Should women in the menopause exercise?
Yes! Absolutely and here’s why…
Why Women in Menopause Should Be Doing Resistance Exercise and Eating Healthily!
Are you going through the menopause?
Do you have achy or stiff joints?
Are you more tired than normal and have less energy?
Have you noticed more fat around your middle?
You are not alone. Most women, when they reach the menopause, experience some or all of these symptoms along with hot flushes, night sweats, irritability, anxiety and/or low mood and trouble remembering things or brain fog!
It’s a great stage of life, isn’t it? But it doesn’t have to be all bad. Exercise and nutrition can play a huge part in relieving these symptoms.
What is the menopause?
The Oxford dictionary definition of menopause is ‘The period in a woman’s life (typically between the ages of 45 and 50) when menstruation ceases’.
There are three stages of menopause:
- Peri Menopause – this is the time before menopause happens. Your hormones will start to lower and your menstrual cycle can become irregular. You might experience some of the classic symptoms such as hot flushes and disturbed sleep.
- Menopause – this is simply when you haven’t had a period for 12 consecutive months.
- Post Menopause – this is the time after menopause has happened (not having had a period for 12 months) and lasts for the rest of your life.
Once you are post-menopause, you have an increased risk of developing certain conditions like osteoporosis and heart disease. Oestrogen naturally declines, visceral fat increases, and bone density, muscle mass and strength, all decrease.
Changing your diet and increasing your activity levels, especially with strength training, can greatly relieve and improve many of the menopause symptoms.
Why you should choose resistance exercise/strength training:
Menopause can wreak havoc on your body, causing you to deal with extra fat around your middle and robbing you of the strength and energy that you used to have. Muscle tissue starts to break down after the age of 30 and is replaced with fat, leading to weaker muscles, as a result of the aging process. It becomes a struggle to be your best you and keep your body fit and strong. Any change for the better in diet and fitness will produce results but women in menopause almost have to go that extra mile to get the results that they want. This is why strength training and resistance training is so important (and is the best type of exercise) during and after the menopause, in order to get rid of stubborn fat and help to build and strengthen muscles. It also increases metabolism which helps to burn fat more quickly.
It’s important to keep your muscles strong from as early as you can in order to stay strong as you get older. The best way to do this is to start with moderate weights and work up until you are using heavy weights. These can be free weights or resistance training where the machine sets the resistance for you and you work against it. The last rep of either using free weights or a machine should be difficult to complete.
Studies and research have shown that resistance training in older ladies increases muscle tissue. It not only improves muscle mass but it also strengthens bones, reducing the risk of osteoporosis, as well as reducing the risk of diabetes and high blood pressure. It decreases hot flushes and night sweats, and improves balance which can prevents falls and the injuries that result from those in later life. It speeds up the metabolism, meaning that you can eat more of the foods that you like, without worrying about weight gain, as you will be burning fat more quickly.
Don’t worry about bulking up by using heavier weights or resistance. Women won’t bulk up as we don’t gain muscle tissue the way that men do due to our different hormones.
Why you should change your diet to include more of the following foods:
Eating the right foods gives your body the nutrients it needs and can help to improve your mood, ease tiredness, improve your energy levels as well as helping to alleviate menopause symptoms. Look at including foods rich in whole grains, fish, fruit, vegetables, protein and dairy into your diet:
- Whole grains – these are rich in fibre and B vitamins which has been associated with reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer. A study of over 11,000 post-menopausal women showed that eating 4.7g of whole grain fibre (compared to 1.3g) per 2000 calories reduced the risk of premature death by 17%. Try to include brown rice, wild rice, oats, and whole-grain bread into your diet on a daily basis.
- Fish – fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids as well as vitamins such as vitamin D and B2. Omega-3 fatty acids help to lessen symptoms of low mood as well as improving cognitive well-being and improving the memory. Try to have 2 portions of oily fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel twice a week. Other good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include flaxseeds, chia seeds and walnuts.
- Fruit and Vegetables – these are filled with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre which can help with hot flushes. Try to eat 5 portions a day of fruit and veg such as bananas, apples, oranges, lemons, grapefruit, dark berries, broccoli, spinach, kale, tomatoes and carrots.
- Protein – a decline in oestrogen during menopause is linked to a decrease in muscle mass and bone strength. Research has shown that after the age of 40, muscle mass can decrease by up to 8% every 10 years. After the age of 60, this increases to 10% – 15% every 10 years. Eating the correct amount of protein has been shown to prevent muscle loss. Metabolism starts to decline around the age of 40 also, meaning that weight-gain is more likely. A diet high in protein (as well as regular exercise) will help to regenerate muscle mass. Your metabolism will work faster, the more muscle you have. Aim to have between 60g-80g of protein a day, more if you are exercising. A good way to check you’re having the correct amount is to use an online protein calculator. Include foods such as chicken, lean beef, lamb, pork, fish and seafood, eggs, milk, yogurt and cheese into your daily diet.
- Dairy – as bone density decreases, due to the decline in oestrogen, there is a higher risk of osteoporosis and fractures. Research shows that 1 in 10 women over the age of 60 suffers with osteoporosis. Dairy products contain calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamins D and K which are needed to look after your bone health. A study of 750 post-menopausal women showed that those who ate more dairy had a much higher bone density than those who ate less. Eating dairy can also help to promote better sleep, reducing those disturbed nights. Include cheese, milk and yogurt into your diet, regularly.
To summarise, a few simple changes to your daily routine can dramatically change your life. Increasing your intake of dairy, healthy fats, wholegrains, fruit and veg and protein can help to alleviate menopause symptoms and improve muscle mass, and lifting heavier weights or resistance training can build strong muscles, strong bones, increase strength and energy, help with sleep and protect against disease, which means a healthier, fitter life for you well into old age.
Are you ready to make the changes needed to improve your health and fitness? If you are, please contact us to see how our 30-minute circuit workout can help you become your best you, in a safe, friendly and welcoming environment.
Caroline & Hannah xx