Menopause typically occurs in women between the ages of 45 and 55, and while one in four women won’t experience any symptoms, the other three most likely will. Some of these symptoms can include hot flushes, anxiety, irritability, forgetfulness, and disturbances in sleeping patterns.
The risk of cardiovascular disease also increases significantly during menopause due to a drop in estrogen levels, which are believed to protect the heart. Menopausal women are also at greater risk of medical conditions like breast cancer and Type 2 Diabetes due to their tendency to gain weight during menopause.
Luckily, physical activity during and after the menopausal period is thought to be of great benefit for women during this time of their life, as embracing a healthy lifestyle can keep your heart healthy and offset the risk of disease.
Benefits of physical activity
Regular physical activity during and after menopause offers a range of benefits; it can:
- Prevent weight gain, as menopausal women tend to lose muscle mass and gain abdominal fat,
- Strength bones and slow down bone loss, reducing the risk of fractures or osteoporosis, and
- Reduce the risk of diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes, which is brought on by excessive weight gain.
Exercises that can help
There are two main types of exercise that are recommended for menopausal women – aerobic exercise and strength training. Aerobic exercise is cardio exercise that increases your heart rate and makes use of large muscle groups. Types of aerobic exercise include:
- Walking – This is the simplest form of low impact aerobic exercise, and burns calories when performed at a brisk pace
- Swimming – Another low-impact cardio workout that is easier on the joints than other activities such as running
- Dancing – A great aerobic workout that’s low-impact, burns calories, and when combined with stirring Latin rhythms as in Zumba, can be a lot of fun as well!
Whether it’s walking, swimming, dancing, jogging, or bike riding, you should start out with light aerobic activity, particularly if you haven’t exercised regularly for awhile. Start with 10 minutes a day, and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your exercise as you feel yourself becoming fitter.
Strength training is also recommended for women during and after menopause, as it’s a great way to burn calories, strengthen muscles, and reduce body fat. Types of strength training include weight machines, resistance training, and hand-held weights. This type of exercise is particularly important for building bone strength to help ward off osteoporosis, which becomes a greater risk when estrogen levels drop during menopause.
When strength training, you should choose a weight or resistance level that tires out your muscles after about twelve repetitions, and then gradually increase that level over time as you feel yourself getting stronger. You should aim to do three strength training workouts a week.
Keep these tips in mind if you decide to start an exercise regime during or after menopause:
- Try to do at least 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or twice that amount if only doing moderate aerobic exercise,
- Make sure you set realistic and achievable goals for yourself, and frequently change and update your routine to prevent it from getting stale,
- Try and make your exercise regime fun. You can exercise wherever you are, and activities like gardening and yard work can also count as exercise, and
- Make sure you start with light exercise at first, and build up to more energetic activities as you progress. Be sure to warm up and cool down before and after every exercise.
Physical activity is beneficial in every stage of our lives. It improves our fitness, promotes weight loss, and keeps our hearts healthy. Getting physical during and after menopause also has the added benefit of helping to offset disease, and is also considered helpful in reducing menopausal symptoms such as stress, anxiety, and depression.