While exercise may not have a direct benefit to menopausal symptoms, it is beneficial for long term health. The lack of oestrogen puts women on the same risk factors as men with heart health, muscle strength can decrease and loss of bone. Women often exercise less as they approach the menopause which also adds weight gain into the equation.
Muscle mass deteriorates with age by about 1/2 a pound per year, however muscles hold all the power cells, the mitochondria, that help burn energy (calories), so the less muscle we have the less calories we will burn. In turn we also tend to consume more calories, (thinking of my mother here and her cake and coffee and cream tea consumption)
- Exercise increases the cardio respiratory function
- Exercise can help create a calorie deficit and minimize midlife weight gain.
- It increases the bone mass. Strength training and impact activities (like walking or running) can help to offset the decline of bone mineral density and prevent osteoporosis
- It also reduces low back pain
- It is proven to help reduce stress and improve the mood
It is never too late to start exercising. The key is to start slowly and do things you enjoy such as walking, cycling, vigorous garden work, swimming, cardio machines or attending group fitness classes. Regular exercising can help in improving the overall wellbeing. Even moderate physical activity like simply moving the body enough to get the heart pumping brings great health benefits including more energy. The activity should be fast enough to get the heart pumping without being out of breath or exhausted.
If you have not exercised for many years or have health conditions always check with your GP before commencing a new exercise schedule.
Surges in cortisol the stress hormone, may effect menopausal symptoms, even a stressful thought may raise levels in susceptible women. When cortisol levels are high the brain is less less sensitive to oestrogen, so symptoms of oestrogen deficiency can occur such as hot flushes. You do not have to be deficient in oestrogen for this to occur, its due to the way the brain processes under stress.
High levels of oestrogen and stress combined with a bad diet can make the corps lute malfunction during menstruation, which in turn may cause the body to stop making progesterone. If you have high levels of oestrogen and low levels of progesterone you will be classed as having oestrogen dominance. Oestrogen dominance has been linked to heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis.
Between 35 to 50 years of age there is a 75% reduction in production of progesterone but our levels of oestrogen during the same period only declines about 35%. By menopause, the total amount of progesterone made in the body is extremely low, but oestrogen is still present at about half its pre-menopausal level.