Some years ago when I joined a workout class at a health club, I was surprised to find a good number of middle-aged ladies enrolled in it too. Sure, they were interested in losing a few inches here and there, like everyone else, but they had been instructed by the doctors to exercise in order to manage the post-menopausal effects and disorders, such as joint pains.
They are the lucky and enlightened few who realise that many of the physical problems they are going through is due to menopause rather than just aging. Menopause is a state all women go through anytime between the ages of 45 and 55, and in a few cases even earlier or later.
However, the sad part is that most women silently suffer the hot flashes, mood swings and joint pains, and by the time they enter a doctor’s clinic, it is due to a heart attack or a broken hip bone resulting from osteoporosis. If women pay proper attention to their diet and exercise well, they can minimise, if not escape from, all these health problems.
Most women silently suffer hot flashes, mood swings and joint pains, and by the time they enter a doctor’s clinic it is due to a heart attack or a broken hip bone resulting from osteoporosis.”
While exercise is important for people of all ages, older women in particular can benefit a lot from it. Regular exercise does wonders for the heart and bones, improves mood, helps regulate weight and contributes to a sense of overall well-being.
Studies show that women performing aerobic activities or muscle-strength training are less likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease and cancer later in life than those who are generally inactive. Sedentary women may also suffer more from chronic back pain, stiffness, insomnia, often have poor circulation, weak muscles, shortness of breath and loss of bone mass.
Studies show that women performing aerobic activities or muscle-strength training are less likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease and cancer later in life than those who are generally inactive.”
In the forties, the body starts to age, the metabolism slows down and effects of all the abuses and misuse one has put the body through earlier start to show. With menopause, the ovaries stop producing eggs and this is accompanied by changes in the hormonal level. The body stops producing oestrogen all together, which means the bone mass build-up comes to an end as oestrogen is the hormone responsible for absorption of calcium by the bones. Just like muscles, bones follow the ‘use it or lose it’ rule, thus, they diminish in size and strength with disuse.
Exercise increases blood circulation to all parts of the body and workouts focusing on the lower abdomen is beneficial during pre- and post-menopausal years. Muscles of and around the uterus strengthen because of this and more oxygen reaches here due to increased circulation. Very often it is seen that when a woman is going through pre-menopause, the menses become irregular and painful, exercise can help in this case too.
Depression can also be a problem for middle-aged women. The cessation of menses makes them feel they are losing their femininity and vitality. In addition, the effects of the increasing age start to show in the form of winkles, grey hair and expanding waistlines. These factors lower their self esteem.
On the family front too, there are changes going on that can have an adverse effect on the mood — children growing up and leaving home, husband also facing mid-life crisis and needing special attention, the loss of parents and other domestic changes. In this situation, exercise is one of the best ways to manage those mood monsters that can make life hell.
Exercise is found to have a positive effect on one’s mood. During exercise, the hormones which are released cause anger and emotions to subside and you start feeling fresh and light.
However, exercise can backfire if done without consulting a doctor and/or fitness trainer as they are the only people who will be able to judge which exercise is best for you. Doing the wrong kind of workout is most likely to make your physical condition worst and aggravate the problem.
And even if you are taking exercise classes conducted by a professional trainer, care must be taken to convey all that you feel during the workout. If you are experiencing pain or a high degree of discomfort during a certain routine, don’t continue it as it may cause some muscle problems.
When starting any workout programme, one is likely to experience stiff muscles and a lot of stretches will be difficult to perform. However, with time the muscles and the body over all will become used to it and after a few sessions, things will become easier. But it should be kept in mind that how many times you do a particular exercise is not as important as doing it right, even if it is only a few times.
The right posture is the key to successfully reaping the benefits of a workout.
This article was originally published in The Review magazine of Dawn newspaper.