EXERCISE AND MENOPAUSE
Menopause is the cessation of a woman’s menstrual cycle and typically occurs between 45 and 55 years of age. As women age, oestrogen and progesterone levels reduce and ovarian function begins to diminish, which affects the menstrual cycle.
During menopause, women may suffer from a wide range of symptoms including disturbed sleep, hot flushes, headaches and mood swings. They are also more susceptible to osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis (low bone density) is linked to reduced oestrogen levels, and oestrogen plays an important role in calcium regulation and bone resorption (which keeps our bones strong). The reduction in oestrogen during menopause has been shown to cause a loss of muscle mass as well. This combination of muscle loss and reduced bone density poses many health problems.
Treatment to ease the symptoms of menopause usually centres around hormone or oestrogen replacement therapy (HRT). However, this doesn’t come without side effects. Other recommended treatments include calcium and vitamin D supplements and here is the big one…. REGULAR EXERCISE.
Evidence suggests regular weight bearing and dynamic resistance exercise improves bone remodelling and mineral deposition into the affected bones. This has been shown to significantly lower the lifetime fracture risk. As our muscles become stronger, the bones they attach to become stronger as well.
To maximise the benefit, exercise must be performed at an adequate intensity, which has a direct effect on bone remodelling. High impact activities such like hopping, skipping and jumping are shown to be most effective for improving bone density. However, this certainly won’t suit everyone. Nor will many forms of strength training, as this may compromise someone with an injury or chronic pain.
The practicalities of these recommendations for some people may be questionable and this is where the expertise of an exercise physiologist comes to the fore. We interpret the evidence and prescribe the right type and intensity of exercise to suit the needs of the person that presents in front of us.
So, juggling the science and the art of exercise prescription is what we do at Active One, ultimately coming up with the right program for each individual.
The current American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) guidelines recommend women seeking to improve their health and well-being should aim to achieve 5 or more days of moderate to vigorous exercise per week. This exercise routine should include strength, balance and flexibility training at least 2-3 times each week. This should be individually tailored by a qualified exercise professional (exercise physiologist is best).