You know that exercise is beneficial for you. Eating less and exercising more is not a surprising way to maintain a healthy weight. Aside from weight loss, the benefits of exercise are far reaching. They include:
- Lower risk of osteoporosis
- Lower risk of heart disease
- Improved joint and muscle functioning
- Improved digestion
- Improved mental health
Since risks of these increase during menopause, exercise is more valuable than ever. If you are looking to add to or modify your exercise program, consider these:
- Walking – This does not mean doing some shopping at the mall and factoring in the steps you took. During a good walking program, you are walking and only walking. You should walk at a brisk pace consistently for 20 – 30 minutes 3 – 4 times per week. Walking is readily available and most everyone can do it. Do not be deterred by wind, rain or cold. A nice warm jacket will give you all the protection you need. If walking is not for you, try swimming, cycling, aerobics, tennis or dance. Perhaps, a combination will work better for you than one individually. The physical and emotional benefits of low-impact aerobics is supported with years of research.
- Strength training – Lifting weights does not mean that you have to lift 450 lbs or even wear one of those funny weightlifting belts. Lifting light weights at high repetitions will help to recover some of your lost muscle mass and maintain bone density. As mentioned, increased muscle mass is linked to higher resting metabolic rates.
- Daily changes – Throughout each day, your are confronted with decisions that impact your physical health. Elevator or stairs? Car or walking? Watch a movie or head outside? Making the best choice is difficult sometimes but it feels so good afterwards. Consider a fitness tracker, pedometer or other activity monitoring device or app to help measure and increase your daily movement.
You know that eating a healthy diet and exercising more regularly improves your mental health. You also know that feeling less depression and less anxiety helps you accomplish your health goals. Feeling let down and disappointed only worsens your motivation, energy and interest in exercise.
You know that maintaining a healthy body weight is important but don’t sacrifice your mental health. Too often people assume that as weight goes down, mood will go up. Surely getting a positive response to your efforts will help boost your mood, but putting too much emphasis on weight will hurt your mental health over time. What good is high quantity of life if the quality is low?
Your body image is not the number on the scale. It is not the size of your jeans. Putting too much pressure on your efforts will add stress and anxiety. This path is self-defeating since you are already undergoing identity changes associated with menopause. Finding acceptance of your current state is one of the best things you can do.
Exercise and healthy diets should be part of your life but not all-encompassing. Spend time and energy enjoying and appreciating you and all life has to offer. Find things that you like when you look in the mirror rather than being overly harsh and critical. Treat yourself to a special treat in moderation. Being kind to yourself and making physical health a fun aspect of life will make it more likely that you maintain your positive behaviors and reach your goals. Make diet and exercise a social experience by involving friends and family.
Weight gain during menopause is common but it does not have to be an eventuality. The answers are simple. Consume less sugary foods and drinks. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Exercise in new and different ways. Protect and strengthen your mental health. Avoid making the problem too confusing or complex. Simplicity equals success.