Exercise & Menopause

Exercise and Menopause

I have seen so many women who have always been really fit and healthy, suddenly struggle to keep up their usual routine as they have approach the menopause.

Did you know that 1/4 of women have considered leaving their job because of menopause.
I hate to imagine what those statistics are for exercise.

We are all going to be fighting against the ageing process, because from the age of 30, our muscles start to naturally shrink. 

Did you know that muscle mass can decline at an approximate rate of 3-5 percent per year?

Not only that but hormonal fluctuations play a role in hindering muscle gain.

And your ovaries produce less and less oestrogen when we menopause which can cause your bone cells to break down, possibly leading to osteoporosis? 

Oestrogen protects the arteries of a woman’s heart in a number of ways, including by reducing build-up of fatty plaque. This means that, after the menopause, you are at an increased risk of heart disease. You can see just how important it is to start thinking about how to approach these inevitable changes in order to give yourself confidence as you approach the menopause and if you plan and prepare, you can avoid a number of barriers that may prevent you from enjoying exercise.

  1. Start lifting weights with guidance from a professional. If you are on your menopause journey and decide it is time to get fit, or add weights to you let program please make sure you take it slowly, with guidance from a professional in this field. Strength training will help with: heart, bone and joint health, it will enable you to feel strong and mobile, help prevent injury and osteoporosis, can provide mental health benefits and adds variety to your workouts. Pace yourself well and build up to a good fitness level gradually. Remember this is a marathon not a sprint. 
  2. Try to get more sleep 8-9 hours and ensure you allow your body recovery and rest. Sleep is a crucial part of recovery at any age, but in menopause we can find this heavily compromised due to night sweats and other factors, so try to factor this in to your sleep routine. Rest will be vital on the back of this so please don’t exercise every day . This will likely have an impact on recovery time and your metabolism could slow right down.  It is very common in the menopause for women to find that, even though they are exercising every day, they are putting weight on. Exercising every day can prevent your adrenals from recharging. Overtraining can hinder your gains and can led to injury. Have at least two rest days a week.
  3. Eat a healthy balanced diet to help with inevitable weight gain. During the menopause, muscle mass reduces which means you may be needing fewer calories than before. If we don’t pay attention then over time this can lead to weight gain. Being careful about how many calories you consume, your portion sizes and doing more physical activity can help. Menopause can also increase your risk of developing heart disease. Eating a heart healthy diet can help to lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure In addition to exercise, a low-fat, high fiber diet rich in calcium can also help ward off symptoms.
  4. Listen to your body and look at different ways to move. Exercise works by improving muscle mass, strength, balance, and coordination. Here is a small list of recommendations for you . HIIT –  whilst this efficient, fat burning , heart pumping, can do anywhere workout is brilliant, it’s important to make sure you feel up for the intensity. Menopause symptoms can leave us feeling tired, if we overdo it, we can find ourselves susceptible to injury and joint pain. My advice would be to lower the intensity if you’re feeling sluggish until you feel back ready challenge.  LISS – Low impact steady state – LISS cardio has many health benefits, including improved blood flow, reduced stress, lower risk of heart disease, and improved brain function. It is easier to do and gentler on the body, it’s appropriate for beginners.  NON IMPACT- swimming , cycling , pilates, yoga will help improve flexibility, balance as well as providing an effective workout.  STRENGTH TRAINING – Strength training will help you build lean muscle, and lean muscle uses up your calories really efficiently. It  can also help to offset the decline of bone mineral density and prevent osteoporosis. A moderate exercise schedule combined with sensible food choices can not only keep the weight in check, but it also lowers the risk of stress, anxiety, and depression, all of which tend to show up liberally during and beyond menopause.
  5. Cut back or cut out alcohol and caffeine. Both caffeine and alcohol can make hot flushes worse so try to moderate intake of caffeine from drinks like coffee, tea and colas or choose decaffeinated drinks if you are sensitive to its stimulatory effects. Keep to sensible alcohol limits – no more than two to three units per day, avoid altogether if you feel it makes symptoms worse. It’s also worth remembering that: Drinking alcohol the night before exercise could have a negative influence on your performance the following day. It is not possible to perform at your best if you are feeling any of the effects normally associated with a hangover such as dehydration or headache.
  • During exercise, your muscles burn glucose for energy. This produces lactic acid. Too much lactic acid leads to muscle fatigue and cramps. 
  • It’s advisable to avoid alcohol the night before exercise, especially if it is due to be moderate or intense activity, but if you do decide to drink, ideally limit the number of drinks and take alcohol with food. 
  • Drinking directly after exercise is also not advisable if you have not consumed enough water to replace the fluids you lost through sweating.
  • Alcohol can disrupt sleep patterns. Growth hormones which we need for muscle growth are released during deep sleep. Therefore disrupted sleep from alcohol can lead to slow muscle gain
  1. Warm up and cool down. Often we find ourselves skipping this part of a program which can only lead to injury and poor performance so please make sure you include this. Joint pain is very common at this time because the breakdown in joint tissue can cause pain. However, functional exercise will stimulate the blood flow to joint tissue so the increases supply of oxygen and nutrients can lubricate the joints before working out. So please make sure you warm up and cool down. Finding a form of movement that helps relieve your symptoms is the best way to move combat this pain and move forward.
  2. Recognise the barrier presented to exercise at this time: Pelvic floors  Oestrogen is important for keeping the ligaments of your pelvic floor strong and elastic. When the levels of this oestrogen drop, the ligaments that hold your bowel, bladder and womb in place become thinner, weaker and less resilient. This may prevent you from starting a program but please remember you can seek help from a specialist and gain confidence to start .- Lack of motivation – Night sweats , lack of sleep can lead to low energy and lack of motivation and a decrease in your metabolism due to a decline in oestrogen play a huge part in leaving women feeling particularly unmotivated which can put them at a higher risk of heart disease and osteoporosis as a result. Try to look at the health benefits rather than the aesthetics to help motivate you. Time poor- It’s very clear that midlife women are time poor as we can find ourselves caring for children and elderly parents, often meaning exercise takes a back seat. It is vital you make time for yourself as exercise will help you cope with the emotions presented at this difficult time. It’s doesn’t need to be long – it just needs to be done. 
  3. Commit to a program with a coach who has specific knowledge in this area and who can hold you accountable and encourage you to keep focused and motivated. To give you an idea a good training program should take the following into account: Hormone Health, Cardiac Fitness, Pelvic Floors& Core Strength,  Rest , Recovery, Mobility and Stretching 
  4. PLEASE remember you from any level and you’re never too old . Age is just a number and you can choose to be fit and healthier for longer. The journey towards menopause doesn’t need to be a barrier to physical fitness so please reach out for help.
  5. Think about how you want to feel strong, confident , mobile , and energetic well into your 80’s … the earlier you start moving, the easier and more sustainable it will be. 

It won’t happen over night but it will happen .

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