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DATE SENT: 07-02-2009
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Menopause & Exercise Learn How to Prevent Middle-Age Spread with Exercise.

Weight gain during menopause is most likely due to growing older, changing hormones, slowing metabolism, and lack of exercise. The truth is, women's bodies do change as they get older and go through menopause, but weight gain isn't inevitable. We have more control over our bodies and how they age than we think.


What Happens During Menopause:

Beginning as early as the mid-thirties, the ovaries decline in hormone production, this decline speeds up in the 40's, which makes hormones fluctuate and by the 50's, periods usually stop completely.

What many women don't like about this process are the symptoms and problems that come with these shifting hormones such as:

  • Weight gain - especially around the belly and waistline
  • Hot flashes and Night sweats
  • Depression, stress, irritability, and anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Memory loss
  • Skin and hair changes

The weight gain in part has to do with those declining hormones, though researchers aren't sure how or why. Experts at Oregon Health & Science University have found in a recent study that, with decreased hormones, many monkeys increased their food intake by 67% during menopausal transition. (1)

Posing the Question - Does Menopause Increase Appetite?

Menopause isn't the only cause of middle age spread. Other factors include:

  • Reduced activity
  • Decreased metabolism
  • Increased calories intake
  • Genetics

Easing into Menopause:

Exercise is key to managing menopausal symptoms and changes. As the American Council on Exercise states: "The good news is that a regular program of physical activity can help manage many of the uncomfortable symptoms of menopause as well as the related health concerns, such as heart disease and osteoporosis." (2)

Other benefits of exercise include:

  • Reduced stress - The mood-elevating, tension-relieving effects of aerobic exercise help reduce the irritability, stress, depression, and anxiety that often accompanies menopause.
  • Weight loss - Aerobic exercise also promotes the loss of abdominal fat - the place most women more readily gain weight during menopause. In fact, new research studies have shown that the increased estrogen levels that follow a woman's exercise session coincide with an overall decrease in the severity of hot flashes.
  • Reduction of hot flashes, night sweats and insomnia - Some research has found a decrease the severity of hot flashes because exercise increases estrogen levels.
  • Increased bone mass - Strength training and impact activities (like walking or running) can help strengthen the bones and prevent osteoporosis. It stimulates bones to retain the minerals that keep them dense and strong, thus preventing the onset and progression of osteoporosis.
  • Reduced risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes - These effects of exercise, along with improved cholesterol levels and physical fitness, work together to help prevent heart disease.
  • Enhances and protects brain function - exercise protects against cognitive decline (3)

The North American Menopause Society states "Exercise may cause the same magnitude of change as that induced by estrogen therapy." (4)

To learn more about the benefits of exercise, visit:

1. (OHSU Researchers Reveal Relationship Between Weight Gain And Female Hormones).
3. Exercise & Sport Sciences Reviews. 30(2):75-79, April 2002.Cotman, Carl W.; Engesser-Cesar, Christie
4. Hammar, M. et al., The effects of Physical Activity on Menopausal Symptoms and Metabolic Changes around Menopause, The Journal of the National American Menopause Society, Vol. 2. No. 4, pp. 201-209.


Exercise Your Way Through Menopause

Kelly Skovira DNP(c)"Even if your hectic schedule has kept you from exercising for a long time... many benefits can be found by adding exercise to your menopausal health plan. The key is to start slowly".

Kelly Skovira DNP(c)
Women's Health CRNP,
Project Manager MenopauseRx, Inc.


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