Menopause is a very natural biological process affecting most women in their fifties.
Generally menopause begins at a time in our life when our bodies are producing less and less estrogen & progesterone, the hormones that control our menstrual cycle.
The average age of menopause is 50, however, certain surgeries, medical treatments and illnesses may trigger menopause to occur sooner.
Reduced levels of estrogen and progesterone, lead to irregular periods, which eventually result in the cessation of our menstrual cycles or “menopause”.
This hormone level change and imbalance is what triggers problems for many of us.
Menopause can cause havoc in the lives of some, yet others seem to sail through it with minimal discomfort. This page is intended to provide a basic background and a few tips on how you can help yourself get by with minimal discomfort.
You may have already experienced some of the side effects of menopause which often include hot flashes, night sweats, weight gain (especially in the abdomen), mood swings, disturbed sleep, irritability, depression, and fatigue.
In fact, if you are a women over 50, it would be abnormal if you haven’t.
The ageing process can be a difficult experience for many of us, at this midpoint in our lives. Noticing changes in our face and bodies, and feeling like you don’t have the energy that you once did, is difficult enough even without the side effects of menopause.
In the past it was believed that genetics were more significant and although they have some influence, at our age, lifestyle is the most significant factor in the production of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone.
The importance of physical activity and a healthy lifestyle is well documented regarding disease prevention and aging; however, many are unaware that it also has a positive and significant effect on our hormone production and therefore the severity of our menopausal symptoms.
Based on my own experience, and the experiences of hundreds of women that I am routinely in contact with, during my exercise classes, I can tell you, that exercising regularly can make a difference in your ability to successfully cope with menopause.
Cardiovascular exercise, in particular, elevates your heart rate, triggers the release of endorphins, and increases our circulation and the flow of oxygen throughout the body. Every cell in our body depends on oxygen and the nutrients provided by our circulatory system to survive.
Endorphins are chemicals released in the brain that elevate your mood and increase your energy. In fact our bodies can produce over 300 types of endorphins; all of which are intended to make us feel better, and/or provide a sense of well being, without harmful side effects.
The exercise/endorphin relationship is so strong that researchers are now studying the effects of exercise therapy for patients with clinical depression.
I can personally attest to the beneficial effects of exercise-induced endorphins. There have been times in my career as a fitness instructor when I have had to lead a class, even though I was not feeling very well.
The first few minutes can be tough, but after my heart rate increases and my circulation is up, those wonderful endorphins start to circulate and by the end of the class I’m feeling much, much better and ready for my next group.
Endorphins are natural mood elevators that kick in when you are exercising; ask any long distance runner about their experiences with endorphins and ”runners high”.
Speaking with women everyday, I have noticed that it is the active, regular exercisers that tend to experience minimal side effects of menopause.
Technically, you don’t actually reach menopause until it has been one year since your last menstrual period. Perimenopause can start 4-5 years (earlier in some cases) before your last menstrual period. This is the time when you may begin to experience menopausal signs and symptoms.
Your hormone levels begin to rise and fall unevenly, causing irregular periods, hot flashes, and other symptoms.
Once twelve months has past since your last period, you have technically reached menopause. Post-menopause pertains to the years that follow.
Postmenopausal women can face a variety of health issues, including osteoporosis, heart disease & type 2 diabetes. All of which can be delayed for years or entirely prevented with regular exercise.
Diet & Exercise
The 2 most significant lifestyle choices that can help us achieve wellness during our menopause years are diet and exercise.
Exercise is a key part of staying healthy. It helps to prevent Osteoporosis by keeping bone and cartilage tissue strong, and can actually help increase bone density. If you are already experiencing bone loss see our Osteo page
for more information.
Regular exercise can help us all reduce our risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular diseases, control our weight, and improve our overall health, fitness level and sense of wellbeing.
Need more motivation to exercise at our age?
Exercise can improve your sex drive, and there is nothing wrong with having a firmer, younger looking body . . . .
A well-rounded exercise plan should include at least:
- 20 minutes of cardio or aerobic exercise, 3-5 times/ week.
- 15 minutes of strength or resistance training, 2-4 times/ week
- 3 minutes of stretching or flexibility exercises, 3-5 times/ week
Note: If you have not been physically active for some time, it is safer to start slowly and gradually increase the duration and pace of your workout. It is also recommended that you seek the advice of your healthcare provider particularly if there are any known issues or conditions.
Most of us know that we should consume more whole grains, fruits & vegetables, less saturated fats, refined sugars & flours but knowing it and doing it are quite different.
This is a good time to re-evaluate our eating habits, menu planning and shopping lists.
The Wonders of Soy
Soy and soy isoflavones have helped women around the world reduce a wide range of menopausal discomforts, particularly hot flashes and night sweats.
Other benefits may include improved insulin regulation; weight loss; bone health; heart health, improved nail, skin and hair health.
Consider the many soy products available at your local supermarket and how very easy it is today, to incorporate soy into your daily life.
Many women have reported they were able to reduce their frequency of hot flashes with just a couple of servings of soy milk a day.
I believe that all women should take a proactive role with their health and wellness during their menopausal years.
We can all enhance the quality of our lives by exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and getting enough sleep.
With a little effort, we can all Be Fit Over Fifty.
Be Fit Over Fifty's home use exercise programs are made for us and include a combination of cardio, resistance training & stretching.
To choose the program that best suites your needs, please click on the program links below for a detailed description of each.
The Tone & Sculpt Program
Tone & Sculpt DVD ($19.95)
is an excellent 45 minute resistance training program designed to firm & tone all major muscle groups &
strengthen your back. This flexible program allows you to vary the intensity to match your comfort level.
It is a good choice for those who prefer to use a walking program or another cardio program on alternate days.
The Cardio-Strengthening Program
is a quick 30 minute program that combines stretching & low-impact, weight-bearing, aerobic movements. This program is a good choice for active adults and when used in conjunction with our Tone & Sculpt program, it can help you prevent and / or reverse the effects of osteoporosis.
Cardio-Strengthening DVD ($19.95)
The Interval Circuit Training Program
Interval Circuit Training DVD ($19.95)
is an excellent combination routine that can help you prevent and or reverse the effects
of osteoporosis. This easy to follow, 45 minute workout, alternates between resistance training,
with hand weights, and brief intervals of low impact, weight-bearing, Cardio movements.