Fitness tips for menopause: Why fitness counts

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Fitness tips for menopause: Why fitness counts

Menopause is an important milestone in a woman's life. Use it as a reminder to take good care of yourself. Start by considering these fitness tips for menopause.

Why bother with fitness during menopause?

Whether you've exercised faithfully for years or you haven't been physically active, physical activity during and after menopause offers many benefits. For example, regular physical activity can:

  • Prevent weight gain. Women tend to lose muscle mass and gain abdominal fat during and after menopause. Even slight increases in physical activity can help prevent weight gain.
  • Reduce the risk of breast cancer. Physical activity during and after menopause can help you lose excess weight or maintain a healthy weight, which may offer protection from breast cancer.
  • Strengthen your bones. Physical activity can slow bone loss after menopause, which lowers the risk of fractures and osteoporosis.
  • Reduce the risk of other diseases. During and after menopause, the risk of various chronic conditions — including cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes — increases. Regular physical activity can counter these risks.
  • Boost your mood. Physical activity can improve your psychological health at any stage of life.

How does physical activity affect menopause signs and symptoms?

Physical activity isn't a proven way to reduce menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and sleep disturbances. For some women, however, regular physical activity during and after menopause seems to relieve stress and improve quality of life.

What are reasonable goals for physical activity during menopause?

For most healthy women, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends:

  • At least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week — preferably spread throughout the week
  • Strength training exercises at least twice a week

For motivation, set realistic, achievable goals. Rather than vowing to exercise more, for example, commit to a daily 30-minute walk after dinner. Frequently update your goals. Teaming up with someone — such as a partner, friend or neighbor — can make a difference, too.

What are the best physical activities to try?

When you're ready to get started, you have many choices. Consider:

  • Aerobic activity. Aerobic activity is the cornerstone of most fitness programs. Try walking, jogging, biking, swimming or water aerobics. Any physical activity that uses large muscle groups and increases your heart rate counts. If you're a beginner, start with 10 minutes of light activity and gradually increase the intensity of your activity.
  • Strength training. Regular strength training can help you reduce body fat, strengthen your muscles and more efficiently burn calories. Try weight machines, hand-held weights or resistance tubing. Choose a weight or resistance level heavy enough to tire your muscles after about 12 repetitions. Gradually increase the resistance level as you get stronger.
  • Stretching. Stretching increases flexibility, improves range of motion and promotes better circulation. Set aside time to stretch after each workout, when your muscles are warm and receptive to stretching. Activities such as yoga promote flexibility, too.
  • Stability and balance. Balance exercises improve stability and can help prevent falls. Try simple exercises, such as standing on one leg. Activities such as tai chi also can be helpful.

Remember, you don't have to go to the gym to exercise. Activities such as dancing, gardening and other yardwork also can improve your health. Whatever physical activities you choose, take time to warm up and cool down safely.

Last Updated: 2011-02-24
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