Menopause: How Regular Exercise Can Help

Mood-swingsMenopause. The dreaded “M” word. It’s a natural change that all women must face at one point in their lives, yet most of us still dread it. It often also comes hand in hand with unfortunate symptoms such as hot flushes, weight gain, lack of libido, moodiness, depression, fatigue, lack of short term memory and insomnia (just to name a few).  It can also increase a woman’s chances of developing conditions such as osteoporosis, heart disease and diabetes.

But it’s not all bad news. Thankfully there are things we can do to prevent or minimise the negative side effects of menopause. Incorporating regular exercise into your schedule can help manage depression, moodiness, stress and weight gain. It can also help decrease your risk of developing osteoporosis, heart disease and diabetes later in life. Here’s all you need to know about menopause and exercise.

 Managing depression, moodiness and stress

Mood swings is a symptom often associated with menopause. While every woman’s experience is different, many report an increase in moodiness, depression, stress and anxiety.  This is often thought to be caused by the change in hormone levels. However, other symptoms such as sleep deprivation and nightly hot flushes can also impact a person’s ability to cope with everyday life. The good news is that exercise (particularly aerobic exercise) can help. It encourages the production of ‘feel-good’ brain chemicals such as serotonin and endorphins that can help improve mood and reduce stress and depression.

 Avoiding Weight Gain during Menopause

Another change that woman often experience during menopause is weight gain and loss of muscle. This can be caused by the change in hormone levels as well as a slowing metabolic rate as we age. However, menopause and weight gain do not have to go hand in hand. Incorporating healthy habits such as a balanced diet and regular exercise can help combat these symptoms and keep your weight in check.

 Decreasing your Risk of Heart Disease and Diabetes

After menopause, many women find their body has developed a tendency to store weight around their stomach. Even those who previously considered themselves to be a “pear” shape (gaining weight first in their legs and hips) find this can change. This increase in abdomen and visceral fat (body fat that is stored around the internal organs) combined with the change in hormone levels can increase the chances of developing conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. Regular exercise can help reduce this risk by reducing the amount of fat gained in these areas.

 Treating or Decreasing Your Risk of Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a condition where the bones become brittle and fragile. As a result, they become much more prone to breaking or fractures. A drop of particular hormones during and after menopause increases a woman’s risk of developing the condition. In contrast, weight bearing exercises (such as strength training, walking and jogging) can help increase bone density and prevent conditions such as osteoporosis. Balance exercises can also help by avoiding falls.

If you have already been told by your doctor that you have osteoporosis, then proceed with care. Avoid high impact exercises that could increase your risk of falling.

If you have any further questions, please feel welcome to speak to one of our personal trainers.

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