Scientific and medical researchers have conclusively found that menopausal women who
- eliminate processed food from their diet
- exercise daily
- do a stress reduction technique regularly
experience less severe and fewer menopause symptoms.
Each of these actions can reduce specific menopause symptoms. If you do 1 or 2 of these actions you can reduce some of your symptoms, but not all of them. If you want to reduce all of your symptoms, you need do all 3 of these actions.
This post focuses on the effect that daily exercise has on your menopause symptoms.
Exercise…..you must be kidding
You may have the following thought right now
Give me a break! With the way that I feel, exercise is the last thing that I want to do. I am exhausted …. I have no energy and my body aches
However exercise reduces these menopause symptoms and many other symptoms as well. Here are some of the menopause symptoms that can be reduced by exercise
- mood swings
- inability to fall asleep
- inability to stay asleep
- memory loss
- inability to concentrate
- weight gain
- joint aches and pains
- weaker bones (osteoporosis)
The word exercise has different meanings for different women. For some women it may evoke images of profuse sweating; for other women it may evoke images of moderate or mild sweating.
If the word exercise has a negative connotation for you, it may be helpful to think about doing physical activity instead of exercise. Physical activities can include doing housework, doing chores for your children or elderly parents, working in your yard, walking to your local store, strolling in a local park or forest or countryside, dancing, engaging in a sport that you enjoy, or any number of other activities in which you exert yourself physically to some degree.
I will use the term exercise, or aerobic exercise, in the remainder of this post, but you can think in terms of physical activity … if that helps you.
Stress, your brain chemistry, and your menopause symptoms
During menopause, women experience an increase in physical and emotional stress. When you experience stress, your body automatically goes into a hardwired inbuilt survival mechanism called “fight or flight”. It produces increased amounts of the hormone cortisol, which is known as the stress hormone. Increased levels of cortisol in your body exacerbates your menopause symptoms.
Stress also triggers a disruption in an entire chain of biochemical activity in your brain, which in turn affects the production of mood-regulating chemicals, including serotonin and endorphins. The end result of this also is an exacerbation of your menopause symptoms.
Exercise reduces stress by increasing the brain’s production of serotonin and endorphins, the feel good chemicals. This reduces the severity and frequency of your menopause symptoms.
The effect that exercise has on specific menopause symptoms
- Studies show that 30 minutes of aerobic exercise improves sleep. By lowering stress and cortisol levels, it reduces sleep disturbance
- Exercise replenishes depleted neurotransmitter levels that are involved in regulating mood. Researchers recommend that 30 minutes of aerobic activity every day is the best dose of exercise to relieve depression, and mood swings, and keep them at bay
- Here is what the Mayo Clinic says about exercise and joint pain
Though you might think exercise will aggravate your joint pain and stiffness, that’s not the case. Lack of exercise actually can make your joints even more painful and stiff. That’s because keeping your muscles and surrounding tissue strong is crucial to maintaining support for your bones. Not exercising weakens those supporting muscles, creating more stress on your joints.
- Researchers have found that exercise boosts blood flow to the brain area involved in cognitive function. Regular exercise releases brain chemicals that are key for memory, concentration, and mental sharpness
- Researchers reviewed 70 studies that examined the effect of exercise on 6,807 subjects who were fatigued. 90% of the studies showed that exercise reduces fatigue by as much as 65%. They found that exercise increases energy by 20%
- If you do weight-bearing exercise, it will help to prevent osteoporosis. It makes your bones and muscles stronger and helps prevent bone loss. Walking, jogging, playing tennis, and dancing are examples of weight-bearing exercises
- To lose weight, do at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity/exercise every day. It is best to do it in the morning, if your schedule permits it. To achieve weight loss, the intensity level MUST be moderate. Do not do high intensity exercise for weight loss. Combine this with a diet that is based on real food. Real food does not need labels – ie – unprocessed meat, fish, milk, eggs, legumes, fruits, grains and vegetables
Dr Wulf Utian, M.D. and executive director of the North American Menopause Society, says this about exercise
Women who exercise seem to tolerate the symptoms of menopause better; I think it’s that they have a better self-image and sense of well-being