Plan Your Aerobic Exercise Program for Menopause and Beyond

Your aerobic exercise program doesn't have to involve getting into exercise clothing or trogging off to the gym 10 times a week. You can include aerobic exercise into your daily life much more easily than that!

First of all, what is aerobic exercise? The word 'aerobic' means 'with oxygen'. This kind of exercise makes your heart and lungs work, which in turn builds their strength.

So, we're talking about activities like running (which has many health benefits) and jogging, brisk walking, swimming and skating. You could get stuck into some heavy-duty housework or gardening, or do some skipping or stair exercises at home.

Or, you could invest in some aerobic exercise equipment. If you like the idea of machines, either at the gym or at home, you could use a treadmill, elliptical trainer or rowing machine in your workout.

Once you start doing some extra exercise, you'll find you want to do more. The more you use your body, the more you CAN use your body. The stronger and fitter you become, the more you'll actively want to do. The sooner you can get started making exercise a daily part of your life, the better.

Why you need an aerobic exercise program

Mature woman jogging

Making aerobic exercises a part of your life from perimenopause onwards is a crucial step in maintaining strength and fitness into later life and in keeping your weight in check. Make sure that some of the aerobic exercises you choose are also weight bearing, to strengthen your bones.

Midlife is a time when it's easy to become less active. You're not running around after little children any more, or racing up the road to meet them from school. You might be putting in more hours at a sedentary job, and not giving time to sport or fitness activities you enjoyed when you were younger. This is a full-on time of life, and it can be hard to squeeze anything else in to your 'to do' list.

But it's really important to make exercise a priority during the run up to menopause and the transition itself.

Health benefits of aerobic exercise

  • Reduces your levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL) 'bad' cholesterol, and raises levels of high density lipoprotein (HDL) 'good' cholesterol, so your arteries stay clearer of dangerous plaque deposits which could cause heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.
  • Makes your cells more insulin-receptive, so you're not so likely to develop Type 2 diabetes.
  • Cuts risk of some cancers.
  • Makes you less likely to become obese.
  • Weight-bearing aerobic exercises, like walking, lower your risk of osteoporosis.
  • Boosts your immune system, so you don't go down with every cold and bug that's going the rounds.
  • Makes your heart stronger and more efficient and improves blood circulation to the whole of your body.
  • Lifts your mood and fights menopausal depression, stress and anxiety in menopause.
  • Makes it easier to relax and helps you to sleep better, thus avoiding insomnia during the menopause.
  • Gives you more longterm stamina, so you can do more day-to-day and feel less tired.
  • As you get older, the fitness you build through regular exercise will keep you more mobile for longer and help you stay independent. Exercise is also thought to keep your brain in good shape and keep psychological decline at bay.
  • Improves your life expectancy

'That's all great,' you say, 'but what about my weight? Can aerobic exercise kick those extra menopausal pounds into touch?'

Aerobic exercise and weight loss

Certainly, if you eat healthily, then aerobic exercise can help you to shift weight. But for the best fat-burning results, you need to do strength training exercises as well.

Why? Because aerobic exercise does burn calories, but it takes around 30 minutes of exercise before your fat cells relinquish some of their fat, and send it off to your hard-working muscles to be burned. Before that, your body is using the glucose made from carbohydrate, which is stored in your muscles.

Along with that, aerobic exercise only burns fat while you're exercising and for around eight hours after your session. If you build muscle with strength training exercises, then that muscle burns fat 24/7.

Aerobic exercise has many fantastic health benefits, and you certainly need to include it as part of your menopausal fitness regime. But don't do it in isolation, especially if you need to lose weight. Complement it with strength-training exercises, and then you'll really see results.

Before you start an aerobic exercise program

Check with your doctor before you embark on a new exercise plan. It's especially important to take medical advice first if you've had any heart problems, chest or leg pains, breathlessness or weakness. Also check if you are taking medications, as some drugs can interfere with your ability to exercise.

What to include in an aerobic exercise program

Build up to five 30-minute sessions of exercise a week. Switch between different types of aerobic exercise so that over time you work all your different muscles. Also, if you only do one type of exercise, your body will adapt so that it can peform the exercise with less effort - which is not the point! For example, in a week you could have a couple of brisk walks, go to an dance class, and have one swim and a bike ride.

If you've never exercised before, start slow and gentle and work up. At first, 10-15 minutes per session is fine, gradually building up to between 30-60 minutes.

Begin working at low intensity and stop when your limbs feel heavy or start to ache. As you gradually get fitter, your muscles will be able to work for longer without pain.

Be careful not to go at your aerobic exercise program too hard, especially if you're not used to exercising. You could strain your muscles or joints unless you progress slowly and steadily. Always do some warm-up stretches first, and some more to cool down after you've finished your session.

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Menopause information

To make sure you're giving your exercise session enough energy, check out your Target Heart Rate.

It's easy to measure, either by taking your pulse, or by using a heart rate monitor.


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