The menopause and benefits of exercise

Women who are going through the menopause, whether they are keen athletes or just wish to keep the pounds off, often start to experience an increase in joint pain or soft tissue injuries that threaten to derail their exercise efforts. However, the menopausal transition is one of the key stage in a woman’s life where keeping fit and well is essential, so we take a look at the menopause and exercise benefits.

Benefits of exercise during the menopause

Preventing weight gain: the hormonal changes that occur during the menopause mean you’re more likely to put weight on in the abdomen area. There are also other factors at play; muscle mass starts to diminish as you get older and this means your body is less efficient at using up calories. Even not getting enough sleep as a result of night-time hot flushes can contribute to weight gain as you are less likely to exercise and more likely to snack when tired.

Reducing the risk of serious health concerns: another menopause and exercise benefit is that it helps to keep the weight off during this period which can offer protection against diseases, such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

Strengthening your bones: losing bone density is a natural part of the ageing process, but the menopause greatly speeds up bone loss. Women can lose up to 20% of bone density in the first few years after the menopause and studies have shown that bone mineral density can be maintained or increased with exercise, which means you’re at less risk of developing osteoporosis or suffering from bone fractures.

Improving your mood: the menopause can be a very challenging time for a woman and the associated mood swings have long been fodder for menopausal jokes. The hormones that trigger ovulation and menstruations are also responsible for releasing serotonin, a chemical that regulates our moods, so as hormone levels fluctuate, so does the amount of serotonin in our system. Other symptoms of the menopause such as hot flushes, insomnia and lack of concentration can all exacerbate your mood. Physical activity has been proven in numerous studies to increase production and release of serotonin and other mood-enhancing chemicals.

Maintaining musculoskeletal health: in a Chinese study published in 2013, 743 women, between the ages of 35 and 64 years were studied and post-menopausal women experienced significantly higher prevalence of musculoskeletal symptoms, such as neck pain, frequent knee pain and joint pain, compared to younger, pre-menopausal women.

Exercise is the best way to keep all the parts of our musculoskeletal system – bones, joints, tendons, ligaments and muscles – in good working order.

As Professor Cathy Speed explains: “Exercise is an important part of menopausal management, enhancing wellbeing, bone and muscle strength and reducing many health risks.” If you’re experiencing problems that are undermining your exercise routine or keen to take charge of your health to aid you through the menopause, call 01223 200 595 to arrange a consultation at her Cambridge menopause clinic.