We are given such contradictory advice when it comes to exercise – move more, move less, move better, it can be impossible to know what to do, for how long and when.
I really don’t want to add to the confusion but there are times in our lives when our movement patterns can actually have a big impact on our overall wellbeing and my experience tells me that the menopause years are one of those times.
As a rule any good exercise/movement routine should include focus on mobility, strength and headspace. These still apply to the menopause years but we can be a little more specific…
We know that menopause can cause a decrease in muscle mass which is important for a number of reasons.
A decrease in muscle mass will result in a slowing down of the bodies metabolic rate and an increase in visceral fat, this will put pressure on the heart and can lead to heart disease – one of the primary risks associated with menopause.
Secondly, bones are stimulated to retain mass and strength by the growth of muscle. A decline in muscle mass has a direct correlation with the onset of osteoporosis.
Strength training needn’t be done in a gym or with any equipment. Body weight exercises such as those we do in a Pilates class are sufficient but it would be advisable to add in some standing exercises such as squats or lunges to build up the bigger muscle groups in the legs and glutes – these can be done in small ranges with support for balance – in front of a kitchen worktop or the bannisters are good places to start.
To move our bodies efficiently we need full mobility. This doesn’t mean we all need to be uber-flexibile but simply that we need to be able to move all joints in the full range intended. Restricted mobility combined with the isues above will almost certainly lead to injury.
I hear often of how an injury has just “suddenly” happened when in all likelihood it is a build up effect of reduced mobility, limited lubrication of the joints and minimal muscular support, especially likely in the menopause years and beyond.
The best way to increase your mobility is to MOVE. When joints are still for too long they can become stiff, moving lubricates them. Adding simple pilates warm-up exercises to your morning routine is a great place to start but also mobilizing before strength training is advisable to create a safe range of motion.
All muscles overlap joints, meaning if your muscles are tight then your joints will be limited in range. Stretching is an essential part of any movement routine but is often overlooked.
Our mental health is always something we should be conscious of, and as a rule we all know that movement can really help to find headspace, clarity or even just a break from your own thoughts. But did you know that menopause can mean an increase in the function of the adrenal glad, making finding calm a much harder prospect?
Pilates is a great way of finding headspace, the focus required to perform the exercises effectively means there is very little space for anything else. I also find that following a breath cycle can be incredibly calming – if you find the thought of meditation daunting then 5 minutes of breathing is essentially the same thing – combine this with some pelvic curls and your onto a winner!