Menopause, Weight & Exercise

What are the major benefits of exercise for menopausal women?

1. Bone health

Although both men and women should be concerned about maintaining strong bones as they age, women are at higher risk for osteoporosis. In the years following menopause there’s a loss in bone density. The good news is that being active can help build and maintain bone density after menopause, which lowers the risk of fractures and osteoporosis.

The moves used in dance, especially ballroom and latin dancing, are great exercises for bone health without the high impact of aerobic style dancing.

This is because dance is a weight-bearing exercise which is good for bone density, improves balance and works on our body awareness skills, which can help prevent falls as we age.

So, exercise both during and after the menopause can slow bone loss, which lowers the risk of fractures and osteoporosis

2. Heart & General health

A woman’s risk for numerous medical conditions, including breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, and cardiac health issues rise during and after menopause. A dip in oestrogen levels is common at the onset of menopause. This can increase levels of LDL (the bad cholesterol) and decrease HDL (the good cholesterol).

This means menopause could arguably be one of the most important periods to stay in shape.

Exercise during and after menopause can help you lose excess weight or maintain a healthy weight, which might offer protection from various types of cancer, including breast, colon and endometrial cancer.

But if going to the gym fills you with dread then a dance class or Fitsteps class might be right up your street.

3. Joint & Muscle health

Menopausal women experience muscle atrophy (muscle loss).

As well as helping you burn calories, dance can be particularly beneficial for menopausal women. It improves coordination and postural strength, and is a fun form of exercise to consider as part of maintaining an active lifestyle.

A study involving post-menopausal women showed increases in lean muscle from strength training as little as twice a week. And research suggests the most beneficial exercises are multi-joint strength moves, such as those used in dance and dance based fitness classes.

Motion is lotion! The more you move the better you will feel.

4. Mood / Brain booster

Every woman experiences menopause differently, and not every woman feels her best during this time.  If you find your mood is up and down like a yo-yo, you feel anxious, irritable or just not quite yourself, then a good dance work-out can be the pick-me-up you need to help you physically, mentally and emotionally.

Serotonin is a ‘feel-good’ brain chemical. Oestrogen is involved with the action of serotonin, so that’s part of the reason low mood can be an issue when we’re menopausal.  When we exercise chemicals in our brain are stimulated and endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, adrenaline and other ‘feel good’ natural chemicals are released. Plus physically active adults have a lower risk of depression and cognitive decline.

By joining a Fitsteps class women can feel strong and empowered during their menopause and find support from others also going through menopause.

“At this stage, women need other women — friends with a rich life experience and wisdom to share.” (author unknown)

5. Weight management

Have you ever caught yourself asking “Whatever happened to my waist?” As we go through menopause, our shape does start to change. The changes can be so gradual you don’t notice them at first, and then one day it hits home… your waist seems to have disappeared! Those few extra pounds all seem to be sitting around your middle.

This is because our distribution of weight changes as hormone levels fluctuate through menopause and lower levels of oestrogen lead to us becoming more apple than pear-shaped and it’s easier to gain weight. We tend to lose muscle mass and gain abdominal fat, which isn’t good for our health or our body confidence.

Menopause weight gain can have serious implications for your health. Excess weight increases the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

So, regular exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight, relieve stress and improve your quality of life.

In my next post I will outline how you can reclaim your waistline during and after menopause, plus give you 5 tips to deal with menopause symptoms.