Three types of exercise for you menopause - cardio vascular, resistance (load bearing) and flex & stretch
Exercise, sport and generally keeping active are important for women of all ages. As we face menopause and all the associated hormonal changes – maintaining our ‘core’ can make a world of difference as to how we enjoy this phase of our lives.
Your core is key to all movement skills – it builds your ‘mojo’ – and is what all athletes rely on for effective sporting movements. It also underlies a range of issues which occur after middle age; poor posture, stability, digestion, balance, back pain, muscle loss, osteoporosis, flexibility, urinary leakage, heart health, falls prevention, breathing etc. These all become intrinsically linked during menopause. If one declines they all start to ‘gang up’ often to a point of being overbearing.
It’s the suite of muscles which connect the upper and lower parts of your frame. It holds, protects and stabilises organs and helps with balance, breathing and stability. Think of it like a disposable coffee cup. Your pelvic floor is the cup bottom, the abdominals/obliques (tummy muscles) are the walls of the cup and your diaphragm sits on top like a lid. If those muscles aren’t working in unison the core becomes wobbly – just like a coffee cup – until you press the lid on. Then it becomes ridged . . . and wont leak!
Posture & stability - falling over is the most common cause of non-fatal injury in women. Loss of estrogen weakens muscles and it can affect the inner ears, which assist our sense of balance.
Better balance - Incontinence often occurs during menopause. Keeping your core strong provides better balance and helps distribute pressure evenly including when your bladder is full. Tai Chi, yoga, and basic balance exercises can help you get stronger, be more in control of your movements, and be in better balance.
Breathing - also plays a role here. Poor (shallow) breathing can negatively impact control of your pelvic floor. Engaging your diaphragm (the 'lid') to breath improves proprioception - part of the body’s balance system that communicates between core and pelvic muscle to help balance.
How do I choose? – consider three elements; cardiovascular, resistance (load bearing) and flex & stretch. Try to get a bit of each element in whichever activity you choose to do. We rank sports/activities in our MenoMoJo manual under those three elements. Overall aim for 2-3 hours of moderate aerobic activity each week.
Enjoy – most important choose exercise that you will enjoy and feel euphoric about achieving. Be aware of your target heart rate and track intensity using the ‘talk test’ – you should be able to talk and breath comfortably whilst ‘working out’. If you suffer from osteoporosis avoid high impact aerobics or activities where a fall is likely. Always talk to you medical practitioner before any major change in your exercise routines.
The role of exercise in abating many symptoms such as hot flashes, however, remains inconclusive. But, exercising beyond menopause is still the only noncontroversial and beneficial aspect of lifestyle modification – so embrace it.
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Photo credit (C) Ben Lister