Why is fitness important during menopause?
Exercise during and after menopause offers many benefits, including:
- Preventing weight gain. Women tend to lose muscle mass and gain abdominal fat around menopause. Regular physical activity can help prevent weight gain.
- Reducing the risk of cancer. Exercise during and after menopause can help you lose excess weight or maintain a healthy weight, which might offer protection from various types of cancer, including breast, colon and endometrial cancer.
- Strengthening your bones. Exercise can slow bone loss after menopause, which lowers the risk of fractures and osteoporosis.
- Reducing the risk of other diseases. Menopause weight gain can have serious implications for your health. Excess weight increases the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Regular exercise can counter these risks.
- Boosting your mood. Physically active adults have a lower risk of depression and cognitive decline.
How does exercise affect menopause signs and symptoms?
Being overweight or having a BMI greater than 30 (obesity) might be associated with hot flashes, but further research is needed. Exercise isn’t a proven way to reduce menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and sleep disturbances. However, regular exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight, relieve stress and improve your quality of life.
What are the best physical activities to try?
For most healthy women, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends moderate aerobic activity for at least 150 minutes a week or vigorous aerobic activity for at least 75 minutes a week. In addition, strength training exercises are recommended at least twice a week. Feel free to spread out your exercising throughout your week.
Consider your exercise options and their benefits:
- Aerobic activity. Aerobic activity can help you shed excess pounds and maintain a healthy weight. Try brisk walking, jogging, biking, swimming or water aerobics. If you’re a beginner, start with 10 minutes a day and gradually increase the intensity and duration.
- Strength training. Regular strength training can help you reduce body fat, strengthen your muscles and burn calories more efficiently. Try weight machines, hand-held weights or resistance tubing. Choose a weight or resistance level heavy enough to tire your muscles after about 12 repetitions. Gradually increase the weight or resistance level as you get stronger.
- Stretching. Stretching can help improve flexibility. Set aside time to stretch after each workout, when your muscles are warm and receptive to stretching.
- Stability and balance. Balance exercises improve stability and can help prevent falls. Try simple exercises, such as standing on one leg while brushing your teeth. Activities such as tai chi also can be helpful.
How can you stay motivated?
Set realistic, achievable goals. Rather than vowing to exercise more, for example, commit to a daily 30-minute walk after dinner. Frequently update your goals as you achieve greater levels of fitness. Teaming up with someone — such as a partner, friend or neighbor — can make a difference, too.
Remember, you don’t have to go to the gym to exercise. Many activities, such as dancing and gardening, also can improve your health. Whatever you choose, take time to warm up and cool down safely.