Many of the symptoms of menopause can be relieved—and even prevented—with exercise. The following is a list of symptoms and diseases associated with menopause that can be alleviated by exercise:
- Mood changes. Because exercise increases one’s sense of well-being, it counters menopausal mood changes. Exercise also promotes deep, restful sleep, which counteracts the insomnia some women experience during menopause.
- Heart disease. A woman’s risk of developing heart disease increases after menopause. Exercise raises the level of HDL, or “good” cholesterol, while lowering LDL, or “bad” cholesterol. Exercise also helps lower blood pressure.
- Osteoporosis. Weight-bearing exercise helps keep the musculoskeletal system healthy, prevents bone loss and strengthens the back and hips to maintain good flexibility.
- Hot flashes. While there isn’t much research to prove that exercise reduces hot flashes, there’s reason to believe that exercise may help you cope with the discomfort of this symptom.
By improving circulation, exercise can make your body more tolerant of temperature extremes and able to cool down quicker. It also strengthens the endocrine system, so that the adrenal glands and ovaries function more efficiently, and it seems to increase the amount of estrogen and other hormones in the blood.
To reap all these benefits, there are two types of exercise you should incorporate into your program: weight-bearing for bone strength and aerobic for heart strength.
For weight-bearing exercise, consider taking at least a 20- to 30-minute walk each day. Weight training also is ideal. Try to do aerobic activity that gets you to your “target” heart rate at least three times a week (see “Calculating Your Target Heart Rate”).
If you have medical conditions, or if you haven’t exercised much in the past, talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program.