This week we will be discussing exercise for menopause, including its benefits and how to incorporate exercise into your daily routine.
Recommendations for Exercise
Most people are aware that exercise is good for us, but it is difficult to know how much and what type of exercise to do.
The NHS recommends that adults should aim to:
- Do strengthening activities at least twice a week that work all the major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).
- Do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity per week.
- Spend less time sitting or lying down.
- Break up long periods of inactivity with some activity.
- Spread activity across the week, over 4 to 5 days, or every day.
These recommendations are advised for adults aged 19 to 64 and are suitable for disabled adults, pregnant women, and new mothers. Guidance for older adults recommends that light activity be done daily, including moving around your home, vacuuming, making the bed, and standing up.
Moderate and Vigorous Exercise
In terms of exercise intensity, moderate aerobic activity is activity that increases your heart rate, breathing rate, and makes you feel warmer. You should be able to talk at this level but not sing. Examples of moderate intensity activities include:
- Riding a bike
- Doubles tennis
- Pushing a lawn mower
- Brisk walking
- Water aerobics
Vigorous intensity activity makes you breath hard and fast. You may struggle to talk when exercising at this intensity. Examples of vigorous activities include:
- Riding a bike fast or on hills
- Walking up the stairs
Most moderate intensity activities can become vigorous intensity if you increase your effort.
In terms of strength exercises, there are many ways that you can strengthen your muscles, not only by going to the gym. Some muscle-strengthening activities include:
- Carrying heavy shopping bags
- Tai chi
- Lifting weights
- Using resistance bands
- Body weight exercises, like sit-ups and push-ups
- Heavy gardening .
Benefits of Exercise for Menopause
Physical activity is linked with preventing several diseases including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression, and anxiety. It additionally aids in physical markers such as increasing endurance, oxygen supply to the muscles and muscle mass .
In terms of exercise during menopause, exercise can be beneficial to menopausal women in numerous ways. Firstly, moderate to high physical activity levels have been found to reduce severity of menopausal symptoms compared to inactive women. This can be worsened when women have inactive jobs .
In terms of physical markers, osteoporosis and muscle wastage can be prevented through exercise. Exercise may improve bone mineral density and strength, preventing fractures and falls . Incorporating strength training into your routine prevents muscle wastage, improving the likelihood of good mobility throughout ageing .
Regarding cardiovascular benefits, exercise has been found to reduce high blood pressure, improve blood lipids, and reduce oxidative stress. These factors all contribute to reducing cardiovascular disease risk .
Avoidance of obesity, an increased risk factor for menopausal women due to menopausal weight gain, is another benefit of exercise for menopause. Decreasing risk of other comorbidities such as glucose intolerance, hypertension, heart disease , and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease .
Finally, hormone changes throughout menopause can increase the likelihood of mood swings in women. Exercise has been found to promote improvements in women with moderate and severe depression, as well as those with anxiety, in comparison to a control group, suggesting that exercise can promote improvements in mental health .
To summarise, exercise has numerous benefits for menopausal women. Incorporating at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise into your routine can improve health and wellbeing, alongside adequate strengthening exercises.
Top 5 Tips for Increasing Physical Activity
- Remember that small activities such as pushing a lawn mower or vacuuming can help to meet recommendations.
- Spread activity evenly over 4 to 5 days, or every day.
- Increase any moderate intensity exercise to vigorous intensity by putting in more effort.
- Reduce sitting or lying down by taking a walk at regular intervals throughout the day.
- Remember that strength exercises can be anything from carrying heavy shopping to yoga.
Caroline Hill is a specialist menopause dietitian supporting women making dietary change. Caroline uses her extensive knowledge, skills and expertise of food and nutrition to help women manage their symptoms and weight during menopause. Caroline believes in providing sustainable, individualised, evidence-based advice to women making dietary change.