Medicine for Menopause
The Benefits Of Regular Exercise
- Study Verifies Effectiveness of Exercise
- Regular Exercise Can Help You Cope With Effects of
- Lack of Exercise Makes You Susceptible to Osteoporosis
- Exercise As A Mental Tonic
When To Stop Exercising
Pelvic Exercises for Bladder Control: Kegel Exercises
- Kegel Exercises
- Advantages of the Kegel Exercises
Exercises for Osteoporosis
Without doubt, exercise is the most important alternative therapy available to the
menopausal woman. Exercise allows you to control your body and emotions by using your
internal resources. Each time you exercise, your adrenal glands are stimulated to convert
the male hormone androstenedione into estrogen. A minimum of four 30-minute exercise
sessions a week will be enough to keep you "topped off' with estrogen. As you grow
older, your cardio-respiratory fitness, your strength, and your flexibility begin to
decline, but for people who remain active, they decrease at a lower rate (an average of
five percent per decade after the age of 20, as opposed to nine percent per decade).
The Benefits Of Regular Exercise
Your cells receive more oxygen, which improves blood circulation, creates energy, and
improves your ability to handle stress.
Exercise can help you deal with depression and improve your sense of well - being.
Improved health will add year's to your life.
Constipation may decrease or disappear.
You sleep better.
You have an easier time controlling your weight, because regular exercise helps to bum
calories, diminish your appetite, and speed your bodys metabolism.
Your bones become stronger, helping prevent osteoporosis.
Your risk of heart disease declines.
Lung function and endurance improve.
Your chances of getting colon cancer decrease.
Your risk of developing adult-onset diabetes decreases, as exercise improves your
bodys ability to use sugar in the blood.
Joint stiffness, arthritis, and low-back pain lessen.
Maintenance of muscle strength.
Higher levels of the healthy type of cholesterol in the blood.
A more efficient immune system.
Reduced body fat.
Better appetite control.
Increased mental agility.
Study Verifies Effectiveness of Exercise
Researchers in Sweden designed a study to determine the effect of regular physical
exercise on the frequency of hot flashes. In the study, the frequency of moderate and
severe hot flashes was investigated in seventy-nine postmenopausal women who took part in
physical exercise on a regular basis and was compared to that in a control group of 866
postmenopausal women between fifty-two and fifty-four years old.
The study clearly demonstrated that regular physical exercise decreased the frequency
and severity of hot flashes. The women in the exercising group passed through a natural
menopause without the use of hormone replacement therapy. The physically active women who
had no hot flashes whatsoever spent an average of 3.5 hours per week exercising, while
women who exercised less than this amount were more likely to have hot flashes. Similar
results, including mood elevation in pre-, peri-, and postmenopausal exercising versus
sedentary women, have been reported in other studies. The benefits of exercise were
experienced in women both on and off HRT.
Regular Exercise Can Help You Cope With Effects of Menopause
Regular exercise benefits the heart and bones, helps regulate weight, and contributes
to a sense of overall well-being and improvement in mood. Sedentary people are far more
prone to coronary heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and osteoporosis.
Sedentary women may also suffer more from chronic back pain, stiffness, insomnia, and
irregularity. They often have poor circulation, weak muscles, shortness of breath, and
loss of bone mass. Depression can also be a problem. Women who regularly walk, jog, swim,
bike, dance, or perform some other aerobic activity can more easily circumvent these
problems and also achieve higher HDL cholesterol levels. Studies show that women
performing aerobic activity or muscle-strength training reduced mortality from cardio
vascular disease and cancer.
Lack of Exercise Makes You Susceptible to Osteoporosis
Lack of exercise affects bone health too. Bones diminish in size and strength with
disuse. Weight-bearing exercise (walking, running) will help increase bone mass. Exercise
stimulates the cells responsible for generating new bone to work overtime. Research
studies have shown that bone tissue lost from lack of use can be rebuilt with
weight-bearing activity. Studies of athletes show they have greater bone mass compared to
non-athletes at the sites related to their sport. In postmenopausal women, moderate
exercise preserves bone mass in the spine helping reduce the risk of fractures.
Exercise As A Mental Tonic
Regular exercise may also have a significant effect on our mental agility by increasing
the amount of oxygen supplied to the brain. In a comparison of sedentary older women and
older women who got regular exercise, after four months the exercising group processed
information faster in tests. This effect of exercise is particularly marked in older
Apart from increasing the oxygen supply to the brain, exercise may also slow down the
loss of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps to prevent the
shaking and stiffness that can come with old age. A severe shortage of dopamine results in
the exaggerated tremors of Parkinson's disease. Dopamine decreases in the brain by about
one percent a year from our mid-20s, and if we lived to be a 100 years old, we would all
appear to have Parkinson's disease. Since exercise can slow down dopamine loss, it is
particularly beneficial as we grow older. Exercise can also prevent our reaction times
from slowing down.
Experts think exercise helps because it raises blood levels of endorphins. They are
involved in the body's positive response to stress. The mood-heightening effect can last
for several hours, according to some endocrinologists.
These 'feel-good' biochemicals drop off when estrogen is low. Endorphins also play a
role in the body's ability to regulate temperature. Regular physical exercise may increase
endorphin activity and so diminish the frequency of hot flashes. In one Swedish study,
severe hot flashes and night sweats were only half as common among women past the age of
menopause who were physically active.
You may prefer a game such as tennis, badminton, or squash, all of which offer the
added attraction of meeting and socializing with people. Likewise, joining any exercise
class can provide a social aspect that may encourage you to exercise regularly. Less
rigorous and more traditional forms of exercise, such as walking and swimming, offer
viable alternatives and will keep the body fit and supple.
Recently, there has been a move away from aerobic training toward strength training and
weight bearing exercise. Research suggests that any exercise involving weights can delay
loss of bone and muscle tissue, which is a natural consequence of aging. Weight-bearing
exercise also helps to normalize the flow of sugar from the blood into muscle tissue,
where it can be properly metabolized. This may lower the risk of diabetes and heart
Before starting your program of exercises, consult a physician. An exercise program
should start slowly and build up to more strenuous activities. Women who already have
osteoporosis of the spine should be careful about exercise that jolts or puts weight on
the back, as it could cause a fracture.
Although most of us don't get enough exercise, a small percentage of women become
psychologically addicted to exercise. They feel the need to train every day and feel
guilty if they miss a single session. Excessive exercise is as bad as no exercise at all.
It can affect every facet of your life. When you train too much, you can experience mood
swings and problems with sleep and appetite. You're also more susceptible to colds and
injuries, as intense physical exercise can lower the integrity of the immune system.
If you think you are a compulsive exerciser or that you are training excessively, it
may help to know in physiological terms how fit you are. Compare your physical fitness
level with the published data on the desirable level and your target level. If you feel
your need to exercise is compulsive, or that it is accompanied by anxiety and depression,
you should seek medical help. An exercise addiction is as serious as any other compulsive
form of behavior.
When To Stop Exercising
Warning: Never ignore the symptoms of possible
over exercise, which could mean that you are having a heart attack or some other medical
emergency. Stop exercising immediately if you have any of these symptoms:
Severe shortness of breath
Faintness or fainting
Pain or pressure in your chest
Pain in your neck, jaw, or down your left arm
Palpitations (a disturbing feeling that your heart is beating irregularly, more
strongly, or more rapidly than normal)
If you injure yourself, stop exercising immediately. Trying to "work through"
the pain could cause more damage to injured tissues. If you have a strain, sprain, or
muscle pull, rest the injury for a few days and follow the RICE (rest, ice, compression,
and elevation) routine. If you think the injury might be serious, talk to your doctor as
soon as possible. If you think you have broken a bone, go to your hospital's emergency
for Bladder Control: Kegel Exercises
If you have incontinence caused by weakened pelvic floor muscles, strengthening those
muscles through exercise can improve bladder control. For women with stress incontinence,
tensing the muscles located around the vaginal opening and anus a set number of times each
day (ten times in a row at least six times a day) can bring positive results within eight
weeks. This exercise works even for older women.
Exercises for incontinence are often referred to as the Kegel exercises,
named after Dr. Arnold Kegel, the surgeon who developed this therapy.
These exercises strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor. Also improve sexual
functioning and decrease urinary incontinence.
They involve tensing and relaxing the pubococcygeal muscles around the area of the
urethra, vagina and anus.
You can identify pubococcygeal muscles in one of the following ways:
|Begin to urinate and then stop. The same muscle you use to control urination is the
muscle that you will contract then relax during the Kegel exercises.|
|Inserting a tampon and squeeze around it. These muscles are the ones used in the
Hold pubococcygeal muscle for at least five to ten seconds and then release it slowly.
After mastering the slow Kegel exercise, you should also do a series of rapid ones. They
should be repeated ten to fifteen times, and the whole session should be repeated three to
five times per day.
Kegel exercises can be done at any time of the day since they are invisible to the
observer. Women can integrate Kegel exercise into any part of their daily routine-like
when you are on the elevator, or driving or talking on the phone, or while taking a
shower. Repetition is very important and many women have found that these exercises have
had a positive impact on their sex fife.
Advantages of the Kegel Exercises
|By developing the muscles around the vaginal area, the woman can have more control and
pleasure during the sexual encounter.|
|Kegel exercises can tone up muscles and stop incontinence.|
|Kegel exercises can build up the muscles in order to counteract any muscle loosening
that occurs as a result of menopause.|
Doing your Kegels faithfully can restore your pelvic floor muscles enough that a sneeze
or heavy lifting won't cause urination. A key point in this training-which can also
improve some cases of urge incontinence-is that it can work for the properly selected
patient so long as exercises are done regularly and consistently. You should consult a
health-care professional for a detailed exercise program.
Kegel exercises in combination with low-dose estrogens (from natural sources or through
HRT) is an effective therapy for incontinence. Estrogens replenish the cellular surface of
the urinary opening, the base of the bladder, and the lining of the urinary passage. The
exercise build up muscles. The combination is effective in the closure of the bladder so
that urine will not leak out.
Regular exercise keeps bone primed and helps prevent bone deterioration. How it
accomplishes this feat is still being examined. Exercise may be directly affecting bone by
stimulating metabolic hormones that influence such growth. There's considerable evidence
that exercise also indirectly affects bone by applying force on the muscles connected to
bone. The more a muscle is moved, the more electromagnetic resistance develops between
muscle and bone, and the more bone stays primed in response to that stress. When bone
isn't stressed by muscle, it can break down rapidly.
The familiar advice for postmenopausal women is: "Use it or lose it." Any
physical activity is better than none at all.
When bone density increases, to whatever degree, the greatest buildup occurs in those
locations most influenced by exercise. Another observation was that when exercise
contributes to bone buildup, the body appears to reach a plateau after which further
exercise does not increase bone density.
Even low-key physical activity such as walking or gardening will benefit your
musculoskeletal system, while also enhancing blood flow that can stimulate the uptake of
bone-building nutrients. Aim to exercise for at least twenty minutes, three days a week;
you're under no pressure to run a seven- minute mile.
Unfortunately, few studies to date tell us exactly what type of exercise best benefits
bone. Some therapists recommend weight-bearing and resistance-oriented exercises. With
weight-bearing exercises, your body weight serves as the load to strengthen muscles and
bone, in comparison to resistance training, which makes use of an external load.
Weight-bearing exercises include walking and running (hence treadmills and stair
climbers), jumping rope, and doing horizontal push-ups. Pedaling a stationary bike is
considered a light weight-bearing exercise. Examples of resistance training are
weight-bearing aerobics (as opposed to regular aerobics), the lifting of weights, and the
pulling and pushing that Nautilus and other equipment provide. The theory is, the more
resistance your body encounters, the greater therapeutic benefit for the muscle- bone
framework. Some professionals don't recommend resistance training, especially for
middle-aged and older individuals, since it can exacerbate back, joint, and muscle
Exercises that put less weight on bones, such as swimming, badminton, or bicycling on
flat turf, may not be as effective. "Swimming amounts to non impact exercise and it's
been clearly shown not to improve bone density.
A study done by researchers at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at
Tufts University in Boston has signaled that weight lifting can bear impressive
bone-related results for certain post- menopausal women. Twice weekly, the formerly
sedentary participants used pneumatic resistance machines for forty- five-minute workouts.
After a year of training, their hip and back muscles had strengthened by 36 to 76 percent.
Their leg and spine bone density increased by 1 percent; their balance improved by 14
percent. In another group of comparably aged women (ages 50 to 70) who remained sedentary,
bone density declined as did balance abilities.
For older women, exercise reduces fractures not only by fortifying bone but also by
noticeably improving balance, gait, coordination, and response time so that people are
less apt to fall and fracture a hip or wrist. If they do fall, they're better able to
break their fall, perhaps spraining a wrist but averting a broken hip, an injury that
causes complications resulting in death in 15 percent of cases among the elderly. Overall,
the strengthening of muscles can simply help the elderly to be more self-sufficient-to do
such basic things as get out of a chair or walk to the mailbox.
Exercise among the elderly is highly beneficial and safe, provided an individual has no
extreme medical problems. Studies have shown that after a few months of high-intensity
workouts, frail individuals can regain significant muscle power in their arms, legs, and
abdomen, and improve their mobility. In one such study elderly women and men who
participated in this study doubled their lower-body muscle strength after a ten-week
exercise program. The average age of the participants was 87.
It was concluded that routine exercise can be even better for bone than estrogen
replacement. Whereas estrogens serve only to safeguard bone density, exercise can maintain
bone density as well as improve muscle mass, muscle strength, and balance.
Experts often recommend a three-part exercise regimen for postmenopausal women of any
age, particularly those whose bones show signs of osteoporosis. The regimen includes:
A walking program that progressively builds walking time up to twenty to thirty minutes
Weight-strength exercises that tone the legs and arms; and
Posture training that strengthens the back and teaches a person the best positions for
sitting, bending, and lifting.
The specific guidelines of such a regimen are adjusted to meet an individual's needs.
Although exercise is very beneficial for osteoporosis, you should not depend on it
alone to manage it. Diet and nutrition, especially calcium and vitamin D, are very
important. If your body shows signs of osteoporosis, consult your doctor to determine how
to integrate other treatment options to improve your condition.
(Source: Isaac Schiff, MD., Menopause, Random House)
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