Why exercise and menopause are a good match!
The benefits of physical activity during menopause
Clinical exercise specialist Jane Dowling, has over 20 years experience in the health and fitness arena. Her own experience of menopause led to her to create her online support blog Meno&Me, where she offers exercise, diet and lifestyle advice for women in menopause.
Jane is helping Women in Sport by helping raise funds for further research that highlights the benefits of physical activity during menopause. This organisation’s 2019 study found that active women were more resilient in coping with menopause symptoms and used physical activity to manage many symptoms.
We wanted to find out more about attitudes to exercise and why exercise helps women with menopause symptoms.
PP: How do you think exercise helps with both mental and physical symptoms of menopause?
JD: We have oestrogen receptors all over our body, which means the decrease in oestrogen during menopause can have a negative effect on nearly every part of our body and mind. From painful joints, muscles, fatigue, brain fog, anxiety to two important “silent” symptoms; heart disease and osteoporosis. When we exercise, “feel good” hormones are released having a positive effect on our mood, energy, focus and sleep. When we become breathless, it can help prevent heart disease along with helping anxiety. Undertaking resistance exercise, using own body weight, free weights, fixed resistance or exercise bands will help strengthen bones. Plus , if we have a stronger healthier body it will help with mental health. “Strong body, strong mind”, really do go hand in hand.
PP: What are the obstacles preventing some women exercising & how do you think these could be removed?
JD: This is the prime time for a women to start exercising to help with short term and long term disease prevention as well as managing symptoms. However, just under a third of women drop off from physical activity during menopause but the desire to be active is high, many feel so low, isolated and alone it is hard to take the first step. Taking all of this into consideration I have launched a new free health initiative, I am training volunteers to deliver sessions in outdoor spaces to offer evidence based exercise to help with heart, bone and mental health. Research shows exercising outside helps with mental health far more than exercising alone, inside. Social support during menopause can be as important as being active.
PP: Tell us more about how much exercise we should fit in each week and what hacks you can recommend for fitting it into a busy life.
JD: The Government guidelines state that it should be between 20-30 minutes, three to four times per week. However, that sounds a lot! But the good news is that it can be broken down into smaller chunks. Every little thing counts. So…. walk as much as possible, take the stairs and ditch the lift, walk up the escalators. Making a date with a friend to go for a walk and a cuppa is a great way to make sure you get in your steps. I would even say doing the housework more vigorously to music counts! We always schedule in drinks or dinner, so why not a walk and a cuppa? Jumping up and down a few times per day will help with bone density in hips and lower spine; couple that with some easy resistance work such as press ups on the wall, table or chair, along with some upper back rows will help with the major sites of osteoporosis; hips, wrist and spine. Do these after walking up the stairs quickly then you are on the road to a healthier happier you!
PP: How long does it take for exercise to have a positive impact on mental health?
JD: The great news is it is immediate! Just 10 minutes brisk walking outside as a positive effect on our mental health, focus and energy.
PP: What do you hope to achieve with helping Women In Sport?
JD: To help with funding further research into physical activity during menopause, to help raise awareness that women who undertake physical activity not only feel more empowered and in control of their menopause symptoms but will help with short term and long term disease prevention. Also, to help stop the social stigma of women going through menopause. We are not the “twin set and pearl necklace” generation that went before us, we are the ‘Christian Louboutin’ and ‘Zara’ generation!
PP: Is it ever too late to start exercising?
JD: Hell no! I have worked with many women in their 70s and 80s who feel the benefits of exercise from day 1.
Jane is running a ‘Menopause Exercise Health & Wellness Morning’ at The Dutch Hall, 7 Austin Friars, London EC2N 2HA, on 21st September 2019. More information on the event and the new free health initiative can be found at Meno&Me.
Win 2 free tickets to Jane’s event worth just under £40 each (plus 2 free raffle tickets) by going to our Facebook page and following the rules. Competition closes 15th September.
Keep up to date with all our latest articles, news, events and discount offers by signing up to our Newsletter.