How Exercise Can Help The Symptoms Of Menopause

Minimise symptoms, manage weight and get the feel-good factor back in your life with our four-step plan.

1. Increase Bone Density

Strong bones need weight-bearing activity. Think walking, jogging, stair climbing, training with weights - and let's not forget dancing.

MODERATE INTENSITY ACTIVITY
30 minutes at a time, five times a week, is a good start. This can be a combination of strolling, power walking, or a light jog. And this can form part of your daily routine - one large study of 60,000 post-menopausal women discovered walking at a brisk pace over four times a week resulted in a lower risk of hip fracture. The take-home message? Every little really does help.

RESISTANCE TRAINING
2-3 times a week is crucial for boosting bone density and for strengthening the muscles that surround and support your joints. This short routine focuses particularly on strengthening the muscles around the hips and back.

  • Squat with side kick - tones thighs as well as strengthening the muscles around the hip joint. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Bend knees and squat down to floor, pushing hips back and sticking bottom out at the same time. As you come up out of squat, extend left leg out to the side at hip height before squatting back down again. Repeat, extending right leg out to the side. Do a total of 30 squats, twice.
  • Bicep curl with squat - a great exercise to work bottom and thighs and will help strengthen shoulders too. Start by standing with feet shoulder width apart holding a 1/1.5-litre bottle of water in each hand. Bend your knees, push hips back and squat down to the floor. As you straighten up, curl bottles to shoulders keeping arms tucked into sides. Do 2 sets of 15 reps.
  • Press and row - helps to keep the muscles around shoulders and spine strong. Start on all fours with a 1.5 litre bottle of water positioned below each shoulder. Bend your elbows out to the side and lower chest to the floor, lowering hips to the floor and rolling forward onto your knees as you lower chest. As you push back up, lift the left bottle off the floor extending your arm out in front of you at shoulder height. Lower bottle before repeating on the right. Do 10 on each side.
  • Modified flying plank - works your core, the muscles of the arms, chest and back, as well as lower body. Start in plank position by lying face down resting on your forearms. Push yourself off the floor onto your toes. Ensure body forms a straight line from head to heels. Lift left arm just below shoulder height, hold for 5 seconds, relax and lower. Repeat with the right arm. Continue alternating for 6 reps. Relax down and repeat.

2. Prevent Weight Gain

It's thought that a drop in oestrogen levels can lower your metabolic rate as well as making fat storage easier.

You don't have to commit to hours in the gym to offset these effects though - one National Institutes of Health review discovered that people who took just 10 or more minutes a day of aerobic exercise had smaller waistlines (by a substantial six inches) compared to those who didn't exercise.

In addition, higher intensity aerobic exercise can be effective at helping to manage weight, in particular at raising your metabolic rate.

A short, simple high intensity session at home such as the one below will really accelerate your weight loss efforts:

  • 2 mins marching on spot
  • 2 mins on-the-spot skipping
  • 1 min squat-into-push up
  • 1 min high-knee jogging on the spot
  • 1 min plank
  • 2 mins stair-climbing or step-ups
  • 1 min push-ups or half push-ups
  • 1 min bottom kicks (jogging on spot flicking heels to bum)
  • 1 min pulsing lunge each leg
  • 1 min squat-into-side-lunge
  • 1 min floor bicycle crunches

3. Improve Sleep

 

Think about slower paced workouts such as Pilates and yoga. Research published by the Appalachian State University in the US found participants who performed Pilates twice weekly were less likely to experience troubled sleep.

Research has shown this type of mind/body de-stressing exercise can also help to reduce hot flushes while Pilates exercises really target the core muscles which will help to make your tum look flatter in this area (even if you carry a little extra padding).

The Pilates hip roll and shoulder bridge are both good for helping to de-stress body and mind making the perfect mini bedtime routine.

Hip roll - try this relaxing move to mobilise your spine and work the deep abdominal muscles. Lie on your back with both legs bent, feet flat on the floor. Outstretch arms to either side just below shoulder height with palms upturned. Inhale deeply and as you breathe out, let legs fall to the floor on your left side while rolling your head to your right. Remain in this position for five seconds then change sides. Do 1 set of 10 rolls.

Bridge - this move massages spine and works thighs and bottom. Lie on your back with legs bent, feet flat on the floor. Lift hips so your body forms a straight line from shoulders to knees. Remain in this position squeezing buttocks and pushing feet into the floor for a count of 5. Return to your starting position. Repeat a total of 5 times.

Sleep fit tip: Aim to keep higher intensity workouts 3-4 hours before bed. The accompanying rise in body temperature during tougher exercise might make it harder to fall asleep.

4. Boost Mood

 

Exercise can have a profound effect on your mood before and during menopause - exercise will boost the "happy hormones", serotonin and dopamine, which may fall as oestrogen levels decrease.

Your exercise environment can have an effect on mood too: a study published in the Menopause journal last year found that women who exercised outside found it a more pleasurable experience compared to exercising inside and it also made them more likely to stick to their routine.

And the best bit? You don't need to commit to hours of alfresco fitness! Research conducted by the University of Essex found both mood and self-esteem were enhanced by exercising in the fresh air, with the biggest benefits being achieved within the first five minutes.

It's a perfect time of year to be exploring outdoor exercise...


Continued below...
  • Grab a friend and try a new outdoor exercise class. Circuit-style sessions will tick all boxes (calorie-burning, fitness-boosting and bone strengthening) while outdoor yoga is the perfect way to improve flexibility and balance as you unwind.
    * Outdoor gyms are popping up everywhere in parks and smaller green spaces. Equipment tends to be simpler to use than standard gym equipment and you've usually got a smaller audience while you get to grips with it.
    * Combine walking, jogging or cycling sessions with a short park bench routine. Use a park bench to add an extra challenge to lunges and push ups, or try step-ups to tone the whole lower body and raise your heart rate.

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