Menopause is a time in a woman’s reproductive life when the menstrual cycle stops and she is no longer fertile. Peri-menopause or the pre-menopause stage brings a slow cessation of periods and a reduction in the body’s production of female hormones, estrogen, and progesterone.
No periods for 12 consecutive months, is considered the post-menopausal stage. The average age when menopause and any symptoms begin is 51 years of age but can also occur between 30 and 60.
Menopause may bring various symptoms, including hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, anxiety, mood swings, and even depression.
Menopause is also a time when women are at a higher risk for osteoporosis as it is estimated that the average woman loses as much as 10% of bone mass within the first five years of menopause. Osteoporosis is a condition where bones thin and become brittle, causing fractures to occur easily.
Heart disease risks also increase with menopause as estrogen plays a key role in protecting the heart.
It is also a time when weight gain may occur. No one knows why this happens but a weight gain of 10 pounds or more is not uncommon in menopause.
Interestingly enough, women who lead a healthy lifestyle including diet and regular exercise can circumvent this weight gain related to menopause.
Exercise And Menopause
A regular program of exercise and healthy eating can decrease your chances of gaining weight during menopause.
According to the National Institutes of Health, women who did ten minutes of aerobic exercise on most days of the week had 6 fewer inches around their mid-section when compared to women who did not exercise.
Exercise should be a part of your daily life, even if you don’t feel you have any weight to lose as it supports overall health and wellness for mind, body, and spirit.
It is obvious that exercise can counteract the weight gain associated with menopause but there are other benefits of exercise during this time as well, including the following:
- Decreases the risk of major depression, dysthymia, and anxiety and improves mood
- Decreases the risk of osteoporosis (thinning of the bone tissue) and strengthens bone mass. This is certainly one of the most important benefits of exercise for menopausal women because osteoporosis is a result of a lack of balance between resorption of bone and the making of new bone. A lack of hormones is the most common cause of osteoporosis in women as estrogen plays a key role in the production of bone mass to replace what is lost every day, and since estrogen production drops sharply during menopause, exercise becomes that more important in supporting bone strength.
- Decrease feelings of fatigue
- Alleviate chronic muscle pain
- Improve quality and duration of sleep
- Improve bowel function
- Keep the muscles and joints stronger
- Improve insulin resistance, which helps prevent and lessen the intensity of hot flashes
- Maximizes feelings of well-being and positive mood. Positivity helps you deal with all types of life’s stressors, and menopause is no different. Erratic mood swings due to hormonal fluctuations plague many menopausal women, and exercise can help boost mood naturally by releasing feel good hormones in the brain, including endorphins and serotonin.
- Decreases risks of post-menopause related conditions including: metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease
- Alleviates stress, which in turn helps control many menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes, depression, and mood swings and improves overall quality life
- Reducing body fat and losing weight can help stabilize hormones and in turn alleviate or at least reduce the occurrence of mood swings that for some women can be quite severe.
- Working out reduces stress making it easier to tolerate menopausal symptoms and reduce their occurrence.
- Exercise can improve the quality of your life and can make it easier to prevent weight gain associated with menopause.
- Muscle mass is increased through exercise, which improves your strength and stamina.