People across America recently helped Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg celebrate her birthday by striking a plank pose. Why? The feisty 86-year-old proves that physical fitness knows no age limits ? and if beating cancer while writing opinions shaping the law of the land doesn’t speak to the efficacy of exercise for overall health, what on earth does?
If you’re in your menopausal years, resist dialing back your workout routine, as you may benefit more from pumping it up. Exercise allows countless women nearing or over 50 to tame the hormonal chaos that accompanies the change of life. Whether you’ve been a lifelong gym rat or haven’t lifted more than a cup of espresso in some time, getting moving eases pain, helps you maintain a healthy weight and provides a mood boost to boot.
How Exercise Eases the Burn of Menopause
Exercise helps women of any age in ways far too numerous to count. Physical movement stimulates the flow of synovial fluid through the joints, preventing bone damage. Working out helps keep extra pounds from sticking, and it also aids in maintaining a positive mental outlook.
A recent study performed by researchers at the University of Granada in Spain found that women who exercise through menopause decrease their symptoms. Conversely, those who remained sedentary reported increased severity.
Women benefit mentally and emotionally from staying active. Those entering perimenopause, the years preceding the actual cessation of their periods, often develop mental health conditions. Too many of us self-medicate with recreational drugs like alcohol to cope, when sweating it up would provide similar relief without the wicked hangover.
Getting Started on a Workout Plan
Whether you’re embarking on your fitness journey during menopause or modifying a previous routine, keep all facets of fitness in mind. True physical health consists of a balance of cardiovascular activity, strength training and flexibility work.
Cardio need not necessarily mean hopping on a treadmill, although it can. Consider these cardiovascular exercises, especially if you’re just getting back into the swing of things.
- It’s low impact and costs no more than a new pair of supportive shoes.
- Solo or with a partner, dancing burns calories, even when it feels like you’re just having fun.
- Biking puts little impact on joints but revs up your heart rate big time.
- The natural buoyancy of water eases pressure on your joints. If you struggle with weight or mobility issues, aqua-aerobics or doing laps burns calories without causing you undue pain.
Strength training exercises run the gamut from full-blown gym workouts to body weight and isometric movements. If you want to hit it hard but find weight equipment complicated, many fitness facilities give new members a free personal training session. If you need the psychological boost of going somewhere and working out with others to increase your motivation, contact a few centers before committing to your final choice.
You don’t need weights at all to strength train. Good, old-fashioned squats, lunges, pushups and crunches build muscle strength, as do Pilates classes.
Flexibility training may consist of yoga, simple stretching, or mobility routines. Many younger women skimp on stretching to max out caloric burn, but the older and wiser among us value the pain-relieving and injury-preventing qualities of mobility movements. As an arthritis sufferer myself, I can testify that few medications have helped me relieve symptoms without turning to painkillers quite like yoga.
If mind-body exercise appeals to your soul, seek classes led by a yogi certified in working with those of all ages. The best classes combine compassion and respect for the body while gently challenging you to improve.
To reap the maximum benefit from fitness, ditch the weekend warrior mentality and instead schedule at least 150 minutes per week to exercise. You can break this time up however you wish, though most experts recommend working out at least three days per week.
Fun New Fitness Trends
Hitting menopause doesn’t mean resigning ourselves to leisurely strolls around the block. New fitness trends arise constantly, so why not check some out, especially those geared toward the mature set?
Give these trends a try to keep you motivated to pump it up decades from today;
- Walking clubs. If you find it difficult to make new friends at this stage of life, you’re far from alone. However, joining a walking club means committing to staying fit while also meeting new people who share your devotion to health.
- Functional fitness. Menopause or no, you still want to maintain the strength to lift your groceries or your grandchildren. Functional fitness focuses on movements required in everyday life, such as getting down on the floor and getting back up or using your leg muscles, not your back muscles, to hoist heavy suitcases ? or, like me, your 22-pound cat.
- New-age mashups. While both tai chi and yoga have existed forever, today many fitness instructors merge the two disciplines to create a flowing sequence of movements perfect for core strength and overall flexibility.
Keeping Fit Through Menopause and Beyond
Though I cannot claim that continuing your exercise routine during menopause will make you a superwoman like RBG, I can state affirmatively that health and physical fitness can start at any age. Keeping moving reduces both the physical and mental effects of going through the change. Growing older isn’t for wimps, so get out there and show those kids what you can do.