Today I want to answer the question: Is exercise beneficial during the Menopause?
I know what you are thinking! I am a Personal Trainer and have built my career around exercise so of course the answer is yes. Exercise is ALWAYS beneficial. They key question is WHY?
The ACSM has published a paper titled ‘Exercise Through Menopause’ and I would like to share it’s findings with you.
‘Studies have shown that women who are physically active may have fewer and milder vasomotor symptoms.’ Such symptoms include hot flushes, sweating, dizziness, palpitations, sleeplessness / early morning awakenings.
‘Regular exercise has a significant and positive impact on mood, regardless of age…..exercise may provide valuable stress release. ‘research has also shown that regular exercise if effective in the treatment of depression’
Another benefit of exercise is aesthetics. Although I do not agree with exercising to look good, it can really help with self esteem and confidence issues as you start to age.
‘Regular cardiovascular exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, to lower blood pressure…..and prevent weight gain.’ As oestrogen decreases regular exercise can step in to improve cardiovascular health and well as stamina and weight management.
Not convinced yet? Ok we will keep going!
‘One out of every two women over the age of 50 will have an osteoporotic fracture in her lifetime’
I just want to let that sink in for a moment. That is HALF of all women who are typically menopausal WILL suffer a fracture.
Peak bone mass happens at 25 years old and this decreases year by year. It picks
up speed after 35 and during the 5 years post menopause ‘accelerates to about 2-3% per year’ Typically women do not partake in any resistance training at this age and so do nothing to slow down this decline.
‘Estrogen plays a critical role in bone remodelling so hormonal changes at menopause can significantly affect bone health.’
It is worth noting that studies suggest that weight bearing exercises stimulate increases in bone mineral density (BMD) right up to Pre-Menopause. Research is limited but does suggest an active menopausal woman isn’t likely to increase BMD but can preserve her current bone mass and delay the rate of loss.
Sarcopenia is associated with a decline in muscles strength, physical activity and energy expenditure.
Basically the more lean muscle you have the more calories your body burns naturally everyday. Lose muscles mass but eat the same amount of calories and all of a sudden your body has extra calories it no longer needs to conventionality store around your abdomen. This results in weight gain.
Research suggests that ‘weight gain after menopause is more likely in women who are sedentary than in women who maintain a physically active lifestyle.’
You know me I don’t like to talk about problems unless I have a solution!
A generally active lifestyle is key! How can you move more in your everyday life? Park further away from the shop, take the stairs instead of the lift, walk to the shops rather than drive, set an alarm so you don’t sit for prolonged periods at home, when the alarm sounds walk around, go upstairs, potter in the garden.
Exercise wise a well rounded programme (ideally personalised to your own needs) is crucial.
‘A well rounded programme should include aerobic conditioning (including weight bearing exercises) strength and flexibility training, enjoyable recreational activities and pelvic floor exercises.’ (Pelvic Floor work gets its own blog post!)
Although not a fan of the go hard or go home principal you do need to be challenging your body, putting it under stress (to build that lean muscle) getting out of breath (to work that heart and keep it healthy) It is important to remember that you might need a slow progression and starting off easy is crucial, especially of you are not used to such exercise.
‘Exercise Through Menopause’ by Robyn M. Stuhr, MA
Taken from the ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal
Part 2-What does a Menopausal Exercise Programme look like?
In my next blog I will share with you ideas of how to build an ideal, well balanced exercise programme which will serve you in Post Menopause and beyond!