Five simple exercise types to alleviate menopause symptoms
Current NHS data estimates a third of the female population in the UK are peri or menopausal and with symptoms lasting for an average of seven years, it can be a huge change in women’s lives.
Whether it’s more brittle bones, aches and pains that weren’t there before or even getting tired or out of breath more quickly, the menopause can have a huge impact on the female body.
Symptoms can range from psychological to physiological and lifestyle factors can have a huge effect on their severity. However, it’s never too late to alleviate the symptoms, take action and reduce the impact of the menopause by making healthy changes to diet, exercise and daily routines.
This World Menopause Day (18 October) and Menopause Awareness Month (Octboer), Ann Clare, Physiotherapist at MBST Medical UK, who specialise in non-surgical treatment and care, has identified five simple types of cost-effective exercise that can help women with the effects of the menopause.
If you're new to exercise, or not quite ready to step into a gym then a brisk walk is an excellent starting point. Studies have shown that walking is an effective way to help reduce menopausal symptoms and depression as well as enhance physical self-esteem.
The health benefits of walking are enormous, from improving mood and anxiety to helping with weight management and general cardiovascular health, and walking can too help with easing the menopause.
Starting can be as small as a weekly lunchtime walk with a friend or just taking a slighter longer route on the walk home from the shops. Adding more steps will bring health benefits, but also see menopause symptoms reduce as a result of a healthier lifestyle.
Contrary to popular belief, yoga is not just for the super fit, bendy youngsters.
As well as providing the body time to physically slow down and helping the brain to take a moment, regular yoga also increases physical fitness and improves balance.
Yoga has also been shown to relieve menopausal symptoms including physical as well as mental. Symptoms such as hot flashes, joint and muscle aches, as well as feelings of anxiety, low mood and energy can all be boosted by rebalancing emotions and mindfulness resulting in better sleep and mood, and yoga is a great exercise to support this.
Much like yoga, incorporating stretching into a daily routine can help many women during the menopause as it helps to protect joints and ligaments in the body such as the hips and back.
To help target these areas stretches should pay particular attention to quads, hamstrings and calves. Stretches that will target these areas include touching toes either from a standing position or sitting position bending at the hip or by simply placing one foot one metre in front of the other and leaning forward to stretch out the calves.
A study conducted in 2016 showed that women who stretched for just 10 minutes a day saw a self-reported improvement in their menopausal symptoms, including mood and sleep quality, after just three weeks.
Whilst the thoughts of lifting weights in a gym may not sound the most appealing, ensuring that you have good muscular strength during the menopause can have a positive effect on alleviating symptoms.
Menopause causes thinning of the bones due to hormonal changes within the body, and strength training can help to fortify and strengthen the bones to prevent Osteoporosis. Weight lifting is a brilliant way to build muscle strength as well as improving balance and coordination which can reduce the likelihood of falls.
Gaining muscle also actually allows the body to burn calories more efficiently, which helps to maintain body weight more easily through the ageing process.
If venturing into a gym seems too much right now, there are a number of activities that you can do to introduce the benefits of strength training into your life. Resistance training or using your own body weight or hand weights in simple exercises such as squats or lunges can help you to build muscle strength in your core muscles, which can help with balance and coordination.
Event simple things like climbing stairs instead of using lifts, parking the car further away when you’re doing the shopping and carrying heavy bags that little bit farther can all help to reduce the severity of menopause symptoms through building strength.
Similar to strength training, cycling provides a multitude of benefits to help alleviate menopause symptoms. Cycling, along with all other types of exercise, helps to release our ‘feel-good’ hormones known as endorphins.
When endorphins are released they help us to relax our mind and feel happier, helping to boost our mood and reduce feelings of anxiety. Regular releases of endorphins can help with the changing levels of hormones experienced in the menopause, as not all symptoms are purely physical.
Cycling can bring positive physical benefits for alleviating menopause symptoms, as the speed and strength of muscle contractions can often decrease after menopause. However, training styles with short sharp bursts such as interval training mean that you no longer have to endure long bike rides to feel like you’ve reaped the rewards.
Talk to a physiotherapist before undertaking new exercise
If you’re finding menopause overwhelming, it can be tempting to throw yourself into a new exercise routine or healthy diet to try and reduce your symptoms. However, it’s important to seek advice from your GP or a trained medical professional like a physiotherapist who can advise on the right plan, exercise or routine for you.
There are varied symptoms of menopause and it’s not the same for all women. A physiotherapist could help to target specific issues or symptoms. For example, an over active bladder could cause a little urine leakage if the pelvic floor is weak, but with the right pelvic floor exercises this can be strengthened resulting in less accidents.
A comprehensive assessment by a physiotherapist can also help spot any potential weaknesses, before they turn into injuries. They can also then offer guidance on which exercises will help target your pain, and improve muscle strength and control around the joints to reduce any pain.
Taking control of your menopause symptoms
The menopause and perimenopause can be a difficult time for many women, as their body undergoes changes. Feeling helpless or out of control is normal, but there are ways to help alleviate symptoms and feel healthy too.
Small changes can have huge results and it doesn’t have to mean a drastic lifestyle overhaul, even simple tweaks can mean menopause symptoms are reduced and feel less severe.