Many women gain weight during the menopause so you may need to take steps to ensure that you don’t pile on too many excess pounds, for the sake of your health. Too many older women get less physical activity as they age, but exercise is an important part of either losing weight after the menopause or maintaining a healthy weight. Here’s what you need to know about the importance of exercise during and after the menopause.
Why the Menopause Causes Weight Gain
Shifting oestrogen levels can have a significant impact on your weight. It is believed that oestrogen helps to regulate body weight, and when you go through the menopause your oestrogen levels decrease. The drop in hormones may make you eat more while getting less physical activity, and may also lower your metabolic rate – the rate at which the body converts stored energy into working energy.
There are other age-related factors that might play a role in weight gain too. As you get older, you lose muscle mass, which has a negative impact on your metabolism and makes it easier for you to gain weight. The rate at which your body uses up energy during physical activity is also likely to decrease, which means you’ll have to do more exercise to reap the same weight-shedding benefits you’d gain from smaller amounts of exercise in the past.
Why Exercise is Essential for Losing Weight after the Menopause
Exercise is important no matter what your age, but if you want to reduce weight gain during the menopause, it’s essential. The more active you are, the less weight you’re likely to gain. While exercise may not help every woman avoid weight gain entirely, it will certainly do more to minimise it than hours spent sitting in front of the TV!
Try to fit plenty of aerobic activity into your routine, which includes jogging, fast walking, cycling and swimming. Aerobic exercise raises your breathing and heart rate, burning calories and helping you to keep excess pounds at bay. You should be trying to get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week, which can easily be broken up into small daily sessions.
You should also do regular strength training to help build muscle mass and improve metabolism. This includes doing yoga, using weight machines and lifting dumbbells. Even gardening can count.
It’s important to get into a routine that you can maintain long-term. Sticking with regular exercise both during the process of losing weight and after you’ve lost it is the key to maintaining any weight loss.
Remember, exercise has many other benefits too. It reduces your risk of a number of health conditions, including osteoporosis and heart disease. It also keeps your muscles and joints strong, and boosts your moods, lowering your risk of depression and anxiety.
Losing Weight after the Menopause
One of the best ways to ensure the success of your workouts is to choose physical activities you enjoy. These will fit nicely into your routine without feeling like a chore or obligation. If you like doing them, you’ll find it much easier to stick with them in the long term.
You might also find it helpful to exercise with a partner, as you’ll be able to keep each other motivated. Having someone meet with you to exercise can often make the difference between showing up and not exercising at all. You’re also likely to work harder when there’s someone around to see you doing so.
Combining your exercise efforts with good nutrition will give you the best fitness results, so make sure you eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains. Meanwhile, stay away from processed foods!
While you may not always be able to completely prevent weight gain caused by the hormonal fluctuations of the menopause, spending less and less time on the go will only make things worse. Losing weight after the menopause in combination with a good exercise regime, will help you stay in shape and prevent weight gain from getting out of control.
The Challenge of the 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.
Relieving the Symptoms of the Menopause with Exercise
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 to Relieve the Symptoms of Menopause
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 and not losing weight after the menopause and this is 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.
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