How exercise can help with the menopause

The menopause is the end of egg production (ovulation) and a woman is considered post-menopausal a year after her last period. This occurs as a result of falling levels of the female sex hormone oestrogen.

Symptoms

About 80% of women will experience symptoms leading up to the menopause.
These may include:

  • Hot flushes and night sweats
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Vaginal symptoms
  • Urinary symptoms
  • Irregular/changed periods
  • Mood swings
  • Depression

Without treatment, most menopausal symptoms gradually stop naturally. This usually happens two to five years after the symptoms start, although some women experience symptoms for many more years.

So why is exercise important?

During the menopause oestrogen levels fall, calcium levels drop and bone demineralisation accelerates (bone mass losses of 3-5% can occur in women). A loss of bone mineral density can lead to osteoporosis and every 3 minutes someone suffers a fracture due to osteoporosis.

Other health risks exacerbated by a combination of the menopause and low level of activity are:

  • heart disease[1]
  • stroke
  • hypertension
  • reduced physical function

The first bit of good news is that  a new study has shown that the menopause does not put you at higher risk of developing diabetes[2] as once thought.
The second bit of good news is that many of the symptoms and risks of the menopause can be reduced by different types of exercise. Doing short, frequent sessions of weight-bearing exercise can reduce the risk of osteoporosis (older adults who exercise at least one hour every day reduce the risk of fracturing their hip by 50%). Cardiovascular/Aerobic exercise can help with heart disease, hot flushes and night sweats whilst a class such as yoga can help with mood swings and sleep disturbances.

Your main aim should be to build up to 30 minutes of moderate exercise activity on 5 or more days of the week. This is any exercise (walking, jogging, dancing, aerobic or circuit training, cycling,swimming) where you get warmer, breath faster and have an elevated heart rate.  It could be something as simple as doing step-ups on your stairs or marching around the garden/park  (remember to swing the arms, the more muscles working the more energy is burnt). The goal is to get the heart rate up but you should still be able to talk.  You could start with doing 3 episodes of 10 minutes a day.

Strength training can be done using resistance machines or weights if you are a member of a gym, dynabands or bodyweight if you prefer to exercise outside or at home or in the pool at a class such as aqua aerobics. Ideally strength training should be undertaken up to 3 times per week on non-consecutive days.

In the next few weeks I will be posting more blogs about how to do both dynaband and body weight exercises at home or outside. By subscribing to this blog you will be informed of any new articles. You will not receive any spam email.

[1] Menopause and cardiovascular disease: the evidence

[2] Does Menopause Matter When It Comes to Diabetes?

If you have any questions on this article, or any questions about exercise and the over-50s please post a comment.

For more information on Personal Training please go here Whole Life Fitness, Personal Training for the over-50s This will open a new browser window.

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