If you have been scouring the internet and questioning your friends about how to get through this period of life known as menopause, we suggest you take a walk. In fact, take lots of walks. That’s because study after study—and now a new one appearing in Nurse Practitioner Open Journal—reports the benefits of walking to relieve various symptoms of menopause.
Let’s talk about walking
First of all, there are many ways to walk. You can saunter, speed walk, use a pedometer, walk with a friend or group, do intervals, use a treadmill, do Nordic walking, walk up hills, Korean walking exercise (SaBang Dolgi), and more. See, walking doesn’t have to be boring!
Before we talk about the benefits of walking for the menopause years, let’s do a quick review of some guidelines for walking. For example:
- Walk with your head up, neck and shoulders relaxed, and your back straight, not arched forward or backward.
- Swing your arms freely with your elbows slightly bent.
- Keep your stomach muscles slightly tightened.
- Keep your gait smooth, rolling on your feet from heel to toe.
- Wear shoes with an adequate arch, thick flexible soles, and a firm heel.
- Warm up by stretching or walking slowly for 5 minutes before walking and then cool down after your walk by walking slowly or stretching for 5 minutes.
- Walk at least four times a week, and preferably more.
Latest walking study in menopausal women
According to the latest review in Nurse Practitioner Open Journal, a total of 495 women older than 45 years participated in six studies from five different countries. Four types of walking programs were evaluated:
- Conventional walking with a gradual increase in intensity and defined warm-up and cool-down periods.
- Nordic walking, which involves using poles that engage the arm muscles to help more the body forward.
- Pedometer walking, in which individuals keep track of their steps during the day, walking in a variety of situations, striving for at least 10,000 steps daily.
- SaBang-Dolgi, a traditional Korean walking exercise that resembles a structured dance and utilizes the entire body.
The reviewers found that walking with a pedometer provided the best relief of menopausal symptoms, including depression, sleep quality, and improved blood dilation. However, all of the walking practices left menopausal women feeling better.
Walking, sleep, and menopause
Are you having sleep problems? Insomnia and other sleep disturbances are common in perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause, and walking may help. In a study of 112 postmenopausal women, half participated in a walking program for 12 weeks, while the other half did not. Those in the intervention group used a pedometer and were asked to increase the number of steps by 500 per week.
At the end of the 12 weeks, those in the walking group showed a significant improvement over the control group in sleep quality, duration, efficiency, and disturbances, as well as in use of sleep medication and dysfunction during the day.
Bone health, walking, and menopause
The word “osteoporosis” can be hard to hear from your doctor, but walking can help with bone density and bone health. One recent study looked at the impact of brisk walking and tai chi on bone mineral density among perimenopausal women.
After 48 weeks of participating in either of these two exercise routines, it was shown that brisk walking significantly improved bone mineral density at the femoral neck, and that the improvement was still apparent 4 and 8 weeks after the women stopped exercising.
Walking, blood sugar, and menopause
The risk of pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes are a concern among women in the menopause years. This is often associated with problems with insulin resistance, which is when the body’s cells don’t respond well to insulin and so they don’t take in glucose from the blood. The result is higher blood sugar levels.
A February 2022 study found that walking for as little as 2 to 5 minutes after a meal can lower blood sugar levels. Researchers report that walking and other exercise helps boost insulin sensitivity, which makes the body more efficient at managing blood glucose. Take that walk between 60 and 90 minutes after eating to reap the best results.
Walking, brain health, and menopause
Brain fog and memory problems are some of the brain health issues women experience in menopause. Walking may help you improve your brain health. In a recent study, experts showed that walking can help improve cognitive function and memory.
Compared with people who participated in a dance or stretching and balancing program three times a week for six months, those who walked for 40 minutes three times a week showed the greatest improvement in memory and white matter. White matter is the part of the brain that connects other areas of the brain and transmits signals.
Walking is one of the easiest and most convenient exercises you can do, and the benefits for women in menopause can be amazing. So slip into some walking shoes and take a walk for your brain, heart, bones, and overall health.