Menopause marks the end of a woman’s reproductive life. While this saves you from the monthly turmoil of PMS and cramps, it does bring new problems with it. Though some women handle the transition easily, others struggle with depression, hot flashes and various physiological symptoms.
However, a healthy lifestyle and a well-balanced diet can help you fight those menopausal blues, say experts. Exercise, in particular, can be useful in dealing with it. We tell you why.
Exercise & Menopause
Regular physical activity before and during menopause not only helps in managing the symptoms better, it also reduces the risk of several gynecological cancers and other diseases.
“Exercise can help in combating depression, hot flashes and other vasomotor symptoms associated with menopause,” says Dr Morton Travel, MD, Clinical Professor Emeritus of Medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine.
The plummeting estrogen levels during menopause increase the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, depression and lead to unwanted weight gain. However, research suggests that women who are physically active during their peri-menopausal (and menopausal) years face fewer and milder symptoms than sedentary women. Here’s how it benefits you.
1. Improves Bone Health
Due to the natural aging process, all women increasingly lose bone mass after the age of 40 However, the rate increases rapidly after menopause, which puts them at an increased risk of osteoporosis. Regular weight-bearing exercises such as walking can prevent the onset of osteoporosis and also make bones stronger.
2. Prevents Heart Diseases
Estrogen deficiency leads to fat deposition in the arteries, causing them to harden. This elevates the blood pressure and increases the chances of contracting a heart disease in menopausal women. Aerobic and other endurance exercises can prevent the adverse effects of bad cholesterol in post-menopausal women.
3. Controls Mood Changes
Post-menopausal mood changes are often caused by chronic sleep deprivation. The reason for this can be many—hot flashes, night sweats or joint pain. Regular exercise can have a positive impact on your memory, mood and sleep quality, too. It also promotes daytime alertness and alleviates hot flashes.
4. Manages Weight
Another common symptom of menopause is unwanted weight gain. According to Dr Douglas Lord, MD OB-GYN and an expert in Integrative Medicine, “Ninety percent of menopausal women experience varying levels of weight gain. During menopause, reduced estrogen correlates to less physical activity and lower metabolic rates. This increases the stored fat in the body which gets deposited on the abdomen, thighs, arms and buttocks.”
This also increases the risk of heart diseases and type 2 diabetes. Aerobic, cardio and resistance exercises can help your body increase energy expenditure, thus increasing lean body mass and helping you shed extra pounds.
5. Fights Urinary Incontinence
The low estrogen levels cause a weakening of the pelvic muscles, which leads to urinary stress or incontinence after menopause. “Kegel exercises are the best way to strengthen your pelvic floor and improve continence issues,” says Dr Lord.
Certain herbs such as dandelion are also effective in controlling the involuntary contraction of bladder muscles and save you trips to the bathroom. Read more about them here.
1. Sternfeld B, Dugan S. Physical activity and health during the menopausal transition. Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am. 2011 Sep;38(3):537-66. doi: 10.1016/j.ogc.2011.05.008. Review. PubMed PMID: 21961719; PubMed Central PMCID:PMC3270074.
2. Ravnikar VA. Diet, exercise, and lifestyle in preparation for menopause. Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am. 1993 Jun;20(2):365-78. Review. PubMed PMID: 8367138.
3. Villaverde Gutiérrez C, Torres Luque G, Ábalos Medina GM, Argente del Castillo MJ, Guisado IM, Guisado Barrilao R, Ramírez Rodrigo J. Influence of exercise on mood in postmenopausal women. J Clin Nurs. 2012 Apr;21(7-8):923-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2702.2011.03972.x. PubMed PMID: 22409782.
4. Elavsky S, McAuley E. Physical activity and mental health outcomes during menopause: a randomized controlled trial. Ann Behav Med. 2007 Apr;33(2):132-42. PubMed PMID: 17447865.
5. Asikainen TM, Kukkonen-Harjula K, Miilunpalo S. Exercise for health for early postmenopausal women: a systematic review of randomised controlled trials. Sports Med. 2004;34(11):753-78. Review. PubMed PMID: 15456348.