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Guest Blog: A Healthy Menopause – Why Exercise is so Important Part 2

Here is part 2 of our guest blog by Aileen Ross, Sports Therapist and Pilates Instructor.  You can read more about Aileen and the services she offers on her website.

Why exercise is important during the menopauseIn my previous blog, I looked at what type of exercise is important for a healthy menopause and how it can help with muscle and bone strength. In part 2, let’s consider how else regular physical activity can help menopausal women both physiologically and mentally.

A wide range of health benefits can be gained from regular exercise, which I will discuss in more detail. These include:

  • Preventing weight gain
  • Reducing the risk of cancer
  • Reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Boosting mental health and wellbeing

Preventing Weight Gain

Women can lose muscle mass and gain abdominal fat around menopause.  For a healthy menopause, along with good nutrition, regular physical activity can help prevent weight gain Muscle burns more calories than fat. If lean muscle is not preserved with weight training exercise, the body does not burn as many calories.

Reducing the Risk of Cancer

Exercise and healthy eating during and after menopause can help you lose excess weight or maintain a healthy weight. This may offer protection from various types of cancer, including postmenopausal breast, colon and endometrial cancer.  How can exercise decrease the risk of cancer? Activity helps to regulate blood levels of hormones, which contribute to cancer risk, helps speed food through the colon reducing exposure to dietary carcinogens and prevents the build up of body fat.

Reducing the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Reduced exercise levels and weight gain can increase your blood sugar levels. And as you age, your body doesn’t use the insulin it makes as well as it did when you were younger. Increased body fat makes you particularly vulnerable to a diabetes diagnosis, as obesity increases the risk of insulin resistance.  On the upside, lean muscle mass (gained via weight bearing and resistance exercise) plays a role in protecting the body against insulin resistance and can help with a healthy menopause. 1

Reducing the Risk of Cardiovascular disease

Menopause weight gain often causes fat storage around the abdomen and viscera (around your organs).  Fat storage here is associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Regular exercise can counter these risks by reducing the metabolic risks associated with declining oestrogen.  It increases HDL (the ‘good’ cholesterol) and reduces LDL (the ‘bad’ cholesterol).  These, in turn, provide a reduced risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes to encourage a healthy menopause.

Boosting mental health and wellbeing

Cardiovascular and weight-bearing exercise will help your body and your mind work towards a healthy menopause. Physically active adults have been shown to have a lower risk of depression as well as slower cognitive decline.3 Exercise is a natural anxiety and stress reliever; it releases our feel-good hormones; endorphins. These are our ‘happy chemicals’ that off-set the stress hormone cortisol, which is higher during menopause.4

For a healthy menopause, regular exercise can truly help combat some of the physiological and mental health changes that can occur during this time. Rather than viewing menopause as a sign of impending decline, it offers a good opportunity to take a look at your lifestyle and follow a health programme which incorporates both a healthy diet and regular exercise.

1. Marijke Vroomen-Durning, RN Everyday Health  Diabetes  Type 2 Diabetes accessed 14.10.19

2 & 3. Mishra N, Mishra VN, Devanshi. Exercise beyond menopause: Dos and Don’ts. J Midlife Health. 2011;2(2):51–56. doi:10.4103/0976-7800.92524

  1. Jane Dowling www.getthegloss.com, Why Exercise is so Important for your Mental Health During Menopause, accessed 14/10/2019.

Edited by Sarah Haselwood Writing Services 

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