Menopause; Exercise is Key to help diminish symptoms and boost self-esteem

As women enter menopause, regular exercise can help diminish symptoms and boost self-esteem. Here are some tips for incorporating a fitness routine into your schedule.

There comes a point in every woman’s reproductive life when her levels of estrogen begin to decrease and, as a result, her monthly periods diminish and finally end. This transition is known as menopause. Each woman’s body deals with these changes differently, some suffering severe symptoms; others breezing through this period of their lives with ease. As concerns arise over using hormone replacement therapies, many women overlook one of the best ways to help ease these symptoms and that is, exercise.

Menopause concerns: Fitness and exercise tips for menopausal women

Exercise is important at any stage of a woman’s life, but becomes increasingly more so as women age. Certainly, the risks of heart disease and osteoporosis increase and these hormonal shifts can cause a shifting in body fat and weight gain. Sex drive diminishes and some women suffer from depression or severe mood swings. Many women suffer from hot flashes, which signal a drop in the estrogen level. These can be debilitating. Some also have trouble sleeping, often as a direct result of the hot flashes. Regular exercise has been found to help in all these areas and can also help maintain muscle mass and condition the cardiovascular system, reducing body fat.

For women who have already incorporated a regular fitness program into their daily lives, moving into menopause should not significantly alter their activities. Care should be taken that proper footwear is worn for weight bearing exercises such as walking, running or weight training and adjustments may have to be made for exercising in extreme heat or cold. There are plenty of options in exercise clothing designed for keeping cool or maintaining body heat. Generally, the advice that doctors offer is to listen to your body and not to overwork or go beyond your level of fitness. With some minor adjustments, active women can remain so as they move through this period of their lives.

But what about the woman who has never exercised or exercises sporadically? How should she proceed? First of all, no one should start a fitness program without first checking with her physician. A physical assessment should be made and a fitness program can be designed based on the woman’s general health. Factors such as high blood pressure, heart health and bone and joint fitness must be considered.

Assuming no significant health problems are revealed and your doctor gives you the okay, it’s time to take a look at some of the options available. Finding activities that you enjoy and that, at the same time you can take a look at some of the options available. An exercise program does not have to be complex or expensive, only consistent. It can be as simple as taking a daily walk around the block. The main thing is to be consistent. Here are some ideas for incorporating exercise into your life.

Walking

This is the simplest, least expensive and more accessible exercise available. It can be accomplished outside in good weather and inside, in a mall or gym, when the weather turns colder. It is a weight bearing exercise and as such, helps in the maintenance of bone density, an important factor as women enter the age where osteoporosis becomes a real concern. Walking is possibly the most appropriate exercise for these circumstances. It is weight bearing, so will help maintain bone density and, since it is also aerobic, walking can aid in weight reduction. Even the cardiovascular system benefits from a brisk, half-hour walk. Finally, walking tones leg muscles and helps to firm the gluteus maximus! Pop a fitness songs into your mp3 player (128 bpm minimum) and get moving!

Aquatic Exercise

When considering forms of exercise, many women overlook the benefits of exercising in the water. Whether you swim water-walk or participate in a water aerobics class, exercising in the water offers a myriad of bonuses. Water provides an additional force of resistance and when you move your muscles through the water, there is a dual effect in pushing up and pushing down in the water. Land exercise does not offer this very positive benefit. Aquatic exercise is easier on older joints since there is little or no impact involved. Additionally, the water helps keep your body cool and can be particularly soothing for a woman suffering from hot flashes.

Working out with hand buoys in the water builds upper body strength and tones muscles and can be done with special equipment purchased online or by simply using gallon milk containers. You can work out in a lake, pond, pool or ocean and you will most likely not be alone. People are really beginning to appreciate water exercise.

Yoga

More and more menopausal women are discovering how helpful the practice of yoga can be during this period of their lives. Yoga, which combines meditation and stretching exercise, works both the body and the mind. There is also evidence that yoga helps to balance the endocrine system and this can help relieve the symptoms of menopause. The stretching helps develop core strength as well as balance. And, there are many poses that are said to help in elevating hot flashes and other unpleasant symptoms.

Additionally, yoga is known to improve posture and breathing as well as to bring a sense of peace and balance.

Cycling

Not only is riding a bicycle great exercise but also fun! Try renting a bike at a local park or riding a stationary bike at the health club. Ride with your kids or grandchildren. It’s a great way to travel and workout at the same time. If you are a novice, consider renting a bike at a local park and ride for a half-hour or so the first time out. Riding works leg muscles unlike any other form of exercise and is also excellent for the glutes.

Dancing

Richard Simmons has made a living by incorporating dance and exercise and it is as simple as popping an upbeat CD into your player and moving to the beat. Whatever your preference, there is certainly something that will get you going. There are a variety of mixed, fitness CDs on the market with a steady bpm (beats per minute) and seamless format that will keep you moving. Combine kicks, knee lifts, lunges, and other simple calisthenics into your routine. It doesn’t have to be pretty!

Try incorporating a little upper body workout with your dance steps. Pick up a pair of light (five pounds or under) hand weights and work the arms at the same time. Make it freestyle and fun.

For many women, menopause signals the beginning of a new phase of their lives. With their children grown and gone, there is finally time to explore new opportunities and experiences. Incorporating an exercise plan into your daily routine is a reward that a woman can give herself, ensuring continuing health and physical well-being.

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