Movement is Medicine during Perimenopause and BeyondOct 14, 2022
The one type if exercise you should be doing during peri-menopause and beyond is resistance training.
Because it keeps your muscles and bones strong. We start losing muscle mass in our 30s, and we can lose bone density at an accelerated rate during menopause. A decline in muscle and bone strength can lead to fragility in later years, just because we stopped challenging our body to move well and move strong.
But what is resistance training?
It’s when you use hand weights, resistance bands, or your own body weight to make the muscles work harder, which then has a positive impact on your bones. It keeps them strong and healthy.
Pilates is a great way to challenge your body, but it’s particularly useful for women who haven’t exercised for some time, or maybe have never really exercised at all. It’s an easy, simple way to introduce movement in a way that suits you. You can work at your own level, gradually building your strength, which also helps to relieve aches and pains and menopause symptoms. But it’s important to include a variety of exercise if you can. Walking, playing a sport like tennis, will help to challenge your body even more.
Many people think it’s ok to slow down as you get older, but actually you should be doing more as you reach post-menopausal age. So if you’re already at that peri-menopausal stage, now is the ideal time to start, to reset and reframe your lifestyle to include more physical activity, so you keep your body strong and moving well in later years. It can also help to reduce the risk of lifestyle diseases such at diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The most gains in physical fitness can be seen in women who engage in the lowest levels of activity. So if you haven’t exercises for some time, you are going to see the biggest results from being more active.
Lack of physical activity means your muscles aren’t being stimulated enough. I’m sure you’ve heard of the term ‘use it or lose it’, and this is very true when it comes to maintaining lean muscle mass. Sarcopenia is the term used for a decline in skeletal muscles and function. This decline can lead to fragility in later life, reduces mobility and independence, and makes you more susceptible to falling.
Strong muscles promote longevity, and ensure we remain active and healthy in later years, but you need to start now. We start losing muscle mass in our 30s, so by the time you reach that menopausal age, you already have less lean muscles tissue than you did in your 20s.
Bone is reactive tissue, it constantly remodels itself, meaning its re-absorbed and new bone is laid down. Your skeleton is replaced every 10 years, with peak bone mass seen in your late twenties. Oestrogen is a major player in bone formation, so it’s not surprising that bone density can decline as our oestrogen levels decline during menopause.
Many women don’t know they have osteoporosis until they fall and break a bone. It’s known as the silent disease. A 65 year old women who breaks her hip - one year later she has a 50% chance of being unable to live independently and 40% chance of being unable to walk independently.
There is a cultural acceptance of Osteoporosis. So many woman are unaware of their osteoporosis risk and the preventative treatment that is available.
Regular exercise including resistance exercises, is the best preventive measure you can take.
The Menopause Brain
Anxiety, depression and brain fog are high in menopausal women and exercise is an effective medicine. A 45 year old women has 1 in 5 chance of developing Alzheimer's, but men of the same age only 1 in 10. Mood swings, depression, anxiety, brain fog, disruptive sleep, memory lapses, migraines and even hot flushes originate in the brain not the ovaries. These symptoms are a sign of the brain being in a transitional phase, and needing extra support like exercise, diet, sleep, and stress reduction, to get through that transition in a smoother way. Exercise is not as simple as “it makes us happy”. Regular exercise remodels the physical structure of your brain, to make you more receptive to joy and social connection.
Exercise can help fluctuating mood levels during peri-menopause. Exercise can get you hooked as much as the most habit forming substances. Studies have shown the similarity between exercise and addiction, helping us to understand how physical activity changes the brain and explains why physical activity becomes more rewarding the more we do it. Exercise, over time, will teach the brain to like it, want it and need it. We can learn slowly to enjoy it.
Many women lack the confidence to exercise. Many think they should go to the gym, but that environment can be an intimidating place. Many women feel they have to get fit or lose weight before they even go to the gym. I speak to lots of women who fear injuring themselves. Some think that the soreness you can sometimes feel after an exercise session is a bad thing. Hurts doesn’t mean harm. It’s just your body’s way of thanking you for moving. Next time, you may not feel anything afterwards.
Some women are reluctant to exercise because of their menopause symptoms, The hot flushes, the worry that they may need the loo, or the lack of confidence they have in they own ability to even do the exercise.
This is one of the reason I set up the Total Pilates Strong and Supple Membership. It’s a safe place where women can exercise at home, at a time that suits them, working at a level they feel comfortable with. It’s guides you through from beginners to more advanced, with all members being reassured that if they ever have any difficulties. They can just get in touch with me for support.
One of the reasons women give me for not exercising is that they lack the motivation. Getting started is the hard part, but once you start, the confidence you build in your own ability, feeling better in the way you move on a day to day basis, and the positive outlook on life that regular activity can bring, is often more than enough motivation to keep women coming back for more. The proof is in the membership. Many of the women who are Strong and Supple Members have been with me since it’s inception, over 2 years ago.
It's never too earlier or too late to start moving your body. You just have to make the decision to stay active and healthy, physically and mentally, for years to come.
If you want to get started today, click here to read more about becoming a Pilates Strong and Supple Member, and enjoy a free 14 day trial.
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