functions, memory, and plasma Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) levels. Secondary outcomes included global cognition, attention, language domain, plasma adiponectin levels, IL-6 levels, metabolic parameters, and physical function.

Key Findings

The findings revealed that after the 3-month intervention, both the exercise and combined groups showed significant improvements in memory, accompanied by increases in plasma BDNF level, insulin levels, HOMA-IR, lower body fat percentage, and muscle strength compared to controls. Notably, only the combined intervention group exhibited significant enhancements in executive function and increased plasma adiponectin levels. Surprisingly, the diet group did not show cognitive improvements. However, reductions in cholesterol levels were observed in both the diet and combined groups compared to controls.

Conclusions and Implications

The study concludes that a combined approach of physical-cognitive exercise and dietary intervention holds promise for improving cognition and addressing obesity-related complications in postmenopausal women with obesity. These findings underscore the importance of integrating both dietary and physical-cognitive exercise interventions for enhancing cognitive function and cardiometabolic health in this population.

Recommended Strength Training Programme

To optimise the benefits of strength training for postmenopausal women, as highlighted by the study on the combined effects of dietary intervention and physical-cognitive exercise, a detailed periodised strength training programme is essential. This programme aims to improve muscle strength, bone density, and overall health, addressing the specific needs of postmenopausal women.

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Detailed Periodised Strength Training Programme

Phase 1: Anatomical Adaptation (4-6 weeks)

  • Objective: Prepare the body for heavier loads by improving muscular endurance and technique.
  • Frequency: 2-3 sessions per week.
    Intensity: 50-60% of 1 Rep Max (RM).
  • Volume: 2-3 sets of 12-15 repetitions.
    Exercises: Full body workouts focusing on major muscle groups (squats, lunges, push-ups, rows, and core exercises).

Phase 2: Hypertrophy (6-8 weeks)

  • Objective: Increase muscle size, which contributes to overall strength.
  • Frequency: 3-4 sessions per week, splitting between upper and lower body.
  • Intensity: 65-75% of 1RM.
  • Volume: 3-4 sets of 8-12 repetitions.
  • Exercises: Progress from bodyweight to free weights and machines, incorporating variety to target muscles differently (e.g., deadlifts, bench press, leg press).

Phase 3: Strength (6-8 weeks)

  • Objective: Maximise muscle strength without significantly increasing size.
  • Frequency: 3-4 sessions per week with at least one day of rest between sessions.
  • Intensity: 75-85% of 1RM.
  • Volume: 3-5 sets of 4-6 repetitions.
  • Exercises: Focus on compound movements (e.g., squats, deadlifts, overhead press) and incorporate plyometrics for power.

Phase 4: Power (4-6 weeks)

  • Objective: Develop the ability to exert maximal force in minimal time.
  • Frequency: 2-3 sessions per week.
  • Intensity: Use lighter weights for explosive movements, 50-70% of 1RM for power exercises.
  • Volume: 2-3 sets of 3-5 repetitions for power exercises, maintaining strength with 2-3 sets of 6-8 repetitions.
  • Exercises: Include plyometric exercises (e.g., jump squats, medicine ball throws) and Olympic lifts if technique allows.

Phase 5: Maintenance (Ongoing)

  • Objective: Maintain the gains achieved throughout the previous phases.
  • Frequency: 2 sessions per week.
  • Intensity: Varies based on goals, alternating between hypertrophy and strength intensities.
  • Volume: 2-3 sets of 6-12 repetitions.
  • Exercises: A mix of exercises from all phases to maintain variety and engagement.

The study conducted by Keawtep and colleagues illuminates the profound impact of combined dietary and physical-cognitive exercise interventions on the cognitive function and cardiometabolic health of postmenopausal women with obesity. It underscores the necessity of a holistic approach to health and wellness in this demographic, highlighting the synergistic benefits of integrating both nutritional strategies and targeted exercise regimens.

This research not only contributes valuable insights into the specific health needs of postmenopausal women but also serves as a clarion call for fitness professionals to adopt a more nuanced and comprehensive approach to designing fitness programmes for this group. By embracing the principles of periodised strength training, as outlined above, fitness professionals can significantly enhance the quality of life for postmenopausal women, empowering them to achieve improved cognitive function, better cardiometabolic health, and overall wellbeing.

The findings from this study advocate for a paradigm shift in how we approach fitness and nutrition in the postmenopausal phase. The detailed periodised strength training programme provided offers a practical blueprint for fitness professionals to follow, ensuring that postmenopausal women can not only navigate this phase with confidence but thrive with improved mental acuity, physical strength, and metabolic health.


Keawtep, P., Sungkarat, S., Boripuntakul, S., Sa-nguanmoo, P., & colleagues (2024). Effects of combined dietary intervention and physical-cognitive exercise on cognitive function and cardiometabolic health of postmenopausal women with obesity: a randomised controlled trial. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 21(1). Click here to review the full research article.

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