During menopause, the changes that a woman’s body goes through are incredible. The huge hormonal shifts can alter moods, affect weight, and cause many other physiological changes. The best way to combat these effects of menopause is through regular and moderate physical activity.
Exercise is very important for a woman, as is overall health as one gets older. The benefits of regular exercise go far beyond just losing weight.
- Increased flexibility
- More ease of movement
- Stronger bones and increased bone mass
- Higher HDL cholesterol levels (the good cholesterol!) and lower LDL cholesterol levels
- Lower blood pressure
- More improved and even moods
For women who do not exercise regularly during and after menopause, they will find that they will be at an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, and obesity. Not exercising can also lead peri- and postmenopausal women to experience muscle stiffness, joint pain, back pain, poor circulation, loss of bone mass, insomnia, and bowel irregularity. If regular exercise can prevent all of these things, there is no reason not to do it!
You should be doing at least two of the following on a weekly basis:
- Vigorous walking
- Yoga or Pilates
- Swimming or water aerobics
- Aerobics or spinning
However, there are a few types of exercise you may want to avoid, especially given the natural decrease in bone density that occurs during menopause:
- Jogging, especially if you are overweight
- Contact sports such as field hockey
- Tennis, if your knees or ankles bother you
- Full contact martial arts
- Any other high-impact exercise
Regular exercise does not have to hurt, or be overly strenuous in order to have positive effects. In fact, it should NEVER hurt. Regular and moderate physical activities such as walking, swimming, low impact aerobics, bicycling, or even dancing can help prevent many chronic conditions and illnesses. And, by doing some sort of weight-bearing activity (such as walking), a woman can help prevent bone loss and even encourage an increase in bone mass.
Here are a few specific exercise examples for menopausal women:
1) Bicycle kicks – these are great for toning the tummy all round without straining your back. Lie on your back, with your hands next to your ears. Bring one knee up to your chest and extend the other leg, holding it off the ground. Bring the extended leg back in towards your chest while extending the other leg out. At the same time do a small twisted crunch to bring your elbow opposite the knee you just pulled in to meet it. Do about 24 reps.
2) Cross dumbbell curls – holding a light dumbbell in each arm, with your fists turned so the dumbbells are parallel to your body, curl your arm inwards so that the dumbbell moves up in an arc parallel to your chest. Do 12-14 reps with each arm. This is great for toning those upper arms.
3) Sideways leg lifts – Lying on your side, with your one elbow supporting your upper body and the other hand on your hip, lift one leg slowly and then lower it. Repeat 10 times with each leg to really tone your thighs.
Menopause is notorious for causing mood swings. One excellent benefitof regular exercise is that it causes the body to secret endorphins,hormones that are a positive response to stress in the body. These mood elevators can keep moods up and even for several hours after exercise.
It is important to note that any woman who wants to begin a regular exercise program should consult her doctor beforehand. If there are any conditions that might require limitations, the doctor can give the best advice to prevent injury or illness.