Getting exercise once you enter menopause is crucial. You’ve always known that physical activity was necessary to your health and well-being, but maybe you’ve taken your fitness a little bit for granted. When you were young, you could eat whatever tempting food passed under your nose, and then spend the weekends at the beach, where the only exercise you got was flipping out your sunning towel and cracking open a cold one. And for years you got away with it – ’til one day you woke up and discovered that gaining weight in menopause wasn’t just something that happened to your mother.
Even if you have been taking good care of yourself and following the rules, weight gain in menopause can still sneak up and shock the living daylights out of you when you look in the mirror. Menopause marks the end of menstruation and fertility, but it’s not the end of you – you’re simply entering a new stage of life. You have it in your power to make it as healthy, productive and happy as any time in your life, as long as you face the reality that it’s going to take a shift in your thinking and the commitment to getting up off the couch and moving forward.
Benefits of Physical Activity
The benefits of getting exercise are well known, but they bear repeating, as you may be under the delusion that just because you’re entering, enduring, or exiting menopause, you can’t lose weight. The reality is that, if you changed nothing else about your habits, getting regular exercise would see that menopause weight melt off your bones. Did we mention bones?
Boost your bones. Physical activity can slow bone loss after menopause, lowering the risk of fractures and osteoporosis.
Reduce the risk of breast cancer. Physical activity will result in weight loss, and that may offer protection from breast cancer.
Prevent weight gain. Women tend to lose muscle mass and gain abdominal fat during and after menopause. Even a little increase in physical activity can help prevent this.
Reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Regular physical activity can counter the risk of various chronic conditions, including cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
Elevate your mood. Physical activity during and after menopause can improve your psychological health – and it’s cheaper than anti-depressants.
Physical activity hasn’t been proven to reduce menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and sleep disturbances. However, for some women, regular physical activity during and after menopause seems to relieve stress and improve their quality of life.
How Much Exercise Should You Get?
If you’re otherwise in good health, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends the following:
A minimum of two and a half (2.5) hours of moderate intensity aerobic activity, or one and a quarter (1.25) hours of vigorous intensity aerobic activity per week, ideally spread out over the week.
Strength training exercises at least twice a week.
While this is the optimum recommendation, it’s more important that you choose a fitness program that you are likely to maintain over the long term. As your fitness improves, so will the health benefits that you gain from it. So begin by setting realistic and achievable goals; the success you have in reaching a modest goal will help keep you motivated. Don’t be vague – don’t just promise yourself that you’ll “exercise more.” Commit to something concrete – say, a 15 minute walk after dinner. Up the ante as you feel your ability to stretch yourself improve. Partner with a friend and reap the benefits of mutual support.
What Kinds of Activities Are Best?
Lots to choose from here.
Stretching. Stretching increases flexibility, improves range of motion, promotes better circulation and can even relieve stress. Be sure to stretch after a workout, when your muscles are warm and receptive. Activities such as yoga promote flexibility, as well.
Aerobics. Aerobic activity is the cornerstone of most fitness programs. Try biking, jogging, walking, swimming or water aerobics. Any activity that works your large muscle groups and increases your heart rate can be considered aerobic. If you’re a newbie, start with 10 minutes of light activity and gradually increase the intensity as your endurance improves.
Strength training. Regular strength training can help you reduce your body fat and strengthen your muscles, both of which will allow you to burn calories more efficiently. Weight machines, hand-held weights or resistance tubing are all good choices. Select a weight or resistance level heavy enough to tire your muscles after about 12 repetitions. Gradually increase it as you get stronger.
Stability and balance. Balance exercises improve stability and can help prevent falls. Something as simple as standing on one leg can work. Activities such as tai chi can be helpful, too.
If you don’t have the time, desire or funds to go to a gym, activities such as gardening or dancing can go a long way toward improving your fitness and fight that menopause weight gain. Don’t forget to warm up and cool down before and after exercising!
Susan Livingstone invites you to learn more about menopause and losing weight by visiting http://menopauseloseweight.com We review some of the top weight loss programs available today, with an emphasis on women dealing with menopause weight gain. You’ll find diet reviews, articles, suggested reading, and a personal case study (http://menopauseloseweight.com/case_study) where we personally test one of the programs we review and let you know the results!