The Exercise-Menopause Connection
Are you in menopause? Pre menopause? Then you’re probably familiar with the challenges that many menopausal women experience: hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, irritability, and depression. These symptoms, alone or combined, can compromise a woman’s quality of life. Even worse, menopausal symptoms can crate a domino effect. For example, night sweats can cause sleep problems that lead to chronic sleep deficits, which in turn may significantly affect mood, anxiety levels, alertness and mental acuity. The good news is that exercise can help.
It is widely accepted that physical activity yields health benefits and is an effective way to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, anxiety, and depression. Plus, there is compelling evidence that exercise can benefit middle aged women by improving brain function, increasing functional capacities, like muscular strength, and lessening anxiety and depression.
Research specifically done on menopausal women found that:
- moderate cardiovascular exercise decreased hot flashes 24 hours after exercise.
- Regular moderate-intensity physical activity (60 min/day) had a favorable effect on menopause symptoms and quality of life
- Resistance and aerobic exercise were found to have a positive impact on menopausal symptoms, psychological health, depression and quality of life
- Women with healthy body mass index scores reported lower levels of vasomotor symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. Data suggested a positive association among somatic/psychological dimensions, health-related quality of life and regular exercise
Many research studies have been conducted that indicate moderate, rather than vigorous, physical activity has the most positive effect on menopause symptoms. Women who participate in moderate-intensity physical activity reported higher menopausal quality of life and lower total number of symptoms than women who engaged in either low or high intensity physical activity. In addition, women with low physical activity levels report the highest frequency of symptoms and the greatest discomfort. Moderation is the key!
Exercise Tips for Menopausal Women
- Keep exercise intensity moderate (target heart rate = 50%-70%)
- Keep body temperature at your comfort level to avoid an increase in vasomotor symptoms, such as hot flashes and night sweats.
- Add cardiovascular, Pilates and/or mediation components to improve quality of life.
- Add resistance training and Pilates to increase bone mineral density and help maintain a healthy body mass index
- Strive to exercise 60 minutes a day for a minimum of 12 weeks to garner the best results.