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Guest Blog: A Healthy Menopause: Why Exercise is so Important – Part 1

Our guest blog this month is by Aileen Ross, Sports Therapist and Pilates Instructor.  You can read more about Aileen and the services she offers on her website.

Helathy Menopause: why exercise is so importantThe importance of exercise is not to be underestimated in the quest for a healthy menopause.  Numerous studies have shown a wide range of health benefits from regular exercise such as decreasing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease risk1-2 and I’ll look at these and others in part 2.  In this blog, lets look at what is happening to your musculoskeletal system as well as the type of exercise you need to gain the maximum health benefits during your peri-menopause and menopause.

Lean Muscle Mass Decreases

As we age our body’s ability to produce collagen decreases leading to wrinkles, sagging skin and weakening muscles (sarcopenia). To put this into perspective, we lose on average around ½ % of lean muscle mass each year or 5% per decade3.  This is also true of our pelvic floor muscles; we can start to experience problems with our pelvic health even if we didn’t have any issues before.

Bone Density Drops

We start to lose bone density typically much younger than we think.  This loss can start in your mid to late 30s and is most rapid during the first few years of menopause.  If we don’t address it, it can lead to osteopenia or even osteoporosis4.  Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to lose strength and break more easily.

The good news is that exercise can stave off and even reverse these age-related changes, whereas inactivity will accelerate them5.   Muscle and bone are living tissues and respond to exercise by becoming stronger. There are several ways we can increase our muscle and bone health and live a healthy menopause.

Get Active for a Healthy Menopause

How much physical activity should you doThe first is simply trying to do as much light to moderate activity for as much of the day as possible.   For example we can walk to the shops or take the stairs, park in the furthest space or get off the bus a stop earlier etc.  The key is to avoid being sedentary for longer than about 20-30 mins at time6.  Aim for at least 30 minutes per day (or 150 mins per week) of moderate physical exercise7 e.g. brisk walking, tennis, dynamic yoga or pilates, dancing etc.

Bone/Muscle Building for a Healthy Menopause

The second is to build in some low impact strengthening activities 2x per week.  This could be lifting weights at the gym or going to classes where you will use your bodyweight like yoga or Pilates.  These activities will improve both bone and muscle strength.  Swimming and cycling are excellent forms of exercise for improving fitness and maintaining strong muscles but they are not weight-bearing and do not stimulate bone growth.

Limit High Impact Exercise for a Healthy Menopause

Thirdly, bone responds positively to high impact activities such as dance, aerobics, running, tennis or HIIT.  However, if you have osteoporosis you may need to avoid high impact exercise.  Likewise, you should also avoid pushing your body too hard for prolonged periods as it can increase stress hormone production. This is the very opposite to what we are trying to achieve in a healthy menopause.

As we know, our bone density and lean muscle mass decreases with age.  Regular, moderate exercise can reverse these changes. The important thing to remember is that little and often and enjoying your exercise is key to a healthy menopause. 30 mins of moderate exercise per day should be your target.  Try to avoid being sedentary; if you have an office job or sit for long parts of the day take a break every 30 mins of sitting time. Why don’t you try to walk up the stairs at work tomorrow and book the yoga or Pilates class you’ve been putting off?

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If you would like to find out more about about the Healthy Menopause 28 day online programme that Aileen and I are running together, click here.

References

  1. World Health Organization. WHO Global Recommendations on Physical Activity for Health. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2010. http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/44399/1/9789241599979_eng.pdf(accessed 15 September 2019).

 

  1. Trost  SG, Blair  SN, Khan  KM. Physical inactivity remains the greatest public health problem of the 21st century: evidence, improved methods and solutions using the ‘7 investments that work’ as a framework. Br J Sports Med 2014;48:169–70. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2013-093372

 

  1. McCormick R, Vasilaki A. Age-related changes in skeletal muscle: changes to life-style as a therapy. Biogerontology. 2018;19(6):519–536. doi:10.1007/s10522-018-9775-3

 

 

  1. Osteoporosis Peak Bone Mass in Women, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, accessed 15 Sept 2019, https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/osteoporosis/bone-mass

 

  1. Langsetmo L, et al. “Physical activity, body mass index and bone mineral density—associations in a prospective population-based cohort of women and men: The Canadian Multicentre Osteoporosis Study (CaMos).” Bone. 2012 Jan;50(1):401-8. doi: 10.1016/j.bone.2011.11.009. Epub 2011 Nov 30.
  2. Healy GN, et al. “Breaks in sedentary time: beneficial associations with metabolic risk.” Diabetes Care. 2008 Apr;31(4):661-6. doi: 10.2337/dc07-2046. Epub 2008 Feb 5.

 

  1. Kim KZ, et al. “The beneficial effect of leisure-time physical activity on bone mineral density in pre- and postmenopausal women.” Calcif Tissue Int. 2012 Sep;91(3):178-85. doi: 10.1007/s00223-012-9624-3. Epub 2012 Jul 6.

 

 

 

 

 

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