It’s true that physical activity is beneficial at every stage of our lives, but it’s especially true as menopause approaches.
As we age and our reproductive cycle begins to slow down, women experience a number of physical side effects in response to the significant hormonal changes at work.
While menopause is officially diagnosed when a woman has gone 12 months without a period, the time leading up to menopause (perimenopase) can begin eight to 10 years prior (although the majority of women experience symptoms for less than half of this time).
Menopause brings about substantial changes in the body due to the reduced production of hormones oestrogen and progesterone. This transition affects each woman uniquely, however some of the more common symptoms are irregular periods, hot flashes, trouble sleeping, pain during sex, urinary incontinence, moodiness, irritability, fatigue and depression.
While it’s important to speak with your doctor about any symptoms that disrupt your quality of life, exercise can be a complementary strategy for managing these changes and maintaining your health. Below are a few ways exercise can be beneficial in the transition to menopause:
The hormonal changes caused by menopause can slow the metabolism down, making it easier to gain weight. It’s common for women to experience weight gain and shifts in body composition. Regular exercise can increase your metabolic rate, meaning your body is burning more calories. It can also build and preserve lean muscle mass, which is important for retaining strength in addition to managing weight effectively.
Bone & heart health
Postmenopausal women are more vulnerable to heart disease and osteoporosis. Coronary heart disease is the second leading cause of death amongst Australian women. Research shows that menopause comes with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, highlighting the importance of early intervention strategies, like exercising regularly, to reduce this risk.
Osteoporosis, characterised by bone weakening, is a major cause of disability in older women. Exercise can strengthen both muscles and bones, as well as improve balance which helps to prevent falls. It’s essential to complement your exercise routine with a balanced diet rich in calcium for optimal bone health.
Incorporating a mix of weight-bearing exercise, such as walking or resistance training, and cardiovascular workouts, like swimming or cycling, can contribute to a healthier heart and bones.
Pelvic floor strength
Since oestrogen plays an important role in keeping our pelvic floor muscles strong and flexible, many women (about 50%) experience symptoms of pelvic floor weakness due to menopause, such as urinary incontinence, vaginal dryness and pain with intercourse. Regular exercise, particularly when combined with pelvic floor exercises, can help preserve pelvic floor muscle strength and function.
Exercise hasn’t conclusively proven effective in managing physical menopausal symptoms, like hot flashes and sleep disturbances, however it’s been shown to have considerable mental health benefits. The transition to menopause can understandably impact many women’s mental health, leading to feelings of irritability, decreased self-esteem or depression that can deeply affect their quality of life. Regular exercise has been shown to boost mood, reduce anxiety and depression, and enhance self-esteem during the menopausal transition.
While an inevitable part of a woman’s life, menopause doesn’t have to be a roadblock in your health and fitness journey. Despite the various physical and emotional changes, exercise is a fantastic way to improve your wellbeing and feel more comfortable during this time. And there’s no need to do it alone.
At Sista Fitness, you’ll find a supportive female community and an abundance of helpful resources to navigate this transition. Choose from a wide range of fitness classes to suit your preferred style of workout, whether that’s yoga or pilates, cycling or weight training. We also have personal training available for one-on-one sessions tailored to your individual fitness level, ability and goals. Additionally, you’ll have top-tier equipment and facilities at your disposal to keep you motivated.
Sista Fitness aims to support you through every stage of life and empower you to feel your best, no matter the circumstance. Get in touch to find out more.