Fitness & Exercise

Published: June 15, 2014

Staying Healthy at Midlife

With all of the menopause questions weighing you down, it is easy to forget the most important ingredients to remain healthy through the change. Eating healthy, quitting smoking, reducing alcohol intake and exercising regularly are constants throughout our lives, and have an impact on how your body goes through the menopausal transition.
It is estimated that women gain about one pound each year from their late thirties through their mid-sixties. Our metabolism slows down with age. The body loses muscle and doesn’t burn enough calories which leads to weight gain.
The earlier women maintain a healthy lifestyle, the better their life long health will be.

“You should begin the healthy regimens that will stand you in good stead for the rest of your life.” – quote from A Woman’s Guide to Menopause & Perimenopause, by Mary Jane Minkin, MD

Before and after menopause there are two basic principles for every woman to follow:

  • Maintain a healthy body weight (as close to your ideal body weight as possible), and exercise regularly
  • Avoid bad habits such as smoking, abusing alcohol, and avoid illicit drugs

Being overweight increases your health risks such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, gallbladder disease, back pain, and some types of cancers. The most prevalent effect of being overweight is the psychological impact it has on us.

Why be Concerned about Fitness during Menopause?

During menopause, your estrogen amounts have lowered, impacting your body in various ways. This affects your overall health.

“It is a time to evaluate your diet, your exercise routine, and your other life habits to maximize the possibility that the ensuing years will be healthy.” –quote from A Woman’s Guide to Menopause & Perimenopause, by Mary Jane Minkin, MD

Tips for Healthy Eating

Healthy Eating
Eat a healthy diet, which is low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. Include in your diet plenty of vegetables, fruits and grains. You can increase fiber intake by eating more raw vegetables; fruits; dried beans; whole grains; barley; peas; wheat bran and oats. Eat or drink calcium-rich foods or products (at least 3-4 servings each day). Dairy, sardines, canned salmon, broccoli and peas or beans are good sources. Talk to your healthcare provider about taking calcium supplements if you do not get your daily calcium requirements through food. The recommended daily amount of calcium is 1200 mg.
Also, be sure to pay attention to not only your calcium intake daily, but also the amount of vitamin D you are taking in. Calcium builds bones, but it isn’t absorbed well without vitamin D. Most bone experts recommend 800 to 1,000 IU of vitamin D daily. Also, go lean on the amount of red meat you consume. By reducing your intake, you may lower your risk of heart disease. Moderation is key.

A good nutritionist can design a balanced and healthy diet for you.

And, lastly, utilize sugar and salt in moderation. Drink alcohol in moderation.

Some Fast Facts and Benefits of Exercise
Heavier women and women who do not exercise regularly may have more intense hot flashes. So, fan your hot flashes away with physical fitness!

If reducing hot flashes aren’t enough to make you lace up your sneakers, maybe some of these other perks will!

  • Improves muscle strength, tone and flexibility
  • Promotes sense of well-being and enhances self-esteem
  • Reduces depression and anxiety; relaxes and revitalizes; reduces mental and muscular tension; increases concentration and energy level
  • Weight bearing exercise helps develop and preserve bone
  • Aerobic exercise prevents cardiovascular disease
  • Reduce or maintain body weight or body fat
  • Reduces risk of developing diabetes
  • Reduces risk of developing colon cancer and breast cancer
  • Reduces high cholesterol or the risk of developing high cholesterol
  • Decreases risk of osteoporosis
  • Decreases arthritis symptoms; keeps joints flexible and helps build muscle to support the joint
  • Decreases chance of premature death

Still not convinced? Well, firing up a fitness plan may even relieve symptoms of anxiety, irritability, mood swings, decreased libido and depression.
There is truth behind the “runner’s high”. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins that naturally elevate your mood and relieve pain.

Reasons to Exercise

  • Exercise may decrease the frequency and severity of hot flashes. It raises our levels of beta-endorphins in the brain, which helps improve sleep, reduce stress, relieve depression and it may even help improve your sex drive.
  • Exercise helps control weight. It helps increase metabolism and in turn the ability for our body to burn calories.
  • Exercise reduces the risks for osteoporosis, heart disease, breast cancer and other cancers. It stimulates the formation of new bone, and researchers have found that women who exercise greatly reduce their risk of developing heart disease. Athletes have a 50% less incidence of breast cancer and 60% less incidence of cancer of the uterus, ovaries, cervix and vagina than non-athletes.

If you incorporate just 30 minutes of activity into your daily life, it is possible to maintain your present weight or lose weight.

Your body needs exercise and movement to be healthy. According to a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, an estimated 250,000 to 300,000 deaths per year are due to inactive, overweight and sedentary lifestyles. Inactive, sedentary people are more likely to suffer from a serious fall that could lead to hospitalization, permanent disability, dependence or even death.

In our age-obsessed society, we are constantly hearing of how we can reverse the aging process by buying into one of the many products that promise to do this. Instead focus on fitness. It can add years to your life and life to your years.

Plan Your Fitness Program
You don’t have to go to the gym or invest in expensive equipment. All it takes is a good pair of sneakers, some motivation and a little time. Before beginning any exercise program it is essential to talk to your healthcare provider. Depending on your personal fitness level, there are ways to prevent injury and maximize benefits.

Committing to Exercise
One of the keys to preventing health problems, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, losing weight and staying fit is committing time to your weekly workout. The first step to commitment is starting where you are right now, no matter what kind of shape you’re in. Practice a holistic approach to lifetime fitness. Be mindful of integrating exercise into your busy life. Transform the painful, boring trips to the gym into enjoyable and convenient moments.

Take your friend on a walk with you. A little conversation can go a long way. Start walking and chatting with a friend and you could easily pass the time walking a few miles! Relax and have fun.

Change it up! Working out on the same exercise machines can be excruciatingly boring. Try a new sport, hike a new trail, bicycle a new road.

Incorporate a more active lifestyle into your daily routing by taking extra stairs, or walking to the store. You’d be surprised how many everyday activities are calorie burners!

Here are important types of exercises that should be incorporated into your lives:

Aerobic exercise (30 minutes each day – brisk walking, dancing, running are good forms of aerobic exercise)

Weight-bearing (strength-training) exercise – 3 times per week on alternate days for 30 minutes (working with weights will build muscles and helps delay or prevent bone loss. It also will facilitate weight loss)

Flexibility (yoga, pilates and stretching – can increase flexibility and balance helping decrease the risk of falls)

Remember, before embarking on an exercise program; speak to your healthcare provider. Start slowly, progress gradually and set realistic fitness goals. Consider signing up for an exercise class with a friend. This may help to encourage you to continue exercising. Try a variety of workouts to keep you motivated. Choose an exercise plan that fits your lifestyle that’s good for you. And, remember, exercise should be an important part of your daily life.