Exercise Benefits Women During and After Menopause
Women typically reach menopause in their early 50s. Fluctuations in hormonal levels and cycles can make this a time of profound emotional and physical changes for many women. It's also a time when a program of regular exercise can be especially beneficial.
Shan James, exercise physiologist and fitness manager at the Duke Center for Living, part of Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., says exercise benefits menopausal and post-menopausal women in several ways.
"The hormonal changes affect not only mood swings, behavior and emotions, but also the way our body works," says James. "The endorphins that are released in exercise can actually help with a lot of these mood swings that women experience."
James says an exercise program during and after menopause should include weight-bearing and resistance exercise to help increase or maintain bone density and prevent osteoporosis. She recommends weight-bearing exercises, such as walking or jogging, as well as resistance exercise, which is the most effective way to help strengthen the major muscle groups.
Aerobic exercise reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and also helps to combat weight gain.
"As our metabolism slows down, we gain weight more quickly," James says. "So you absolutely have to add in cardiovascular exercise, at that time, getting the heart rate up for 30 to 60 minutes, to be able to counteract the weight gain."
James has two important recommendations for anyone planning to begin an exercise program. First, always be sure to talk with a qualified fitness professional and to your physician before starting out; and, second, remember that your fitness program is much more likely to be successful if it's combined with an appropriate diet and nutrition plan.