Everyone can benefit from exercise, but women in their 50s can especially benefit. Although exercise won’t eliminate hot flashes and other discomforts of menopause, it will improve your overall state of health, and improve your strength and stamina. If one of your goals is to lose weight or maintain your weight, exercise as an adjunct to a good diet is more effective than diet alone. Maintaining your level of physical activity while eating well and estrogen therapy if recommended can help prevent osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease.
A great exercise regime will include resistance exercises to maintain muscle mass and build bone strength, stretching to maintain mobility, and aerobic exercises for your heart.
Strength training includes the use of some sort of resistance, dumbbells, bands, or machines to strengthen the muscles. It’s best to start with exercises that focus on the main muscle groups two or three times a week. For example, rowing exercises, overhead presses, squats, and core exercises work many muscles synergistically. Six weeks of these exercises, three sets of ten each is a start get your muscles used to working together. It takes about six weeks for the nerves and muscles to train to optimally work together. At that time you can introduce more isolating exercises, and increase the weights on the exercises you’ve been doing. If you’ve never done this type of exercise you can seek guidance from your physical therapist. This is especially important if you’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis. Heavy weights should be avoided and correct form is paramount to avoid spinal flexion and subsequent spinal injury. The exercise ball is a great tool to add to any strengthening program. The exercise ball is ideal for core work and can substitute for a seat or bench while doing dumbbell exercises.
Stretching should be done two or three times a week to maintain your mobility. The best time is to stretch after your aerobic workout, although it’s always good to stretch after strengthening exercises as well. At your age stretching exercises are most effective when held for 30 to 60 seconds. If you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis you should avoid bending your spine forward as this caused compression forces on your vertebrae. Your physical therapist can suggest appropriate exercises, many using an exercise ball. For instance, stretching intoextension is great for stretching tight ligaments on the front of the spine and relieving pressure on vertebral bodies.
When it comes to aerobic exercise it is important that you choose something that you enjoy doing and that fits into your schedule. Aerobic exercise works your heart by raising your pulse and getting you to breathe harder. Dancing, bicycling, brisk walking, treadmill, elliptical machines are all examples of the type of exercise you need to do to get your pulse up.
This type of exercise done for 20 to 60 minutes, three to five days a week will maintain good heart health and help to keep bones strong. If you can’t find 20 minutes in a day take shorter breaks each day to reach this goal. The important thing is to start and make it a habit. If you have not been exercises, start by taking walks around the block at a comfortable pace for five to fifteen minutes at a time. Gradually increase your pace and distance to reach the goals listed above.
Regular exercise is energizing and safe when guidelines are followed:
- Make sure you warm up prior to exercising with some brief walking.
- Stretch afterward.
- Exercise should take place at a comfortable but brisk pace. You should be breathing harder and faster but still able to talk.
- Exercising is often more fun in a group setting. Find some friends to go for a walk.
- If exercising at home, invest in some good equipment and put it in a place you’re likely to use it. It helps to listen to music or watch TV to pass the time.
- If you feel any discomfort, weakness, nausea, pressure in your chest, unusual shortness of breath, stop your exercise, relax, and if symptoms persist, seek a medical opinion.
This information is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. Anyone looking to begin a new exercise program should consult their family doctor.