Menopause is considered the second period, after puberty, in a woman’s life marked by remarkable hormonal changes. The major difference is that menopause often signals the end of reproductive youth and is accompanied by both physical and psychological symptoms. In some cases, women choose hormonal replacement therapy that help them with menopausal symptoms. Yet, there is increasing evidence that proper dieting and regular exercise are rather effective in dealing with health challenges associated with menopause.
Extra abdominal fat, vasomotor symptoms (hot flushes), osteoporosis, changes in skin texture, sleep disturbances and mood swings are some of the most indicative symptoms that step in as estrogen levels decrease. Experts suggest that by making some small yet necessary changes in everyday life, women can enjoy a good physical and mental health and make the transition to a new life stage a lot easier.
What should I do and how?
Your body is changing and that means you need to adjust to that change. Always have in mind that fitness tips should be in accordance with your physical stamina and prior activity level.
Maintain a healthy body mass index BMI: Add some moderate-intensity exercise (30mins a day) for at least 3-4 times per week. If you want to stay committed, do something that you really enjoy. If you find it hard to commit yourself by going to the gym, there are plenty other activities that you can do like: take the stairs, enrol in a dance class, do not take the car and walk.
Engage in aerobic activity: Aerobic training improves cardiovascular function and helps you lose fat. Some examples of aerobic activities are: cycling, group aerobics class, session on an elliptical machine, running.
Manage the experience of symptoms: Regular exercise helps you alleviate depressive symptoms and anxiety that often reach a peak during menopause. Except from aerobic training, deep breathing and yoga exercises have help you feel better and less anxious.
Bone mineral density: Resistance and weight bearing exercises can help build bone density and mass. It is preferable to consult an experienced trainer that will develop a proper training schedule (2-3 times/week). Important: Women who have low bone mass or are osteoporotic must consult their physician first and avoid heavy exercising.
Low or no-impact exercises: Due to physical constraints some women can not follow a high-impact exercise program. Pilates is a low-impact form of exercise that focuses on core muscles and helps improve balance, posture and muscle function.
Stretch and cool down: Everyone knows that is important to warm-up before exercising. Especially during menopause, muscles and joints become very sensitive and women may experience joint paint. Stretches can help the body relieve physical tension and restore its stamina after exercising. Do not forget to do your stretches!
Maintain a healthy diet: For women who experience hot flushes, it is helpful to cut down on spicy foods that seem to make the symptoms worse. Since the metabolic rate decreases, sodium intake should be in moderation and it is best to have more meals/snacks throughout the day that fuel calorie burning. Increase protein intake from sources other than meat like beans and lentils. Drink plenty of water that helps with hot flushes by keeping the body hydrated. Water also plays a significant role in having a healthy skin texture throughout menopausal years.
Remember that menopause is a phase and not a disease. If you find yourself troubled by it, you can always get consultation from a variety of experts (clinical psychologists, dieticians and physicians). Healthy eating and regular exercise will help you get through it a lot easier by having a healthier body and state of mind. Embrace your life!
Alexandra Koukouraki, Nutritionist, Fitness Expert.