• Kristen Ruhmann

Menopause: Bone Density and Metabolic Changes

As discussed in Part 1, pelvic floor symptoms are commonly experienced as a result of the hormonal changes in menopause . Other menopausal effects on the body include alterations in bone mineral density and metabolic changes. Lifestyle factors such as a good social support network, exercise, decreased stress and a healthy balanced diet can significantly improve these effects.

Bone health can be affected by medical conditions, genetic and lifestyle factors and the availability and absorption of nutrients. The more bone mass and muscle strength we have pre-menopausally the better, as bone density gradually decreases after the third decade of life. Bone health can be assisted through regular, load-bearing exercise, sunshine and Vit D, a good endocrine balance, healthy diet and effective stress management. Not all exercises are protective or stimulating to bone health. Body weight and resistance exercises are required to load the skeleton and improve bone mineral density. Weight-bearing exercise is also important to load tendons and maintain connective tissue strength. Cardio-vascular and strengthening exercises should involve the major muscle groups in both the upper and lower limbs. A good exercise program will include a warm up, strength, flexibility, postural awareness, balance and psychological wellbeing.

Changes in metabolism also begin to occur in the years around menopause. As we age, our metabolism slows down and this can lead to weight gain. Chronic stress can also lead to increases in cortisol which encourages weight to be stored around the midline. Visceral fat at the midline increases the risk of diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. Exercise is a great method to reduce stress and is therefore brain protective. Look for exercise that includes mindfulness, relaxation exercises and breath awareness. Regular exercise will also assist in increasing muscle mass and metabolism. Best results will occur if combined with a good diet, including adequate fibre and fluid intake. Regular aerobic exercise (such as walking) should be performed for at least 20 minutes, five times per week. Begin slowly with one step at a time.

If you require assistance to develop a healthy exercise plan contact Brisbane Women’s Physiotherapy.


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