Exercise is a menopausal woman’s best friend. It allows a woman to control her body and emotions using her own internal resources. It’s no wonder regular physical activity is promoted as a preventive measure against cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes and bone loss for all menopausal women.
Young women may experience a variety of symptoms during the perimenopause years (lasting between 4 to 10 years), including hot flashes, night sweats, sleep issues, mood swings, anxiety, weight gain, depression, and irritability. Two of the most concerning effects of having premature menopause according to the medical profession, is the increase in risk for cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. These symptoms individually or combined can severely impact a woman’s quality of life as she gets older. However the good news is that exercise can often help reduce some of the more serious side effects of menopause.
Changes Associated with Oestrogen Deficiency
- Vasomotor: Hot flushes, dizziness, palpitations, night sweats
- Urogenital: Vaginal dryness, soreness, incontinence, increased urinary frequency and urgency
- Connective tissue: Aches and pains and skin changes
- Psychological: Up to 50 per cent of women experience altered mood, anxiety, fatigue or loss of drive
- Body shape: Weight gain with fat distribution shifting more towards the mid-section (risk of heart disease)
- Musculoskeletal changes: Increase in weight, decreased muscle mass and bone density (risk of osteoporosis)
The Role of Physical Activity
Exercise during perimenopause is particularly important because as your oestrogen drops, belly fat gradually accumulates, heart disease risk rises, bone loss occurs and muscle atrophy begins to accelerates. Exercise is therefore your preventative cure. Having a regular exercise routine can counteract the plummeting oestrogen levels, by tightening and toning common trouble spots along with weight bearing exercises which strengthen bones and muscles, and cardio to your raise heart rate.
5 Important Fitness Goals
The benefits of exercise during and after menopause include:
- Preventing weight gain. Women tend to lose muscle mass and gain abdominal fat around menopause and regular exercising can help prevent weight gain
- Reducing the risk of cancer. Exercise during and after menopause can help you lose excess weight or maintain a healthy weight, which might offer protection from various types of cancer, including breast, colon and endometrial cancer.
- Strengthening your bones. Exercise can slow bone loss after menopause, which lowers the risk of fractures and osteoporosis
- Reducing the risk of other diseases. Menopause weight gain can have serious implications for your health. Excess weight increases the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Regular exercise can counter these risks.
- Boosting your mood.Physically active adults have a lower risk of depression and cognitive decline
The Most Effective Exercises
Regular targeted exercise can play an important role during menopause by maintaining fitness, assisting with weight management, toning muscle, decreasing musculoskeletal complications and boosting morale and mood.
In line with Australian physical activity recommendations, Exercise Right recommends;
- 150 to 300 minutes (2 ½ to 5 hours) of moderate activity or
- 75 to 150 minutes (1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours) of vigorous intensity physical activity,
- or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week.
Menopause weight gain can have serious implications for your health. Excess weight increases the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Regular exercise can counter these risks.
Aerobic activities use large muscle groups which help you burn fat. So performing any cardiovascular activity that causes you to elevate your heart rate and break a sweat– e.g. walking, jogging,aerobic classes, biking, and swimming. My favourite is high intensity interval training or HIIT. I usually do 30 minutes of intense aerobic activity in the form of burst training, as well HIIT weight sessions several times a week. It’s recommended a minimum of 30 minutes a day, five days a week (or 150 minutes) per week for best sustainable results.
Body strengthening training is especially vital as osteoporosis risk significantly increases following menopause (estrogen is needed to help lay down bone), strength.
Benefits of weight training includes:
- A strong body increases your self-esteem
- Helps naturally balance hormones
- Helps build and maintain your muscle mass (preventing weight gain)
- Strengthens your bones to combat osteoporosis
- Burn body fat, and rev your metabolism
Incorprating a nutritious diet in your fitness goals is also vital because you can’t outrun a bad diet
Menopause exercise program
Follow this simple workout program:
- Keep exercise level at a moderate intensity (target heart rate = 50%–70% )
- Add cardiovascular workouts such as; jogging, cycling, swimming using interval training
- Include regular meditation sessions to help with sleep and emotional balance
- Add resistance training and Pilates to increase bone mineral density and help maintain a healthy weight
- For the best results it’s generally recommended you exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes a day 5 days a week
- Create fun, interactive, social situations to help keep you focused on your fitness goals
- A healthy nutritious diet cutting out unnessary sugars and refined foods needs to be incorporated in your fitness goal
Always speak to your doctor to help you manage the changing needs of your body.
Mind Body Pleasure ♥
IDEA Fitness Journal, November–December 2012 issue