For a healthy post-menopausal life, regular exercise, good nutrition, sufficient sleep and rest, and stress relief is important. Exercises can easily be adapted to one’s likes. Regular exercise helps to maintain weight and improves the heart and lung functions. It also increases stamina for a better life and negates psychological stress, such as anxiety and depression. In addition, it prevents osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.
The right exercise program should include workouts to improve the heart, bone strength and lung function. Cardio exercises such as brisk walking, cycling, swimming and aerobics promote blood circulation and heart and vascular function to prevent obesity and cardiovascular diseases. Studies have shown that those who do regular cardio exercises have 2-3 times lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Also, by improving the lung and heart functions, you will feel less tired during the day.
Women aged between 45 and 55 gain more weight, but have less physical activity. During this period, the lower body becomes thinner and they tend to gain weight in the upper body. This increases the risk of various diseases as well as orthopedic conditions such as arthritis and myalgia. Hence middle-aged women should aim to lose weight and do exercises that strengthen the lower body ― these include swimming and fixed cycling. Swimming is a systemic exercise that is easier on the musculoskeletal system, with good caloric use. It helps with joint movements, and can prevent or improve arthritis. Rather than sticking to one exercise, it is better to rotate exercises, such as doing both swimming and cycling in turns.
The recommended exercise regime is 3-5 times per week, with the intensity of 50-70 percent of your maximum abilities. This means that you should do enough exercise to sweat and feel slightly out of breath. The duration of exercise varies for different persons, but beginners should begin with 15 minutes per day, increasing it by 5 minutes every 2 weeks. The recommended exercise duration is 30-50 minutes.
Osteoporosis is the most common disease in postmenopausal women, which can be a threat to the body. Regular exercise increases the bone density of younger women and prevents the loss of bone density in middle-aged and elderly women. Weight exercises help to maintain the function of the musculoskeletal system, which weakens after menopause. These are also important for basic stamina to carry out everyday activities.
Muscle exercises can be free weight exercise, or exercises using gym equipment. One can stand in front of a wall to repeatedly sit and stand or lift ones leg straight up at 30 degrees for 20 seconds while sitting in a chair.
Free weight exercises should ideally be done to improve the muscle function, by choosing appropriate weights between 0.5 kg and 3 kg. If you are working out in a gym, you should lift 40-50 percent of your maximum ability, and do this 8-12 times in 2-3 sets. Avoid weights that are too heavy as they can damage the muscle and increase blood pressure.
Stretching before and after exercising will improve flexibility, balance and range of motion ― the range where a joint can be moved, which reduces as you age. Stretching is also effective for preventing neuralgia and myalgia.
Exercises that are good for middle-aged women
Improved circulation and cardiovascular function: brisk walking, cycling, swimming, aerobics and other cardio exercises.
Strengthening lower body and preventing arthritis: swimming and fixed cycling
Muscle weight exercises (prevention of osteoporosis): lifting weights, exercises using gym equipment, sitting and standing
Neuralgia and myalgia prevention: stretching
By Dr. Min Yong-ki
The author is a doctor at the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism at Samsung Medical Center in Seoul and teaches at Sungkyunkwan University’s School of Medicine ― Ed.