Exercise for Better Menopausal Health
By Constadina Zarokostas-Vasiliades
Exercise is a tricky topic when it comes to Menopause. It all has to do with the hormones. For those who lead highly stressful lifestyles when going through menopause, vigorous exercise actually has a counter effect and does not help the body release its fat because the body feels it is under more stress. Don’t take that as an excuse not to exercise, it’s the type of exercise you do during menopause that makes a difference in shedding fat.
If you don’t exercise on a regular basis, your body is more prone to accumulate toxins. Sweating is the key to release them from your body. Lack of exercise also makes you more prone to depression during menopause.
The first thing in your body that is affected by stress is your adrenal glands. They release the stress hormone known as cortisol, creating fat in your body. The mid-section of your body tends to accumulate the fat which can grow under the stomach and around the organs, leading to their dysfunction.
If you are not under stress but still feeling the effects of menopause, you most likely are seeing fat accumulate around your hips, thighs, and bum area. You may also be seeing varicose veins appear on your legs, as well as cellulite. Osteoporosis may also be a menopausal symptom you are fighting with. These symptoms appear because of the decrease in estrogen when menopause hits.
Exercise Solutions: Before you begin your exercise regime consult your doctor, particularly if osteoporosis runs in your family. You don’t want to over-exert yourself if your bones are weak; you need to slowly increase the amount of weight you lift. Moderate load bearing exercises are most effective for women going through menopause, since light weights will help bring calcium to your bones, decreasing your chances of developing osteoporosis. If you have a favorite activity, consult your doctor to see if it is appropriate for you and the symptoms you may have. It’s more important that you have fun doing your exercise regime of choice because it won’t feel like a chore or drag when you are doing it.
Because joints and bones can be more sensitive during menopause you need to watch your form while exercising. Keep your tummy tucked in to strengthen core muscles and take strain off of your lower back. This is especially important if there is osteoporosis in your spine. If you are lifting weights, also add a slight pelvic tilt. If you are feeling strain, pain or uncertainty over how the exercise is affecting your joints speak with a trainer to see if your form is correct or if there are modifications you can do to minimize any discomfort.
Start off slow with whatever exercise you choose. Walking outside is the easiest and cheapest way to get started. You get the added bonus of breathing in fresh air, which also releases toxins from your system. In some parts of the country walking isn’t easy during winter months, so if you don’t have access to a treadmill and are on a limited budget, consider going back to the basics and doing three one-minute sets of exercises that only requires the use of your body; push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, skipping (either on the spot or with a rope), standing lunges, crunches, mason/Russian twists, burpees, mountain climbers, and squats. Warm up with jumping jacks and remember to stretch out after you are done.
Try not to do the same exercise every day, mix it up to prevent monotony. Do something fun like dance or Zumba, or add something calming that can help you with any stress management issues you may have like yoga, Tai Chi and Chi Gong (qigong). If you can’t make it to classes or afford them, consider purchasing beginners videos for these exercises. The point is to get moving at least 20 minutes three times a week and slowly increase the amount of time you exercise.
Exercise is important for women going through menopause. The benefits of improved circulation, release of toxins and stress, combating weight gain from unruly hormones, and the increase in endorphins released to help you feel good and prevent depression are worth the effort.