It’s no secret that menopause can be a difficult time – between the hot flashes, night sweats, weight gain, and the wild hormonal changes, it’s often a rollercoaster ride of changes and challenges.
And then there are the other, perhaps less talked about or known about issues to consider due to the decreasing oestrogen in your body, such as:
- Loss of bone density
- Pelvic floor weakness and associated bladder leakage or vaginal prolapse symptoms
- Increased risk of heart attack
- Increased incidence of depression and mental health issues
Loss of bone density is one of the well known symptoms of menopause which can be very troublesome and lead to osteoporosis and bone fractures. It is worth noting that even before perimenopause, many women already have experienced changes in their bone density by age 40, and that it’s actually what we’ve done in our 20’s that determines the amount of bone that is created.
Did you know that osteoporosis accounts for more days spent in hospital than many other diseases (such as diabetes, heart attack, breast cancer) for women over 45?
Did you know that menopausal symptoms like adrenal dysfunction, weight gain and increased risk of vascular disease are very closely related to high stress levels, and a lot of this can be controlled by your own mindset? If you view menopause as a stressful or negative period, this leads to a hormone called cortisol being released, which tells your body to store fat around your middle, increases your appetite, and locks fat in. Cortisol tells your liver and fat cells to release energy, causing a rise in insulin, which stores fat and encourages us to eat something sweet or fatty. Abdominal fat cells have four times more cortisol receptors than anywhere else in the body, which is why weight gain around the middle (visceral fat) is so common. Visceral fat is the worst type of fat as it increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and hypertension.
With menopausal changes often comes advice on exercise as a solution, especially to the issues of weight gain and increasing bone density. But then there’s the conundrum of figuring out how best to exercise in a way that doesn’t cause or worsen a pelvic organ prolapse or bladder leakage.
Have you considered that often the high load and high intensity exercise that is recommended for reducing weight and increasing bone density is the same type of exercise that is in the high risk category for creating pelvic floor issues?
Have you considered that too many stress hormones (epecially cortisol) produced by very high intensity exercise, can lead to your body constantly being in a state of fight or flight and actually holding onto fat insteading of burning it?
It is because of these issues that FitRight is now launching ‘FitRight Woman’ – physiotherapist-led small group exercise classes aimed at women who are going through perimenopause and menopause – focusing on weight bearing exercise to build bone strength, an appropriate but challenging level of cardio to assist with weight loss, and developing balance and pelvic floor and core muscle strength. FitRight Woman also gives tips for stress management as one of it’s key education focus areas, and has created an exercise program which ‘reduces stress on the body while still increasing load through your bones’.
At FitRight, we want to spread the message that you can take action to build your overall bone health by being well informed, doing weight bearing exercise and the making the right nutritional and lifestyle choices. FitRight Woman classes also include education each week on different menopause-related symptoms and what you can do to prevent issues with recommended nutrition and management tips.
This includes education on topics such as:
- Calcium intake
- Incorporating movement into your life
- The benefits of sunshine and vitamin D
- Overall endocrine balance
- What consitutes an optimal diet
- Information about effective stress management
- Tips on achieving great digestion.
Menopause does not need to be viewed as a negative event – we want to empower you to take control to improve your overall health and reduce your stress!
The conventional view of menopause being ‘the beginning of the end’ could not be further from the truth. The fact is that the better shape you are in, the more enjoyable your menopausal journey will be! We hope to see you take control of your own menopausal journey and join us at FitRight Woman class soon.
Article by FitRight Physiotherapists Claire Hobson and Taryn Watson.