There probably aren’t many people who would argue with the statement “exercise is good for you.” Whether they like to do it or not, this is a generally universally acknowledged fact.
However, the reasons for exercise being important are different across different stages of life.
In young children, giving them the chance to run and play can help increase their concentration and improve cognitive function – this is why recess is an important part of the school day.
For teenagers, and all of the issues adolescence brings with it, regular exercise can help improve mood and reduce anxiety.
As we grow older and have more and more responsibilities, it can be more difficult to keep up an exercise routine. However, it actually becomes more important, as metabolism starts to slow and maintaining a healthy weight becomes harder and harder.
For seniors, physical activity can be about maintaining strength to reduce the instances of falling and maintaining mobility but is also a great way to maintain social interactions.
Today we’re going to have a closer look at the role of exercise and fitness during the stage of life known as menopause.
What Is Menopause?
Menopause is the time of life when an individual has stopped having a monthly period for at least one year and is no longer producing the hormones estrogen and progesterone.
On average this occurs at age 51, however, it can start anytime between the ages of 40 and 60.
Related to menopause are perimenopause and post menopause.
Perimenopause is the period before menopause begins, during which the ovaries produce less hormones than previously – this period can begin anywhere from in the mid-30s to the mid-50s and generally lasts four to eight years.
Post menopause is the period after periods have stopped for twelve months, when the symptoms of menopause begin to subside.
Symptoms commonly associated with menopause include:
- Night sweats
- Hot flashes
- Feeling fatigued and tired
- Weight gain
- Achy and sore joints
- Vaginal dryness, which can result in sex being less pleasurable
- Loss of bowel and bladder control
- Loss of bone density and muscle mass
What Are The Benefits Of Staying Active During Menopause?
Although these symptoms may seem quite unpleasant, there are a variety of benefits associated with staying active during menopause.
In one study, researchers followed two groups of menopausal women.
One group participated in regular exercise, while the other did not.
The exercise group had overall better outcomes and showed improvements in measures of mental and physical health.
Other benefits of regular exercise include:
- Helping to maintain strength, bone density, and muscle mass
- Improved heart function
- Lowered anxiety
- Improved self esteem
- Decreased back pain
- Better quality of life
- Prevention of weight gain
- Better sleep quality
- Lowered risk of certain cancers
- Decreased risk of diabetes and heart disease
- Lower blood pressure
- Improved cholesterol levels
Regular exercise may also help to decrease the instances of some menopausal symptoms including hot flashes, night sweats, and sleep disturbances.
Dos and Don’ts Of Exercise During Menopause
Let’s take a look at some things which should be taken into account when considering what sorts of exercise to do during menopause.
If you’ve always been active, then maintaining those habits during menopause will likely be relatively easy for you, however, if you’re new to exercise, some things to consider would include:
- Start slow; overdoing it by trying to do too much too soon can lead to injury – aim for 90 minutes of exercise per week, and work up to as much as 150 minutes each week.
- Find what you like to do – while some people love getting up early every morning to go for a run, others prefer a group fitness class, or even an online virtual dance class. You’re more likely to stick with something if you enjoy it.
- Calculate your ideal heart rate range using this simple calculation:
Your maximum heart rate for exercise is calculated by subtracting your age from 220. To get your target heart rate range, multiply your maximum heart rate by 50/100 and 80/100.
At the start of your exercise program, aim at the lowest part of the target zone (50 percent) during the first few weeks. You can then build up to the higher part of the target zone (75 percent).
- Be aware of the side effects of any medications you’re on, and how they might affect your health and ability to exercise.
- Include a mix of aerobic, strength, and balance exercises in your routine.
Some things to avoid, especially if you’re newer to exercise include:
- High impact exercises which can put extra strain on your bones
- Exercise where you’re likely to fall
- Certain twisting exercise such as some yoga poses, or sit ups
How Do I Get Started?
So you’ve read about all of the benefits of keeping active during menopause, however, you may have some questions about how to go about it.
Maybe you’ve been active your whole life but the types of activities you once enjoyed you find harder to participate in.
Or perhaps you want to develop a new exercise habit, and aren’t sure where to start.
They’ll walk you through the changes you can expect in your body, from perimenopause through post menopause, and work with you to develop a personalized plan which takes into account fitness, recovery, and nutrition to fit your lifestyle.
Because you deserve to stay fit at any age.