Menopause is a phase in women’s life when the menstrual cycle has stopped for 12 consecutive months and occurs mostly between 45 – 55 yrs. During this time women face a lot of changes and challenges in their body physically and psychologically.
Due to cessation of Estrogen hormone after menopause, women became more prone to stress, anxiety, irritability, sleep disorders, gaining weight, losing muscle mass, cardiovascular diseases, increased chances of having type 2 diabetes, weakening of supporting tissue around the pelvic floor and Osteoporosis.
We generally seek Physiotherapist guidance when we need rehabilitation or in pain but Women’s health Physiotherapists can make wonderful changes in a woman with menopause. By improving the unpleasant symptoms and quality of life, starting and maintaining a good exercise regime which is the most important conservative and fun option to start. But sadly this has always been the last thought for most of the women.
Studies show that post exercise sessions there has been a decrease in negative mood in a women with menopause as exercise results in a mood enhancing effect despite the change on the level of estrogen and progesterone hormone.
Different types of exercise have its benefits and a cocktail of exercise will help you achieve your healthy life. Helping to reduce the symptoms of menopause like fatigue, aches and pains, Irritability, sleep disturbances, stress and depression. Regular physical activity helps in elevating mood, strengthens muscles and joints. Leading to better sleep, improving body image and better quality of life.
Aerobic exercise for improving the overall cardiovascular health, Strength training exercise for strengthening the bones and joints and finally stretching and balance exercises. Maintaining good flexibility and tone of the muscles ultimately improve your coordination thereby reducing the possibility of fall in later life.
Aerobic exercise can be in the form of brisk walking, aerobic dancing, jogging, water aerobics, swimming and the list goes on .
Aerobic exercises improve the cardiovascular system, lung function, and help in weight loss. As estrogen level decreases in menopause, women become equally susceptible to coronary heart disease like men, hence aerobic exercise will certainly help reduce the risk of these events.
Recent studies also find that regular aerobic exercise helps in increasing the size of the hippocampus in our brain which is responsible for memory, learning, spatial navigation and emotional behavior. So aerobic exercise not only helps your cardiovascular system but makes you sharper on your memory, learning and response to emotional cues.
Start gradually with 10-15 min walking to 10 min brisk walking and slowly progress to jogging or 40-50 min of walking. You can progress or add aerobic exercise, low impact zumba, belly dancing for more fun and learning.
Due to cessation of estrogen hormone in menopause, women lose their bone mass up to 6% in a span of 3 yrs. There is also loss of muscle mass called sarcopenia in which muscle mass slowly gets replaced by fat.
Thus strength training exercise helps strengthen muscles and improve bone mass. The pull of muscles on the bones due to the movement with the help of weights, strengthen muscles further and help in preserving bone mass as well.
Strength training can be started by using our own body weight or by using exercise resistance bands, dumbbells, and kettle bell weights. When you start weights, start with less resistance or lesser weights and gradually increase the resistance or weight.
Golden rule when doing strength training is to make sure you are inhaling and exhaling when you take the weight and release the weight. Try to pull in your abdomen inside when lifting the weight. This prevents you from increasing the abdominal pressure when doing weight training exercise. As after menopause the tone of the pelvic floor decreases, it is wise not to indirectly or directly give more pressure to your pelvic floor muscles.
Stretching and Balancing exercise:
Exercise like Pilate, Tai Chi , Barre or Yoga helps improve flexibility , coordination , balance and improve the tone of the muscle and helps in coordination.
This type of exercise requires focus, Deep breathing, precise movement, repetitive controlled movement in a pattern and balance. Learning a new pattern of movement with coordination of the many factors mentioned improves your balance and flexibility.
These forms of exercise are best to start under the guidance of a trained person.
10 mins of stretching exercise before bedtime also helps in improving sleep, reduces aches and pains around the joints and muscles.
Overall, exercise decreases the arterial pressure, thereby helping in maintaining your blood pressure as well.
Improving Pelvic floor Muscles:
Pelvic floor health is one of the important aspects as this topic is the one which is so less talked about and women feel that it is just a phase and accept as it comes, rather than seeking help.
During the menopause and post menopause phase there is a significant weakness of pelvic floor connecting tissues. Due to this reason women who already have pelvic floor issues like
Urinary incontinence – Urge incontinence, stress incontinence
These symptoms can become more exacerbated or develop. Physiotherapists can significantly improve your pelvic floor health by assessment tools in their hand and specialized exercises, bladder control training , pelvic floor release and pelvic floor strengthening exercises accordingly.
As a whole exercise is the most easily available, cost effective and effective choice for improving the symptoms related to menopause. Many women perceive that menopause should be the pause to their life, thinking they are old to start new things. Let this phase be the time of learning new things and exploring different types of exercises and gain the maximum benefits.
Before starting exercise consult your doctor and do visit a women's health Physiotherapist for planned exercises accordingly.