It’s no secret that staying physically active is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, but why is exercise especially important during menopause? Grab a cup of green or herbal tea and spend a few minutes with us as we talk about moving your way through your hormonal changes.
Welcome to menopause
As women transition into menopause, various symptoms that started during perimenopause or that are new become a part of daily life. Vasomotor symptoms (VMS), also known as hot flashes and night sweats, are the most common ones. Others that often top the list are weight gain, mood swings, increase in body fat, sleep problems, and decline in bone density.
Lifestyle changes are among the safest and most natural ways to help alleviate or cope with menopausal challenges. Along with making wise food choices, many women find relief when they engage in various types of exercise.
Exercise and hot flashes
You might think that getting sweaty wouldn’t help with hot flashes, but it does. According to the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation and other research covering women’s health in midlife, women who engaged in exercise daily were 49 percent less likely to report hot flashes during follow-up. On the flip side, women who participated in less exercise were more likely to experience hot flashes.
Exercise and weight gain
Sometimes it seems that menopause is synonymous with gaining weight, but you can take steps to prevent those extra pounds from appearing. The tendency is for women to lose muscle mass and gain abdominal fat when hormonal changes kick in. Engaging in regular physical activity can help put the brakes on weight gain.
Keep in mind you may need to slightly increase the amount of exercise you do around menopause compared with your previous activity level to achieve weight loss. Generally, the recommendation from the US Department of Health and Human Services is for adults to engage in 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise every week plus one to two sessions of strength training.
Exercise and mood
Don’t get grumpy when you think about exercising. You can turn your frown upside down once you become physically active. Research has shown repeatedly that exercise can boost mood, which is a good thing given that mood swings, irritability, and depression are common among women in perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopause.
Exercise and risk of cancer
Engaging in exercise during and after menopause can help you drop those excess pounds that can contribute to cancer risk. Exercise also aids in maintaining a healthy weight, which may help protect against cancer of the colon, breast, and endometrium.
Exercise and bone health
Weight-bearing exercise can slow bone loss after menopause. This in turn reduces the risk of fractures and developing osteoporosis.
Which exercise to do during menopause
To help keep up your enthusiasm about exercise and provide your body with the best possible combination of physical activity during menopause, mix it up! Four categories of exercise you should put into your weekly schedule are cardio (running, walking, jogging, biking, swimming, tennis, gardening), strength training (lifting weights), posture and balance training, and stretching.
- Cardiovascular training may include interval (sprinting alternated with a moderate pace) or circuit training (alternating between different cardiovascular activities, such as cycling, jogging, and tennis). Have fun three to four times a week for 20 to 30 minutes per session.
- We begin to lose about 1 percent of muscle mass every year beginning around age 30, so the earlier you begin strength training the better. Even if you never lifted weights or used resistance bands before, it’s not too late to start, but consult an expert to be sure you do the exercises that are best for you. Add a short routine at least twice a week to help reduce body fat and build strength.
- Exercises that promote posture, balance, and core strength should be done once or twice a week. Yoga, tai chi, planks, Pilates, and dance can be helpful as well as great fun. A simple balance exercise is standing on one foot while brushing your teeth or watching TV.
- Take frequent stretching breaks during the day, especially if you sit behind a desk much of the day. You should also stretch both before and after any other exercise routines.
Exercise during menopause is especially important because it can help you alleviate symptoms, including weight gain, mood swings, hot flashes, poor sleep, and bone loss. Sneaker up, buddy up, turn up the music, and get into an exercise routine that you enjoy and that will be good to your body, mind, and spirit.