Managing Menopause – the exercise and movement side of things
This blog is the first instalment in a three-part series that will be featured in the lead up to SOF’s Managing Menopause event on Wednesday 8th September. This event is being held to celebrate Women’s Health Week and to address the role movement & exercise, psychology and diet has on menopause – a topic that is still relatively taboo, yet extremely interesting and important.
So, boys and girls, since all of you will experience menopause one way or another (literally personally or through someone else), sit back and enjoy Part 1/3 – Managing Menopause, an exercise approach.
'Menopause’ is defined as a woman's last menstrual period. The criteria for diagnosis is that there has been no menstrual period for 12-months. Most women will experience this between the ages of 50-51. The years before and after menopause are referred to as peri-menopause and post-menopause respectively. As a whole, an individual can go through menopause for up to 10 years – have some sympathy for the women in your life!
During this time, women experience many difficulties including vasomotor (hot flushes), psychological/cognitive changes (mood swings, anxiety, irritability) and physiological symptoms (bone density and cardiovascular changes) – just to name a few. The majority of these changes can be attributed to the decline of two hormones:
- Oestrogen (also called estrogen) — largely influences reproductive function, metabolism, fat storage, thermoregulation and your response/recovery to exercise.
- Progesterone — largely influences mood and anxiety/irritability.
The good news is that there are things you can do to manage the symptoms of menopause and make this period (excuse the pun) of life easier. Menopause does not have to mean slowing down or stopping!
Due to the altered hormonal profile associated with menopause, women are at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, bone fractures, stroke, being overweight, poorer mental health and more. Whilst this sounds bleak, movement and exercise are just one of the researched areas proven to play a key role in managing these concerns and reducing the severity of menopausal symptoms. If you want to discuss the science of the specific physiological changes/mechanisms that occur then come and find us for a chat, but for the sake of keeping things simple, we have highlighted a few key findings for you below.
The famous Nurses Health Study (NHS) is a 20-year follow up in post-menopausal women. It highlights that women who exercised >1-hour/week had a 58% increased risk of coronary heart disease compared to women exercising for >3.5-hours/week. This equates to 30-minutes of moderate-vigorous intensity exercise a day (meaning you can just hold conversation whilst exercising). The study also highlighted an inverse relationship between increasing physical activity and the risk of cardiovascular events – the more you do, the better off you are.
If moderate-vigorous intensity exercise isn’t for you, the same study showed that walking for 1-hour/week at an ‘average pace’ decreased the risk of hip fracture by 6%. Every additional hour walking after this provided a further 6% decrease.
On top of all the bodily changes women have to deal with, the brain decides to bring in its two-cents as well. Poorer mental health, increased feelings of anxiety, difficulty sleeping and memory issues are all prevalent and real.
Just one session of exercise per week has highlighted a 22% reduction in the chance of developing depression, with 4-exercise sessions giving us a 46% reduced chance. Not only does exercise release a bunch of good hormones that leave us feeling happy and energised, it also provides the opportunity to focus on ourselves, catch-up with friends and create new connections. Our Fit Over 50’s class is the perfect example of this with it not being unusual for the gang to congregate for several hours at the coffee shop next door.
So, whether it's you, your mum or your twice removed aunt going through menopause, cut them some slack, take them out for a walk and do a few squats together whilst brushing your teeth. Or better yet, get in touch and try SOF’s extensive group fitness program.
For more information about the upcoming Managing Menopause workshop, click this link here.
See you soon,
Pines, A., & Berry, E. M. (2007). Exercise in the menopause - an update. Climacteric : The Journal of the International Menopause Society, 10 Suppl 2, 42–46. https://doi.org/10.1080/13697130701600153