Exercise and Menopause

Chalk it up to urban legend: Women post-menopause do not gain weight, especially in their middle, because of hormonal changes that occur with menopause. While the weight gain that occurs mid-life does tend to settle around the waist, research finds it is because of decreased muscle mass, reduced metabolic activity, less physical activity, and an increased caloric intake. This is reportedly caused by decreased expenditure of calories.

As people age, both men and women, muscle mass tends to decrease. Because lean body mass drives metabolic functioning, it makes sense that fat mass increases as people slow down their activity. Many things contribute to decreased activity in older women, including:
Aches and pains
Hot flashes
Night sweat
Poor sleep
Appetite disturbances
Decreased physical demands
Lifestyle changes
Decreased activity-based support systems
Joint pain and injuries
Decreased stamina
Medical conditions
Medications that affect appetite, sleep, or digestion

Strength training
Strength training is one of the most important factors in maintaining metabolic function in older women. Compared to their sedentary counterparts, older women who do strength training:
Have more youthful profiles
Have better bones
Are stronger
Have better balance
Have more muscle tissue

Home-based strength training is usually the most readily accepted by older women, because women can exercise in the privacy of their own homes. Women at all ends of the spectrum – from very frail to very fit – can perform simple movements.

Some guidelines follow:
Strength training: Start slowly with little or no weight to establish the range of motion and practice safe movement; increase frequency to 8-10 repetitions of the movement; repeat repetitions, with progression to two or three sets
Exercise slowly: Perform your exercises slowly, with 3 seconds to lift, one second to hold, and a slow release to neutral position
Use weights: Use ankle weights for legs and partially filled milk jugs or soup cans for the upper body as hand weights, increasing weight as the exercise becomes easier
Breath properly: Proper breathing is essential to each exercise, and the exhale should happen during the lift phase, and with the inhale as the weight is lowered
Exercise regularly: Perform exercises 2-3 days/week, for approximately 30-45 minutes each day you exercise

Some exercises to try
Knee extension: Seated in a chair, with or without ankle weights, lift and extend each leg, alternating between each leg
Side shoulder raise: Seated in a chair with arms straight down at the sides, slowly raise both arms up to shoulder height with palms facing down (may perform holding soup cans or hand-held weights)
Knee flexion: Standing behind a chair, bend one knee and lift your heel toward the buttocks, as high as it can go; lower leg and repeat with the alternate leg
Biceps curl: Seated in a chair with arms down at the sides, slowly bend elbows one at a time and bring the fist toward the bicep, while keeping the upper arm still; lower and repeat with other arm

Aerobic activity
Aerobic activity is essential to cardiovascular functioning and health. Walking is the most recommended activity for women, as it is essential to overall health, requires no equipment, and fits well into most people’s lives. A total of 50 minutes/day is recommended for bone health and cardiovascular functioning, as well as for weight management.

Clark N. Sports Nutrition Guidebook. 3rd ed. Brookline, MA: Human Kinetics; 2003.

Review Date 3/09


There doesn’t seem to be anything that walking doesn’t help

Exercise: Walking May Help Older Men Decrease Hip Fractures.
A large study lasting 24 years suggests the more men walk and the more vigorously they walk, the lower their risk for suffering a hip fracture. Researchers found that men who walked at least four hour a week saw a drop in hip fractures by 43% compared to those who walked less than an hour a week.
American Journal of Public Health, February 2014 Image

Older people must get up and walk more

matteo.coupleSitting too much increases the risk of disability in people over 60, study finds.
Story Highlights
• Adults over age 60 spend an average of two-thirds of waking time being sedentary
• Each additional hour of sedentary time doubles the risk of being disabled
• Exercise more and sit less for better health as you age
Sitting too much, sometimes called sitting disease, may increase the risk of disability in people over age 60, a new study suggests.
Adults this age spend an average of two-thirds of their waking time being sedentary — roughly nine hours a day, the research showed.
Every additional hour adults over age 60 spend sitting increases by 50% their risk of being disabled for activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing and walking, says the study’s lead author Dorothy Dunlop, a professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Too many people “have very low levels of activity,” she says.
The health problems associated with sitting disease are mounting. Research has linked too much sitting to increased risk of heart failure, type 2 diabetes and death from cancer, heart disease and stroke. It may affect mood and creativity. One study showed that if most people spent fewer than three hours a day sitting, it would add two years to the average life expectancy in this country.
Dunlop and colleagues reviewed data on more than 2,200 people, age 60 and older, who participated in the government’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
The participants wore accelerometers (motion sensors) during their waking hours for one week during the three-year survey period. This measured the time they spent being sedentary, doing light physical activity such as pushing a grocery cart, doing moderately vigorous physical activity such as brisk walking, or vigorous physical activity such as running.
Among the findings out Tuesday in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health:
• 6.2% of participants met the government’s physical activity guidelines, which advise adults to get at least 2½ hours of moderate-intensity physical activity each week, such as brisk walking, or 1¼ hours of a vigorous-intensity activity, such as jogging or swimming laps, or a combination of the two types.
• 3.6% reported having disabilities in activities of daily living (eating, bathing, dressing, walking).
• The odds of a person being disabled were almost 50% greater for each hour spent in sedentary behavior, Dunlop says. This was true after researchers controlled for physical activity, obesity, socioeconomic status and other health factors.
Each additional hour of sedentary time doubles the risk of being disabled, study finds.(Photo: Mike Kemp/Blend Images, Getty Images)
So if you take two women who are 65 years old who spend the same amount of time doing exercise and have the same health profile, if one was sedentary for 12 hours a day, her chance of being disabled is about 6%, Dunlop says. If another person with exactly the same health profile spent 13 hours a day being sedentary, her chance of being disabled was 9%.
This study doesn’t not prove cause and effect, she says. It could be that disabled people are more sedentary, but there are good reasons to believe that being sedentary could lead to disability, Dunlop says.
“Older adults should be as physically active as possible,” she says. “We know that moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking, is good for your health, and being sedentary is bad for your health. People should find opportunities to replace some of their sitting time with light activity. It’s a low-cost strategy to good health.”
This study is “further evidence that simply getting off the couch has great health benefits,” says Tim Church, a physician and director of preventive medicine research at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge. “The only known prescription for maximizing quality of life as we age is the prescription of physical activity.”
This research is “heavy hitting” because it is “telling us that being sedentary is debilitating when one is elderly,” says James Levine, co-director of Obesity Solutions at Mayo Clinic in Phoenix and Arizona State University. He did some of the first research on sitting disease but was not involved in this study. “This is the first time that has been well illustrated.”
Levine says if you’ve been sitting for an hour, you’ve been sitting too long. He recommends getting up for 10 minutes of every hour.
Dunlop offers these suggestions for replacing some sitting time with light activity:
• If you are watching TV, get up and walk around the house when a commercial comes on.
• When you are working in front of a computer, get up and walk around every hour.
• When you go to grocery store or mall, park in a space that is far away.
• When you get up to have glass of water or for a meal, walk around the house or office.
• Take the stairs instead of the elevator, if you are able.