Fitness Articles

An Active Approach to Managing Menopause

Get Moving to Relieve Discomfort

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You’ve heard the jokes and the horror stories. But often, faced with the onset of menopause, most of us don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Luckily, if you’re determined to stay fit—or get fit— there’s no time like perimenopause to begin a sensible physical regimen.

Physical activity, the most effective alternative therapy available for women who experience menopausal symptoms, allows women to manage both their bodies and emotions. When you exercise, your adrenal glands are stimulated to convert the male hormone androstenedione into estrogen. Just four 30-minute exercise sessions per week are enough to keep you "topped off" with estrogen.

Regular exercise can benefit you in a number of ways as you pass through menopause: strengthening your heart and bones, avoiding or minimizing weight gain, improving your mood and sense of overall well-being. It also reduces the duration and intensity of those infamous hot flashes. In a recent Swedish study, researchers found that postmenopausal women who exercised were able to handle menopause without Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT); in fact, some of them did not experience hot flashes at all. Other studies have found similar beneficial results, including mood elevation in pre-, peri-, and postmenopausal women. Indeed, studies have shown that regular physical activity benefits not only women going through natural menopause but also those on HRT.

On the other hand, being sedentary as you approach menopause opens you up to a host of potential problems. Sedentary women are far more prone to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity; they’re also more likely to suffer stiffness and chronic back pain, irregularity, poor circulation, shortness of breath, weak muscles, depression, and sleep disturbances. Walking, jogging, dancing, swimming, biking and other aerobic activities help circumvent these problems. What’s more, studies have shown that women engaging in aerobic activity or strength training have reduced mortality from cancer.

Being active will also help you keep osteoporosis at bay—thus lowering the risk of bone fractures in your later years—since bones diminish in size and strength if you’re inactive. Because exercise stimulates the cells that help generate new bone tissue, bone mass lost through disuse can be re-built with weight-bearing activity. In fact, even postmenopausal women can help preserve bone mass in their spine with regular exercise.

Physical activity also raises the level of endorphins in the blood, enhancing your mood and allowing you to respond positively in the face of stress. Partly the result of estrogen in a woman’s body, these "feel-good" biochemicals also help regulate body temperature—which in turn can diminish the frequency and intensity of hot flashes. In one study of postmenopausal women who were physically active, severe hot flashes and night sweats were only half as common.
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About The Author

Rebecca Pratt Rebecca Pratt
A freelance writer who contributes to various newspapers and magazines, Becky loves covering ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

Member Comments

  • I so appreciate this article! It was very encouraging to me as I am peri-menopausal. Come to think of it........my hot flashes are not on the HOT side but more warm. Wow! Will continue to exercise. Thank you for this info! - 1/1/2014 7:14:09 PM
  • already through menopause, but this was interesting
    - 10/4/2013 12:27:54 PM
  • DEBBIEJGB
    I think you left out a fourth component especially important to one who is aging - balancing exercises. Broken bones are often the result of losing one's balance. Overall an informative article. Thanks. - 5/31/2013 12:50:23 PM
  • NNUOLA
    My lovely friend the writer Louise Miller recently chronicled her experience of the onset of menopause. It was so funny and life affirming that I had to share it with others!

    You can read it here - blog.saintandsmit
    h.com - 5/30/2013 8:19:56 AM
  • I have found that losing weight is the hardest thing to do when you are in menopause. I have to eat around a 1000 calories instead of 1200 that is recommended for weight loss. The most important thing is exercise though. Walking takes it off... - 9/23/2012 9:28:54 PM
  • I have been having nausea for quite awhile & now I see that it could be caused by menopause! I am also having terrible hot flashes & night sweats. Also I cry at the drop of a hat! Good article - 9/2/2012 11:48:44 AM
  • Good article, thanks.
    but as said before "one size does not fit all" so to speak.
    I was lucky enough to have fewer hot flashes and night sweats than most it seems
    and no HRT for me,even the ob/gyn Dr. i have does not recomend it for his patients
    as he said "if you insist i will give it" I did not insist, I do not like meds. - 8/14/2012 9:46:45 AM
  • TMOUSE315
    I have been dealing with Menopause for 4 years, in the last year I have gained 20 lbs around the mid-section; and the hot flashed are crazy; as well as night sweats.And I think I am losing my hair.

    I see an TCM doctor once a week for acupuncture and cupping, which has helped but no weight loss or reduction of hot flashes. I am going to my OB/GYN tomorrow to try some form of HRT - 6/12/2012 1:01:50 PM
  • Perhaps thismight not be a cure all, but it is a definite help against bone loss and weight gain. Miracle no, but non age related good sense and healthy.
    By the way, several years ago, it was noted that I had osteopena but this year with excercise was told that my bone structure is good. Yay for excercise!
    Again, good solid advice, whether or not it completely alleviates the menopause symptoms.
    - 12/16/2011 6:47:27 PM
  • Being peri-men myself, I'm always on the look out for natural ways to manage this.

    That being said, we are all different and have different medical backgrounds. One size doesn't fit all in medicine (said as a former customer service/patient rep for a hospital).

    I've also read that one should look at the peri/men. history of your mother/sisters (if you have any) for a possible indication of what to expect. Again-possible indication.

    Everyone is different. I hope to manage my symptoms naturally, but also-I won't hesitate to talk to my gynecologist if necessary. - 12/16/2011 1:23:47 PM
  • ELLIEH8
    Terrific!! Loosing weight was always a challenge - but now it is an uphill battle. This article gives me inspiration to continue training to run that 5k. E - 12/16/2011 8:27:01 AM
  • Great article! Really hope this applies to a "chemical induced" menopause as well! - 12/16/2011 5:40:11 AM
  • Wow I wish I'd read this 5 or 6 years ago. Great article. Thanks. - 9/21/2011 3:15:37 PM
  • This could not have come at a better time for me! My first appointment with a Nurse Practitioner who specializes in menopause is tomorrow. So hot all the time but would rather exercise than take hormones if possible. Plus I needed the push to exercise! - 9/21/2011 3:12:00 PM
  • This is the best bit of motivation for me. I'm hopeful that if I commit to exercise the way many experts advocate that I'll reap these particular benefits. Yay exercise! - 9/21/2011 11:44:29 AM
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