What types of exercise are recommended for women entering or experiencing menopause?

The ideal kind of exercise for women just before, at and after menopause should include some weight bearing, some strengthening and some stretching components.

Women start to lose bone mass, (that is, the actual structure and weight of the bone) as they reach menopause. Weight bearing exercise is recommended to help prevent that happening.  As pressure on your bones is applied, the body’s natural defence system takes action to spread the load by actually building more bone.  Activities such as brisk walking, low-impact aerobics, and dancing are considered “weight bearing” exercises.   

Stretching exercises keep muscles loose and toned, and tend to make us relaxed as well.  Yoga is a good example of exercise with the stretch built in. Resistance exercises that require lifting or pulling, sometimes known as weight training, should also be part of a menopausal women’s exercise program.

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Is my risk of heart disease greater as I reach menopause?

Women’s risk of heart disease increases about ten years later than when men start to have heightened risk. Still, for women that risk does increase after menopause, so it is important to do what you can to reduce the risk:

  1. Do not smoke.
  2. Have your blood pressure checked.
  3. Ask your doctor when you should have your blood sugar and cholesterol levels checked.
  4. Eat healthfully (See Canada’s Food Guide.)
  5. Exercise regularly. As little as 30 minutes of brisk walking three times a week can make a big difference.
  6. Maintain a healthy weight.

Recent research shows that women who started hormone therapy around the time of menopause can reduce their risk of heart disease by about 40 per cent, but doctors don’t currently recommend HT as a means to address that issue alone.

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Is hormone therapy advised where there is a history of cardiovascular problems?

Women on hormone therapy (HT) who have a heart attack, a stroke or a blood clot in their veins (venous thromboembolism) are advised to discontinue hormone therapy.

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I seem to be gaining weight more easily as I head toward menopause.  Can I do anything about it?

Weight gain is not necessarily a symptom of menopause.  Even though the rate at which our bodies burn energy, and subsequently fat, declines as we age, a healthy diet and a moderate exercise program can usually keep those extra kilos at bay.  And a modest weight gain is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as your weight remains in a healthy range. The most important thing is not your weight, but that you are eating healthfully, and exercising regularly.  Still, if you are struggling with weight issues as you are nearing, or have reached, menopause, consult a health professional who is familiar with your health status and history.

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