Exercise to manage menopause
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Exercise Is Important

by Joan McPhee, MH, WT

General Fitness and Flexibility Exercises
  Deep Abdominal Breathing
  Joint Flexibility
  Tension Release/Energy Increase
Yoga for Menopause
References

Exercise is a most beneficial activity for women in their menopausal years. In fifteen years’ experience working with thousands of women in their menopausal years, Susan Lark, MD found exercise helps "relieve and prevent many symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes and night sweats, thinning and irritation of the vagina and urinary tract, depression, insomnia, osteoporosis and elevated cardiovascular risk factors".16

Aging is often hastened by physical inactivity. By strengthening the skin, lungs, digestive tract, nervous system, and controlling body fat, exercise retards aging.16

Postmenopausal women who exercise regularly are about half as likely to develop diabetes as their more sedentary counterparts. Even more cases of diabetes might be prevented if overweight women took off pounds as a result of increased activity. In 1986 investigators mailed a questionnaire to more than 41,000 older women, aged 55 to 69, to study the effect of physical activity on their risk of developing diabetes over the next 12 years. Women who regularly engaged in any physical activity were 31% less likely to develop diabetes during the study period than women who did not exercise regularly. Women who exercised more than four times per week had half the risk of diabetes compared with women who never or rarely exercised moderately or vigorously. ["American Journal of Public Health." January 2000; 90:134-138.]31

GENERAL FITNESS AND FLEXIBILITY EXERCISES FOR MENOPAUSE

Gentle exercises that promote mobility, flexibility and relaxation and at the same time decrease stiffness and soreness often help the menopausal woman. Vigor and energy are usually enhanced with regular exercise. Using stairs whenever possible and increasing daily walking time are two of the very best exercises.

The following are recommended by Dr. Susan Lark, and should ideally be done for approximately 30 minutes upon rising in the morning. Always rest a few minutes after exercising. If not done first thing on an empty stomach, Dr. Lark recommends waiting at least two hours before exercise. More detailed instructions can be obtained from her book, The Menopause Self-Help Book.

DEEP ABDOMINAL BREATHING

Lie flat on your back with your knees pulled up, keeping your feet slightly apart. Inhale deeply through the nose, allowing your stomach to relax. Your stomach should balloon out as you breathe in. Imagine that your body is filling with energy on each inhalation. As you exhale, imagine the air being pushed out from the bottom of your lungs to the top. This breathing will promote deep relaxation, abundant energy, and stress control.

JOINT FLEXIBILITY

Improving range of motion and flexibility in all joints will remedy stiffness and soreness that are so common as we reach menopause.

With the exception of the last one, the following exercises are done in sequence sitting on the floor, legs stretched out in front.

  • Toes - Place your hands at your sides and flex your toes 10 times.
  • Ankles - Rotate your ankles in each direction 10 times, keeping heels on the floor.
  • Knees - Bend the right leg and bring the heel near your buttock. Then lift the right leg off the floor and straighten the right knee, repeating 10 times. Then the left leg and knee 10 times. Next, holding your thigh near your body, rotate your lower leg as you did your ankle, 10 times clockwise and 10 times counterclockwise.
  • Hips – Bend the left leg and place your left foot on your right thigh. Hold the left knee with the left hand, and the left ankle with the right hand. Gently move the knee up and down with the left hand; then repeat with the right leg. Now rotate the left knee clockwise 10 times then counterclockwise 10 times. This improves hip flexibility. Repeat with the right knee. Also for hip flexibility, bring the soles of the feet together, bringing the heels close to the body. Using your hands, press your knees to the floor and let them come up again. Repeat 10 times.
  • Fingers – Lift your arms to shoulder height. Keeping your arms straight open the hands wide. Flex your fingers, closing over your thumbs. Repeat 10 times.
  • Wrists – Flex and extend the wrists, repeating 10 times. Rotate your wrists clockwise and counterclockwise 10 times each. Now hold the hand in extension and move it from side to side at the wrist. Repeat 10 times.
  • Elbows – Stretch out the arms at shoulder height with palms facing upward. Bend the arms at the elbow and touch the shoulders with your fingers; then straighten out the arms again. Repeat 10 times with arms front, then with arms extended sideways.
  • Shoulders – With arms bent and fingertips touching the shoulders, make circular motions with the elbows. Repeat 10 times clockwise and 10 times counterclockwise.
  • Spine – With legs straight out in front, reach over and touch your legs without bending your knees. Repeat 20 times.
  • Waist – Stand up and slowly reach over and touch your toes, bending from the waist. Try to keep your knees straight. Repeat 10 times. Remain standing, and spread your legs about 2 feet apart. Bend to the side at the waist first to the left, reaching your right arm over your head, repeating 5 times. Then repeat, bending to the right with your left arm over your head.

MUSCLE TENSION RELEASE, ENERGY LEVEL INCREASE

  • Legs and pelvis – Stand with legs 2 feet apart and point your feet out at a comfortable angle. Bend your knees slowly and lower your buttocks. Eventually they should be able to go as low as your knees. Move up and down 10 times.
  • Legs and pelvis – Stand with legs 2 feet apart and feet facing forward. Rock your pelvis back and forth. Repeat 10 times.
  • Legs and pelvis – In the same position, move your hips and pelvis from side to side. Let your torso and arms sway in the opposite direction, as if dancing.
  • Entire body – Jump up and down in place for several minutes. Allow your arms to move freely. Shake out your wrists, and raise your arms over your head, while jumping to release tension in the shoulders and arms.
  • Shoulders, neck, torso – Sit down with legs out in front. Raise your arms to shoulder level, bending at the elbow. Place your hands on your shoulders with your fingers in front and thumb in back. Turn your elbows, head, and neck to the left and then to the right. Repeat 10 times. Be sure to let your entire torso move with your shoulders and arms. Then move your shoulders in circles in a forward direction 10 times. Repeat in circles in a backward direction 10 times, allowing your torso to follow your shoulders so the movement is fluid.
  • Neck and head – Still in a sitting position, flex your neck backward, so that your face looks at the ceiling. Repeat slowly 10 times. Then turn your head from side to side (left to right). Repeat 10 times.
  • Eyes – From a sitting position, look straight ahead. Then slowly raise your eyes up and down, then side to side. Repeat 10 times.

YOGA FOR MENOPAUSE

"Yoga stretches can benefit both the body and the mind, bringing energy and balance. This is particularly helpful to women who are currently in menopause or in menopause transition because their hormonal levels and body chemistry may be fluctuating rapidly. This can leave women feeling out of balance and truly victims of their changing bodies. Yoga exercises level out this physiological instability by relaxing and gently stretching every muscle in the body, promoting better blood circulation and oxygenation to all cells and tissues." –by Susan M. Lark, MD.

The correct yoga exercise for your particular menopausal symptoms may be found illustrated in Dr. Susan Lark’s book, The Menopause Self Help Book. Celestial Arts, Berkeley, CA, ISBN 0-89087-592-8, 1990.

 

For more information about managing your menopause, see these topics on Project AWARE:

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Updated 04/04/2012