If you are around the age of menopause, which usually occurs around age 50, regular exercise is extremely beneficial—perhaps more so than at any other time in your life. Even if you have never had a consistent exercise habit until this point, now is the time to start.
Exercise Keeps You Young
The female sex hormone estrogen is known to play an important role in the function of your muscles and blood vessels. However, since estrogen levels drop dramatically after you have your final menstrual period, this means your muscles and circulation are bound to suffer after menopause. Studies suggest you can reverse these effects by taking up regular exercise, which improves muscle strength and circulation.
Exercise benefits virtually all aspects of your health, especially when combined with a healthy diet in order to maintain a healthy weight. Carrying too much fat around your abdomen is associated with an elevated risk of premature death from any cause. Essentially, picking up an exercise habit will extend your life.
If you need even more reasons to start exercising (or keep exercising!), consider this: A study involving 36 volunteer women found that postmenopausal women derive the most benefits from exercise. This is because their bodies are more sensitive to exercise on a cellular level. So, if you’re going through menopause, working out will rejuvenate your body even more than it could have when you were younger.
Exercise Fights Breast Cancer
About 12 percent of all women get breast cancer in their lifetime, which may seem like a surprisingly high number. This is about a one in eight chance of developing the disease. There are various lifestyle choices you can make to reduce your risk of this cancer, in addition to receiving regular screenings.
The 10-year survival rate of breast cancer is 83 percent. This means that out of everyone who is diagnosed with it, 83 percent will still be alive 10 years after their diagnosis. According to new research, it seems that regular exercise plays a role in preventing breast cancer. Specifically, studies have found that exercise and weight management are the most important lifestyle factors in preventing breast cancer recurrence among those who have had it in the past. Exercise and physical fitness are even more important for preventing a second cancer diagnosis than dietary patterns, vitamin intake, smoking and tobacco use and alcohol consumption. It’s quite possible that regular exercise will prevent an initial occurrence of breast cancer as well.
Taking up exercise during menopause can benefit any woman. It is even more important if you have more risk factors for breast cancer than the average woman; for instance, if you have a family history of breast cancer, if you drink a lot of alcohol or if you have never given birth.
Other Post-Menopause Health Concerns
Breast cancer is a serious disease that exercise may help prevent. However, there are many other less-serious health problems that menopause-aged women face that exercise also helps to alleviate. For example, around the age of menopause is when you start to experience age-related loss of bone density and muscle mass. The lack of muscle mass and strength can increase your risk of a fall or other injury when attempting physical activity, and lowered bone density increases your risk of fractures. Exercise, especially strength training, is necessary to keep your bones and muscles as strong as you were when you were younger and to avoid a heightened risk of injury due to your age.
Exercise also decreases your risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and cognitive decline. Although these afflictions are not directly caused by menopause, they are much more likely to occur around the age of menopause. Taking up exercise during menopause will decrease your risk of developing these problems and help to alleviate them if you already experience them.
Creating an Exercise Habit
Although the official recommendation for physical activity is 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week (or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise), not very many people actually reach this goal. It’s very understandable that many people have trouble sticking to a new exercise regimen. However, there are factors to consider that can help you achieve success in making this a lasting habit.
The most important thing when it comes to creating a solid exercise habit is to find a form of exercise that you genuinely enjoy doing. This may mean playing sports, swimming or hiking outside in nature; you don’t have to use traditional exercise equipment like treadmills if you find it dull. If you can’t seem to find anything you really like, simply walking is great. Although walking may not seem like good exercise, it can actually be great if you do it for half an hour or more, and you can listen to music or audiobooks while you walk. When you truly enjoy your exercise, doing it regularly is effortless.
Making exercise social is also a good way to make the habit stick. Not only can you enjoy socializing while you sweat, but a companion can help you stay accountable. Try finding an exercise that you and someone you know both enjoy. Whether it’s a friend, a group of friends, a family member or your romantic partner, making it a habit of exercising together will increase your chances of long-term exercise success.