Bill Victor: Exercise helps women manage menopause

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Any woman who voluntarily chooses to share the challenges of menopause will make sure at some point to remind you it's no laughing matter.

For some women, this biological passage is psychologically disappointing (and for some, outright depressing) as it signifies the end of fertility — nature's emphatic stamp that a physical chapter in a woman's life is formally closing.

Generally, menopause affects most women between the ages of 45-50 years old, and in the United States, the average age it occurs is 51 years old. The formal definition of menopause is when a woman has stopped menstruation for a period of at least one year.

Women whose bodies are beginning to show the signs of menopause ("peri-menopause") are frequently challenged by symptoms that are frustrating to deal with and initiated by decreased production of estrogen and progesterone. These symptoms can include "hot flashes" (unexpected spikes in body temperature that radiate upward or downwards), midsection weight gain, insomnia, "night sweats" (basically, hot flashes that occur at night or while sleeping), disturbed sleep, mood swings, decrease in the production of collagen (proteins that comprise the skin) and compromised absorption of calcium.

For every woman, the extent to which these symptoms present themselves vary, however the general consensus among most women approaching this stage of life is that managing it effectively is a full-time job.

Diet alone not enough

Enter exercise. While I know my enthusiasm at times, in which exercise can be construed as a "cure" for various conditions, the scientific community has shown us time and time again that at its very worst exercise helps to manage a host of symptoms that accompany a diverse set of human conditions — menopause and peri-menopause being no exception.

While the loss of estrogen can decrease the amount of lean muscle and aerobic capacity, no woman must surrender to these symptoms as a reason that they cannot be managed through fitness and good nutrition.

In our training center, many of our clients come to us seeking ways of managing the weight gain that accompanies menopause. Our response to working with this condition is no different than that of a much younger subset — the development of lean muscle mass to raise passive metabolism and a greater emphasis on daily fitness of any kind.

Perhaps one of the greatest mistakes women who present with menopause symptoms can make, is trying to control this condition solely through diet.

Inactivity the enemy

While many women experiencing menopause do so with a quiet resignation, a significant part of their challenge is not necessarily the change in body physiology but lifestyle changes that exacerbate their condition — primarily inactivity.

Inactivity is the scourge of fitness for all individuals; however, a decreased production of estrogen and progesterone put an even greater importance on women regulating their moods through enhanced opioidlike production of neurotransmitters, strengthening their bones through resistance training, and burning calories through movement — all of which are accomplished through exercise.

Menopause is no laughing matter and for many women represents an extremely challenging chapter of life. It is undeniable, however, that exercise and activity combined with good nutrition can help a woman better manage the symptoms and improve her overall levels of health.

Bill Victor is the owner of Victor Fitness System Professional Fitness Trainers, Flashpoint Athletic Speed & Agility Specialists, and Performance Nutrition Consultants. He can be reached at victorfitsystems@gmail.com and online at http://theflashpoint.org and http://VictorFitnessSystems.com.