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Marsh column: Exercise can help menopause

By Ester Marsh
For the Salisbury Post
Are you going through menopause? Oh, the “dreaded” menopause.
When I looked it up, it said the ceasing of menstruation, the period in a women’s life (typically between 45-50 years of age) when this occurs. In the mid-30s, hormone production in the ovaries starts to slow down.
In the mid-40s, but more typically in the 50s, it slows down even more, and the following symptoms could be part of those changes: hot flashes; depression, stress and anxiety; sleep disorders; irritability; osteoporosis; cardiovascular disease.
Another unfortunate “side effect” can be weight gain, particularly around the belly and waistline.
What some research has shown is that when the hormones drop, the food intake increases and physical activity decreases (makes sense with the weight gain). Metabolism decreases (due to decrease of muscle mass).
So in other words, “When you don’t use it, you lose it.”
And to my great satisfaction once again, exercise can help you deal with menopause.
The benefits of exercise: lowers risk of osteoporosis; reduces risk of metabolic syndrome, heart attack and other cardiovascular disease; keeps joints and muscles strong; maintains good bowel function (I know how important that is); relieves depression and anxiety; improves overall health.
Strength training is really recommended to help you lose weight after menopause. It helps build muscles, which will improve metabolism. And again, it will help to maintain bone mass. Low-impact aerobics increases heart and respiratory rates. Walking is one of the easiest choices because you can do it anywhere, anytime. And we have tons of low-impact land group exercise and water exercise classes right here at our YMCA.
As with everything else, talk to your doctor before you start a new exercise program.
There are alternative therapies such as acupuncture and reflexology which can help you manage menopause symptoms, and of course, a healthy diet is crucial.
Choose whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and lean protein. Stay away from processed foods and start logging your food intake (you might be surprised how many calories you are taking in). Don’t eat late in the evening; most of the time, the food choices are not the best ones late at night. Try to eat smaller amounts, just more often.
So check with your doctor, start exercising, start logging all your foods and drinks and making food choices that are healthy for your body, and you will be able to go through menopause with little or no weight gain, and your sanity.

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