03 Sep Managing Menopause – The Power of Exercise
Menopause – a topic that is still relatively taboo, yet extremely interesting and important. Here at Exercise Right, we believe menopause should be celebrated! In this blog, we learn what small changes every woman can make to feel confident in this new stage of life.
WHAT IS MENOPAUSE?
‘Menopause’ is defined as a woman’s last menstrual period.
The criteria for diagnosis are that there has been no menstrual period for 12-months. Most women will experience this between the ages of 50-51.
The years before and after menopause are referred to as peri-menopause and post-menopause, respectively. As a whole, an individual can go through menopause for up to 10 years – so have some sympathy for the women in your life!
During this time, women experience many difficulties including vasomotor (hot flushes), psychological/cognitive changes (mood swings, anxiety, irritability), and physiological symptoms (bone density and cardiovascular changes), just to name a few.
The majority of these changes can be attributed to the decline of two hormones:
1. Oestrogen (also called estrogen):
Largely influences reproductive function, metabolism, fat storage, thermoregulation, and your response/recovery to exercise.
Largely influences mood and anxiety/irritability.
The good news is that there are things you can do to manage the symptoms of menopause and make this period (excuse the pun) of life easier. Menopause does not have to result in slowing down or stopping!
THE ROLE OF EXERCISE AND MOVEMENT
Due to the altered hormonal profile associated with menopause, women are at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, bone fractures, stroke, being overweight, poorer mental health and more. Whilst this sounds bleak, movement and exercise is just one of the researched areas proven to play a key role in managing these concerns and reducing the severity of menopausal symptoms.
The famous Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) is a 20-year follow up in post-menopausal women. It highlights that women who exercised >1-hour/week had a 58% increased risk of coronary heart disease compared to women exercising for >3.5-hours/week. This equates to 30-minutes of moderate-vigorous intensity exercise a day (meaning you can just hold conversation whilst exercising).
The study also highlighted an inverse relationship between increasing physical activity and the risk of cardiovascular events – the more you do, the better off you are.
If moderate-vigorous intensity exercise isn’t for you, the same study showed that walking for 1-hour/week at an ‘average pace’ decreased the risk of hip fracture by 6%. Every additional hour walking after this provided a further 6% decrease.
On top of all the bodily changes women must deal with, the brain decides to bring in its two cents as well. Poorer mental health, increased feelings of anxiety, difficulty sleeping, and memory issues are all prevalent and real.
Just one session of exercise per week has highlighted a 22% reduction in the chance of developing depression, with four exercise sessions giving us a 46% reduced chance. Not only does exercise release a bunch of good hormones that leave us feeling happy and energised, it also provides the opportunity to focus on ourselves, catch-up with friends, and create new connections.
This could be through trying a new sport or joining a class at a local gym. Understanding the importance of physical activity at this age, Science of Fitness wanted to deliver an enjoyable and accessible solution to this age group. With ESSA’s support, they launched a Fit Over 50’s class and offered clients to sign-up for the ERAA (Exercise Right for Active Ageing) program. This class is the perfect example of how getting involved in community exercise provides both physical and social benefits, with it not being unusual for the gang to congregate for several hours after a session at the coffee shop next door.
So, whether it’s you, your mum, or your twice removed aunt going through menopause, cut them some slack, take them out for a walk and do a few squats together whilst brushing your teeth – every little bit counts.
Women need to know that they are not alone, and that there is a solution to the challenges they’re facing.
Need some extra advice?
If you’re experiencing issues managing menopause and need some advice on exercising safely, an Accredited Exercise Physiologist can help. They are university-qualified health professionals who understand the complex relationship mesopause causes women. They will help to provide you with individualised advice to ensure you’re exercising in a way that’s right for you. To find a qualified professional near you, click here.READ MORE LIKE THIS
Written by Accredited Exercise Physiologist, Francesca Sills and Exercise Scientist, Emma Sanelli and Accredited Practising Dietitian, Dorelle Thompson.