Can Exercise Help Ease the Symptoms of Menopause?
The average age that women start going through the menopause is in their early 50s. For some, the process will be a fairly easy one. For others, it can be a time of challenging physical and mental upheaval.
The symptoms of menopause are relatively well-known. Hot flushes, mood swings, sweating at night and vaginal dryness are all common side-effects, due to the diminishing levels of oestrogen in the body. However, if you’re suffering from any of these symptoms, don’t feel downhearted – here’s some good news. It’s believed that exercise may be able to offer you significant relief.
Fighting the Menopause’s Most Common Symptom – Hot Flushes
Hot flushes are the most common, not to mention most dreaded symptom of menopause. The cause of hot flushes is still not completely understood, though it’s thought that the nervous system is to blame, which becomes erratic at this time in a woman’s life. The nerves trigger blood vessels in the skin to open, sending a signal to the sweat glands to become active.
However, according to research carried out at the Penn State University in the US, exercise can help alleviate hot flushes through exercise. The study involved 92 women, all aged from 40 to 59, who were not on HRT. Each participant was required to record when they experienced a hot flush, and were also monitored on their levels of physical activity.
Initially, the researchers believed that exercising would increase hot flushes. However, they discovered that actually, the women who were more physically active experienced less hot flushes, especially in the 24 hours after exercising. Even women who were classified obese noticed a reduction in their menopausal symptoms, though these were less than their slimmer counterparts.
An Opportunity to Make Valuable Life Changes
Reduced amounts of oestrogen in the system not only cause several symptoms in the body, but also make women more susceptible to heart disease and osteoporosis. As a result, Dr Roger Lobo, lead author of the International Menopause Society Report, urges women to see the time as an opportunity to actively improve the quality of their lives, through healthy eating and exercise.
He comments: ‘There are some conditions, for example osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease, which are clearly directly associated with the menopause, whereas others are more associated with increasing age. Menopause provides women with an opportunity to review their health and lifestyle. Many measures are simple, but effective. Do a little more exercise, eat a little less, if you consume alcohol, do so in moderation.’
The Benefits of Exercise
Not only will exercise help to relieve the symptoms associated with the menopause, but can also help to boost your health in the long-term. It will help to strengthen the muscles, which in turn, will offer better support for your bones. Exercising regularly will also help you to increase mobility and flexibility, which will also improve balance.
Current NHS guidelines suggest that you should undertake 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise and 75 minutes a week of high-intensity aerobic activity. Aim to incorporate exercise whenever you can; cycling to work, walking into town, swimming once a week or taking part in a weekly yoga class. Even a gentle stroll around the block helps!
If you’re struggling with the symptoms of menopause and it’s having a serious impact on your life, arrange a time to talk to your GP, who may be able to offer some practical solutions to improve your physical and mental wellbeing.