When we think about menopause, it is common for negative associations to come to mind. Although there are challenges, many women have found some physical and emotional benefits. Whatever your experience, starting or continuing regular physical activity throughout menopause can help you enjoy this time in your life.
Effects of Menopause
Menopause is a natural process marked by the permanent end of the menstrual cycle. It usually occurs when women are in their late 40s or early 50s. It can be associated with mood swings, depression, hot flashes, memory loss and sleeplessness. It is also related to other health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is the loss of bone density. It leaves bones brittle, weak and at risk of fracture. Women can lose up to 30 per cent of their bone mass in the 10 years following menopause.
Benefits of Physical Activity
Moderate physical activity can improve many conditions related to menopause. Regular exercise can help you feel better and embrace this change in your life, as well as;
- Avoid weight gain.
- Reduce your risk of age-related diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and breast cancer.
- Prevent or reduce the effects of osteoporosis with weight-bearing exercises that strengthen the bones.
- Build muscle strength and improve posture, balance and coordination, all of which decrease your risk of falling.
Boost Your Mood
Some women feel like menopause keeps them from connecting well with their friends and families. Regular physical activity can help improve your mood by reducing stress and helping you sleep better. If sleeping is a problem for you, be sure to exercise early in the day—exercising before bedtime can disrupt your sleep.
You can boost your mood even more by exercising with a pet, a friend or a family member. It may be helpful to get active with another woman in the same stage of life so you can share stories and support one another.
How to Get Active
Menopause usually starts when you reach mid-life, which might be a good time to make changes in your life, such as trying new activities. Just be sure to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program.
Thirty minutes of moderate physical activity five times a week is enough to reduce the effects of menopause. Remember, minutes count—you can add up three 10-minute activities to achieve your daily goal of 30 minutes.
Weight-bearing exercises and strength training will help keep your bones strong and protect against osteoporosis. Any activities where you are on your feet, working against gravity count, such as walking, hiking, jogging, dancing, golfing, vacuuming and gardening. The great thing about weight-bearing activities is that they not only prevent bone loss but may replace current bone loss.
Add Activity to Your Daily Life
- Walk to and from activities you already do, such as grocery shopping, visiting friends or getting the mail.
- Start by doing things you like, such as walking, gardening, yoga and even dancing, and do them more often.
- Try adding resistance exercise, such as weight lifting. You can lift weights, or even soup cans, while you watch television.
Try Organized Activities
- aqua fitness programs or specialized classes for people with osteoporosis
- a walking group at a local recreation or seniors centre
- a golf league
- dance lessons
Menopause brings both challenges and benefits. Regular physical activity, including some weight-bearing exercise, will help you enjoy this time in your life and help you connect with others. Remember menopause is not a disease but rather a naturally occurring process. So lace up your shoes, grab a friend and get moving.
A website of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada providing information for Canadian women approaching or in menopause or perimenopause.
Find information, research, web links, recipes and FAQs on osteoporosis, calcium and vitamin D.
Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for Older Adults
This guide outlines the benefits of physical activity later in life, including tips for getting and staying active.