The Menopause and its Implications for Exercise and Nutrition

The menopause; something that isn’t talked about enough given that all women experience it at some point or another in their lives. Yet, how many of us actually know what the menopause is beyond it marking the end of our menstrual cycle?

The menstrual cycle is controlled primarily by the release of oestrogen. Over time, as the number of eggs in our ovaries declines, oestrogen levels will also begin to drop as a result. This happens slowly, sometimes over a number of years, and is characterised as the peri-menopause. During this time a woman still menstruates but when this happens can be much more irregular than they’re used to.The menopause is when periods stop altogether at the point that oestrogen levels reach a now permanent low level. Women tend to go through the menopause between 45 and 55 but it can occur even earlier than this, so being aware of it is important. Declining oestrogen levels mean that women can face a whole host of symptoms including hot flushes, poor sleep quality, changes to emotional wellbeing and increased risk of osteoporosis.

More often than not we don’t think we need to change much during the peri-menopause, that it’s only once we lose our periods that things need to be altered, but this isn’t so. As soon as oestrogen levels begin to drop it can be important to consider the implications that has for our existing lifestyles. This article seeks to explore the implications that the onset of the menopause has on nutrition and exercise.

Nutrition Considerations

Oestrogen plays an important role in a woman’s bone health and so declining levels increase risk of osteoporosis. Calcium and Vitamin D both play an important role in maintaining strong bones. Sufficient levels of Vitamin D cannot be derived solely from the diet and hence a supplement would be beneficial, particularly between October and March when sunlight levels are lower. Calcium can be found in dairy and green leafy veg.

The menopause is associated not only with a loss of bone strength but muscle mass too. The macronutrient protein is key to building tissues in our body, including bones and muscle. Hence, prioritising protein intake is important in limiting muscle mass loss and support stronger bones.

The menopause is also associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Hence, a diet that promotes the reduction of ‘bad’ cholesterol levels should be a priority. Aiming to include unsaturated fats, fruit, veg and wholegrains will help to lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Reducing intake of saturated fats is also important to reduce levels of bad cholesterol consumed.


Strength Training

Including resistance training in your weekly training is increasingly important as oestrogen levels decline. Resistance training will help to prevent the onset of osteoporosis by improving bone strength as well as maintaining - and possibly building - muscle mass. It's recommended that strength training is included at least twice a week as part of a fitness routine.

Cardiovascular Training

Training that elevates the heart rate is always important for improving fitness. As risk of heart disease and high blood pressure increases following the menopause it remains just as important as ever. This can including jogging, dancing, tennis, HIIT and MIT.

This is a very brief summary of the implications of the menopause for exercise and nutrition. If you want to find out more then join our Nutrition&Wellness Coaching for as little as £10/month.

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