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Health and fitness during menopause

Menopause can be a tumultuous period in our lives, with our bodies and emotions changing in ways we can’t control. It can leave us frustrated and helpless, not knowing how to handle these changes. Although this period in our lives, as women, is inevitable, there is a way to manage it. The solution is to improve health and fitness during menopause. This lifestyle change can reduce the effects of its symptoms and bring back stability in your life so you can get through your days easily.

Effects on health and fitness during menopause

Menopause is a natural life stage that marks the end of the menstrual cycle. It typically occurs between the ages of 45 and 55 and is diagnosed after 12 months without a menstrual period. It is a completely normal part of life and isn’t a disease that one should be worried about. However, health and fitness during menopause can be affected greatly due to hormonal changes.

Physical changes

Weight gain and body composition shifts: Declining oestrogen levels can lead to an increase in body fat, particularly around the abdomen. This can be due to a decrease in metabolism.

Bone health at risk: With lower oestrogen levels, bone density can decrease, making women more susceptible to osteoporosis and fractures.

Changes in muscle mass and strength: Muscle mass naturally declines with age, and this process can accelerate during menopause due to hormonal changes.

Hot flashes and night sweats impacting sleep: Hot flashes and night sweats are common symptoms of menopause that can disrupt sleep patterns and lead to fatigue.

Joint pain and stiffness: Stiffness and pain in joints are common complaints during menopause.

Mental and emotional changes:

Fatigue and low energy levels: Hormonal fluctuations and sleep disturbances can contribute to feelings of fatigue and low energy.

Mood swings, irritability, and anxiety: Changes in hormone levels can affect mood, leading to mood swings, irritability, and anxiety.

Decreased sex drive: Declining estrogen levels can also lead to a decrease in libido.

Difficulty concentrating and memory problems: Some women experience cognitive changes during menopause, such as difficulty concentrating and memory problems, often referred to as “brain fog.”

The good news is that these effects can be mitigated or even prevented through healthy lifestyle choices, especially regular exercise and a balanced diet.

Benefits of prioritizing health and fitness during menopause

Menopause, while a natural transition, can bring a wave of physical and emotional changes. However, prioritizing health and fitness during menopause offers a multitude of benefits that can significantly improve your quality of life.

 Combats reduce in muscle mass:  Regular exercise, particularly strength training, helps build muscle mass which offsets the natural decline and boosts metabolism.

 Strengthens bones and reduces osteoporosis risk:  Weight-bearing exercises and right nutrition, stimulate bone growth and increase bone density, making them more resistant to fractures.

 Boosts energy levels and improves sleep:  Physical activity combats fatigue and promotes better sleep quality by regulating hormones and reducing stress, leading to increased energy throughout the day.

 Reduces hot flashes and night sweats:  Research suggests exercise can help manage hot flashes and night sweats, a relief for many experiencing these uncomfortable symptoms.

 Improves joint health and reduces pain:  Exercise strengthens muscles that support joints, improving flexibility and reducing stiffness and pain commonly experienced during menopause.

 Elevates mood and reduces stress:  Exercise releases endorphins, hormones that have mood-lifting and stress-relieving effects, helping manage anxiety and symptoms of depression.

 Improves cognitive function:  Regular exercise can improve cognitive function, memory, and concentration, potentially reducing the effects of “brain fog” some women experience.

 Increases self-esteem and confidence:  Taking charge of your health and fitness during menopause can be empowering by boosting self-esteem and confidence.

Overall, prioritizing health and fitness during menopause empowers you to manage the physical and emotional changes associated with this transition and paves the way for a vibrant and active life.

How to improve health and fitness during menopause

It becomes even more important to focus on health and fitness during menopause, for maintaining good health and well-being. Here’s a breakdown of activities you could do to get started:

Physical:

Weight-bearing exercises (2-3 times/week): Crucial for building and maintaining bone density. Examples: Walking, running , dancing, stair climbing, weightlifting, or resistance band exercises

Cardiovascular exercises (most days of the week): Improve heart health and overall fitness. Example: Swimming, cycling, elliptical training.

Low-impact exercises (2-3 times/week): Promote flexibility, balance, and core strength. Example: Yoga, pilates, tai chi.

Joining a walking group or fitness class: Provides companionship and accountability.

Start slow and gradually progress: Don’t jump into intense workouts. Begin with moderate-intensity exercises and gradually increase duration and intensity as your fitness improves.

Listen to your body: Rest days are essential. Pay attention to your body’s signals and adjust your routine accordingly.

Warm-up and cool-down: Always warm up before exercise and cool down afterward to prevent injury.

Variety is key: Aim for a well-rounded routine that incorporates different types of exercise.

Focus on enjoyment: Choose activities you find fun to maximize adherence.

Nutritional strategies:

Fruits and vegetables: These provide essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support overall health and may help manage some menopause symptoms.

Lean protein: Include protein sources like fish, chicken, beans, lentils, and tofu in your diet. Protein helps build and maintain muscle mass, which can decline during menopause.

Calcium: Aim for 1,200mg of calcium daily. Dairy products are a classic source, but calcium-fortified foods like leafy greens, tofu, and canned sardines can also contribute.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. Aim for 600 iu daily through sunshine exposure or fortified foods like milk, eggs, and fatty fish.

Limit processed foods: Processed foods are often high in unhealthy fats, sodium, and added sugars, which can contribute to inflammation.

Healthy fats: Include healthy fats like those found in avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil in your diet. These fats promote satiety, and heart health, and may help manage hot flashes.

Iron: Iron deficiency is common, especially after menopause. Include iron-rich foods like lean red meat, poultry, beans, and lentils in your diet. Consult your doctor if you suspect iron deficiency.

Phytoestrogens: Some plant-based foods like soybeans, tofu, and flaxseeds contain phytoestrogens, which may offer some relief from menopausal symptoms.

Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water throughout the day helps with digestion, regulates body temperature, and may even reduce the frequency of hot flashes.

Menopause

Mental health:

Meditation: Regular meditation practice can help manage stress, anxiety, and improve focus. There are many guided meditations available online or through apps to help you get started.

Deep breathing exercises: Simple deep breathing techniques can be incredibly effective in calming the mind and body during stressful moments. Focus on slow, deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth.

Mindfulness: Mindfulness practices help you stay present in the moment and avoid dwelling on negative thoughts.

Prioritize sleep hygiene: Avoid screens for at least an hour before bed, create a dark and cool sleep environment, and establish a consistent sleep schedule.

Spend time in nature: Immersing yourself in nature has a calming effect and can improve mood. Take walks in the park, spend time gardening, or simply sit outside and enjoy the fresh air.

Express yourself creatively: Engaging in creative activities like painting, writing, or playing music can be a powerful outlet for emotions and a source of relaxation.

Set boundaries: Don’t be afraid to say no to requests that drain your energy or time. Setting healthy boundaries allows you to prioritize your well-being.

Practice gratitude: Taking time to appreciate the positive aspects of your life can improve your mood and overall well-being. Start a gratitude journal and write down a few things you’re grateful for each day.

Learn to say no to negative self-talk: Menopause can bring self-doubt and negative thoughts. Challenge these thoughts and replace them with positive affirmations.

Talk therapy: Consider talking to a therapist who can provide a safe space to discuss your emotions.

Support groups: Joining a menopause support group can connect you with women experiencing similar challenges. Sharing experiences and finding understanding in others can be incredibly beneficial.

While this may be a difficult period in your life, remember that you’re not alone nor are you powerless. There are millions of women going through this every day, who can be your source of support and it is possible to take control back in your hands by working on your health and fitness during menopause. By following this guide, you can live your life to the fullest and refuse to let the effects of menopause be an obstacle in your life.

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