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Exercising Smart in Menopause

with Tanya Wyatt, Health & Exercise Coach at NewWoman Health. As an integrative practitioner, Tanya will help you improve your daily health-impacting habits. Her tailored approach pinpoints the issues that affect you personally to reveal solutions customised to your needs.

We can probably all agree that exercise offers significant health benefits. Research shows that people who exercise regularly have a greater life expectancy than people who don’t, and just fifteen minutes of exercise daily may reduce your risk of death from all causes by 14 percent or more. Being more active can also help lower blood pressure, increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels, improve circulation, and prevent the bone loss that can lead to osteoporosis. But exercising in your twenties versus your forties or fifties can be a whole different ballgame, so it’s important to think about this in the context of both ageing and hormonal decline to ensure that you’re exercising in the right way for your stage of life.

Keeping the heart healthy

In menopause, reduced oestrogen levels increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, so keeping the heart healthy is imperative. There’s a lot of discussion about what type of exercise is best, but in reality, any exercise is better than none, and it’s important to find a way to exercise that you’re able to enjoy and stick with rather than something you don’t like or find difficult to do.

The best kind of exercises to keep your heart healthy increase your heart rate and make you slightly breathless, for example brisk walking, jogging, tennis, or interval training.

High intensity interval training (HIIT) targeting different muscle groups, is particularly effective, both increasing muscle growth and decreasing body fat, and doesn’t require much in the way of time, with sessions lasting just 20-30 minutes. Research has shown it to be safe and beneficial for most people, but if you have any medical problems, it’s important to discuss this with your doctor before you begin.

Protection against bone loss

Females lose around three percent of their bone mass per decade after the age of thirty. And in the five to seven years following menopause, bone density can decline by up to 20 percent. Weight-bearing exercises such as walking, jogging, tennis and training against resistance can help you maintain or increase bone mass and density, reducing the risk of osteoporosis.

Protecting muscles and preventing frailty

For most women entering the menopause transition, the thought of frailty isn’t the first or most obvious thing that comes to mind. The picture we generally have of a frail person is someone stooped over and holding a walking stick, but few people realise that along with ageing, menopause itself is a risk factor for frailty.

Frailty is associated with reduced muscle and bone strength, which occurs as people get older, but also with the loss of oestrogen that occurs in menopause, increasing the risk of falls and fractures. Reduced muscle strength is called sarcopenia and isn’t usually noticed in the early part of the menopause transition, but as time goes on, the beginnings of frailty start to show, for example, opening jars or bottles gets harder, and walking slows down.

Reduced muscle strength has been shown to be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, as well as for other chronic health conditions, but the good thing is that this can be prevented.

Resistance training (working against a weight or force using free weights, machines or your own body) increases muscular strength, control and balance, resulting in a decreased risk of injury and falls. Pushups, sit-ups, chin-ups, squats, lunges, and step-ups are examples of exercises that use your own body as a weight and can be done at home with no need to go to the gym if you’d prefer not to do this. Resistance training been shown to reduce blood pressure and improve cardiovascular health, arthritis pain, depression, and sleep disorders, and prevent or improve control of type 2 diabetes. It may also help reduce or prevent cognitive decline in older people. Some women prefer not to build muscle as they exercise, while others like the idea of having more muscle mass. Whichever you choose, your goal will dictate the programme you use.

Keeping muscles and joints functional

As we get older our overall mobility can decline, impacting on posture. Stretching can improve flexibility in the muscles and to some degree, the range of joint motion, helping to counteract posture change and stiffness. Stretching increases blood flow to the muscles, reduces post-workout pain, and helps faster recovery.

To summarise, exercise that raises your heart and respiratory rate, and that make you work against resistance have been shown in research to play a crucial role in maintaining health during the menopause transition, supporting cardiovascular and cognitive health, and preventing frailty.

Along with eating healthily, sleeping well, paying attention to your mental health, and taking HRT if you’re able to or wish to do this, should help you to live as healthily as you can into and beyond this next phase of your life!

Why New Woman Health?

At NewWoman Health we have a commitment to educating, advising, treating, and supporting women approaching, during, and following menopause. Our wide range of medical and lifestyle interventions helps women to manage or minimise their menopause symptoms and improve their quality (and potential longevity) of life in an aspirational and uplifting way.

If you’re concerned about your menopause transition and/ or other menopause-related problems, including treatment options, we can support you with our personalised medical consultations with menopause specialists. Take the next step in ensuring your long-term health and quality of life by booking a consultation with us today.

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You are not alone. As a local example, in Manchester over 46% of council employees are female and over 40 years old. In a CIPD survey (2019) over 30% of women said they were unable to work because of menopausal symptoms.

Only 25% said they could tell their manager the real reason for their absence. The Council account for nearly 7% of all employment in Manchester. They implemented a new Menopause policy in March 2022. CIPD survey | Manchester Council Menopause Policy | CIPD Manchester

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