Menopause is something that all women will go through. It involves a lot of changes due to the shifts in hormone levels, and can often leave women feeling like they’re losing control of their body. But there are things that you can do!
“So, what is menopause?”
Menopause begins when a woman has not had a period for 12 months, most commonly occurring between 48 – 55 years of age. Symptoms of menopause include:
- Hot flushes and/or night sweats
- Aches and pains, including headaches
- Difficulty sleeping, including insomnia
- Changes in mood such as irritability, depression or lack of self-esteem
- Reduced sex drive (libido) as well as vaginal dryness
- Going to the toilet more often or experiencing incontinence
- Increased weight
Unseen changes include:
- Decreased bone density
- Increased cardiovascular disease risk
- Issues with blood vessels
“That all sounds wonderful, but why are you telling me this?”
Well, it turns out that exercise is extremely beneficial for multiple reasons during this time. Some benefits include:
- Increasing or maintaining bone density, and improving balance to prevent falls and therefore risk of fracture
- Lowering weight and reducing waist circumference
- Reducing the risk of breast cancer and Type 2 Diabetes
- Improving mood
- Improving sleep
- Improving cardiovascular health, including lowering blood pressure
- Reducing the symptoms of menopause, contributing to improved quality of life
“Okay, great! I’m in. So what type of exercise should I be doing?”
For your bones!
For benefits relating to bone density, the bones and muscles need to be overloaded to stimulate new bone growth. This means weight-bearing exercises where you’re on your feet! Think, hill walking, skipping, jumping, running, or weight training. Tai Chi, Yoga and Pilates-style (including Physio-led Exercise) are also good options as they aid in improving your balance which can prevent falls in the future.
Please keep in mind that if you do have osteopenia or osteoporosis, you want to ensure that you do not do anything that increases your risk of falling (eg. cycling where you could fall from a height) as your risk of fracture is much higher. Also, if you have pelvic floor or incontinence issues, you should consult your pelvic floor Physiotherapist on what the most appropriate exercises for you are, as certain exercises (such as jumping, skipping or inappropriately prescribed core work) can make your pelvic floor issue worse.
For your mood and mental health!
Walking (and I mean walking at a pace that gets that heart rate up!) at least three times per week has shown to reduce depressive symptoms.
For your sleep!
It is recommended that you exercise for 45 minutes, five times per week to see benefits in sleep. It sounds like a lot but you can tie this in with your recommendations for bone density, mood and cardiovascular health benefits.
And for your cardiovascular health!
For the best benefits in this area, it is recommended that you do three 45 minute sessions per week of aerobic interval training per week. Again, this overlaps with previous recommendations.
This all sounds like a lot, but when you break it down and start slow, you will find ways to fit it into your daily life. Once you start feeling the benefits? You’ll want to do it more! So, let’s all aim for 45 minutes of exercise, five times per week. There are numerous other health benefits, not mentioned in this article, that this amount of exercise will give you.
If you have any questions about your exercise regime, or have an injury or condition that you are unsure how to work around, book in for a session with one our Physiotherapists by calling 8555 4099 or click here to book online.
Written by Meg Doyle (Physiotherapist)