Today, Friday, February 22, 2019

Exercise Your Way to a More Comfortable Menopause

There is some good news for those women who are experiencing menopause. The results of a new Temple University study reveal evidence that there is a way to lessen some of the negative effects associated with menopause, such as being stressed out, anxious, or depressed.

Menopause and exercise has been the object of dozens of research studies over the years, but results have not been totally consistent. While some people have not found exercise to help with hot flashes or night sweats, others have found these symptoms were not as severe as they were without exercise. And when it comes to the emotional roller coaster of menopause, it is now the conclusion of this and several other studies that natural feelings such as depression, stress and anxiety are positively helped by exercise.

Women going through menopause experience not only these emotional issues, but also irritability and fatigue. Levels of estrogen and testosterone start to decrease as early as late thirties, and continued hormonal changes occur throughout the 40s. By the time most women have crossed over the age line into their 50s, their periods stop completely and hormones are less of an issue.

Study of Menopause and Exercise

This current study of menopause and exercise included both white and African-American women between the ages of 35 and 47, and the research study followed their lives for eight years. This covered the pre-menopausal years through menopause itself. The women were placed in three groups according to their level of exercise. The women who had the highest levels of exercise also had the most relief from menopausal symptoms.

There are also other pluses associated with menopause and exercise such as increased bone density, which can help prevent the development of osteoporosis, lowering levels of cholesterol and fats in the blood, which can deter heart disease, and less frequent headaches and insomnia. Women routinely gain weight as they go through menopause and exercise can limit this effect and in some cases, stop it altogether.

Exercise and Endorphins

While depression is not a characteristic absolutely related to menopause, exercising regularly does help eliminate depression. This is where endorphins come into play. Exercise creates endorphins, also known as opioids, which are related to brain activity. Depression is now believed to be associated with menopause because of the changes in family, relationships, self-identity and work which occur at the same time.

It is believed that these chemicals can help our ability to deal with anxiety, stress, pain, anger and other emotions and even help us to control our hunger. Appetites are important during menopause and exercise can help by curbing our food cravings. Exercise also allows us to burn more calories and keep weight down.

This is critical because women often gain weight while going through menopause. Studies show that this occurs more often in women who are sedentary than in women who exercise. Menopause and exercise are also a good fit because the weight gained during menopause is not on the hips as it is most often with women, but on their waists instead. It is proven that fat around the abdominal area, more often associated with the apple shape of males, can lead to more of a risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

While estrogen therapy has been found to protect women from osteoporosis and heart disease, it is now known that exercise can be just as protective. Most women who exercise consistently during menopause do not experience the typical weight gain associated with the condition. Exercise lowers the risk of heart disease, and it does this not only by preventing weight gain, but by improving cholesterol and blood pressure.

Why Exercise?

You don’t have to be an athlete to improve your body before, during, or after menopause. But, don’t sit around and let your body and your health decline

If you have been leading a sedentary life, you will need to start out slowly. Begin by clearing your exercise routine with your doctor and then find an enjoyable activity to participate in. The most popular aerobic exercises are walking, swimming, bicycling, or taking an aerobics class. Some people like to exercise at home and some like to go to the gym or health.

Studies do show that sedentary people who start to exercise with other people tend to stick with it more than people who exercise alone. Some people simply do better when there are other people to encourage them and create a social atmosphere. The best exercise plan is to start out with an aerobic activity to burn calories and help your heart and then add on strength training once you are starting to see benefits from the cardio workouts.

Menopause and exercise are intricately related because in the five years after menopause, you will start to lose muscle strength, bone density, and your body’s metabolism will slow down. That means you are burning fewer calories. You also become noticeably less flexible. When you combine a lack of flexibility with a loss in muscle strength and bone density, you will see that you fall down more, and sometimes may not be able to get up.

Don’t let menopause get you down. As the Temple University study and other research show, stress, anxiety and depression can all be lessened when you combine menopause and exercise. Plus, with the positive attitude you will also gain, you will feel not so much like you are getting old, but more like you can still conquer the world.

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