Exercise and Bone Health during Menopause
World Menopause Day (Mon 18th Oct) provides us with an opportunity to talk about the challenges and health issues related to the menopause and the actions we can take to relieve symptoms. With this year’s theme being Bone Health, we take a deeper look into Osteoporosis and how physical exercise can help.
Menopause & Bone Health
During and after menopause a reduction in oestrogen levels means that bone health and muscle strength decline with consequent health implications.
What this means for women is an increased risk of osteoporosis and fracture. Indeed, osteoporosis is a particular risk for women: 50% of women over 50 in the UK will break a bone due to osteoporosis (compared to 20% of men), which is closely linked to decreased oestrogen during and after menopause (Age UK, 2020). So what can we do to help prevent this increased risk of fracture?
The Benefits of Exercise on Bone Health
Exercise, and in particular weight bearing exercise, can help to support and strengthen bone density and help reduce the risk of fracture. Not only will weight bearing or strength based exercise improve bone density, but it is also great for our health and wellbeing. Public Health England and the WHO recommend that adults should engage in 2 x strength sessions each week, which includes such things as Pilates, yoga, gardening and lifting weights.
Weight Bearing and Strength Exercises
In my previous blog, we looked at the Benefits of Resistance Training to Reduce Hot Flushes. Examples of weight bearing and strengthening exercises include dancing, hiking, tennis, running, aerobics, brisk walking, Yoga and Pilates, as well as lifting weights, using bands as resistance and body weight movements like squats, lunges and taking the stairs.
With 33% of women aged 41-60* not getting the recommended amount of exercise, it’s surely time to take this more seriously. *(Sport England (2020) Active Lives survey May 19/20)
The great news about increasing our weekly exercise is that we will not only maintain our bone density which will help to prevent osteoporotic fractures, but we also benefit from increased lean mass and increased metabolism, which will burn more calories at rest, which helps with weight management. This is particularly important and relevant during the menopause. Not only this, but regular exercise will go towards improving our mental health and self-esteem.
There are many positive gains that should be recognised by starting an exercise regime at this time in our lives. With the benefits significant, we can positively affect our bone health, our overall health and wellbeing and modify the symptoms of menopause.
Alex Reid is a Strength & Conditioning Coach and Founder of Perform Fitness.