Exercise and hormones
The impact of exercise on our hormones should never be underestimated and this is particularly true for women during perimenopause and menopause. Many of us struggle with symptoms and are unsure of the best thing to do when it comes to helping control them. Taking part in a regular, appropriate exercise such as Nordic walking can bring immense benefits to everyone, but especially women at this stage in our lives.
For us to feel well and our bodies to function at their best, our hormones need to be in balance. As we enter our mid-life, levels of estrogen, the main female hormone, begin to drop. Whilst declining, they also fluctuate wildly and a whole host of symptoms both physical (think hot flushes and night sweats) and emotional (mood swings and anxiety) are unleashed. For many of us, these are seen as an inevitable part of ageing and can sometimes feel overwhelming.
But our lifestyle – including exercise – can have huge effect on managing our hormones, mitigating these hormonal symptoms and also preventing age-related issues such as osteoporosis.
Starting with exercise is a great way to address hormone imbalances. It’s amazing how the right form of regular exercise affects not just how our bodies look and feel but how they work on a molecular level. By taking action now you can work to proactively improve your wellbeing into our 60s, 70s and beyond.
So what is the best exercise for perimenopause and menopause?
You may not know that just half a hour of Nordic walking every day will increase your heart rate which in turn will give your estrogen levels a boost. This can help protect against the worst of those (sometimes debilitating) hormonal symptoms. As well as this all important boost for women in mid-life and beyond Nordic walking works in multiple ways to improve overall fitness, health and wellbeing.
Five more reasons why Nordic walking is the best exercise for perimenopause and menopause:
1. Helps you sleep better
We’ve already mentioned how exercise boosts our estrogen levels but cortisol, the stress hormone responsible for regulating sleep, is also released through exercise. It’s a balancing act though, as too much can result in fatigue and insomnia.
Daily demands on their time mean women – mothers, carers, workers – often enter their mid-lives already chronically stressed with high cortisol levels. This, combined with a natural rise in cortisol levels from our late 40s means that menopausal wake-sleep cycles are often disrupted. Intense exercise releases a flood of cortisol into the system, which is the last thing it needs. But regular moderate exercise such as Nordic walking conversely works to balance cortisol levels and thus promote better sleep.
2. You get a great pelvic floor workout
As levels of estrogen drop, your pelvic floor also becomes weaker and less elastic. One of the brilliant hidden benefits of Nordic walking in menopause is that it’s a workout that focuses on your core and pelvic floor muscles without you even realising it. Every time you push through your pole you are engaging and strengthening the deep core stabilising muscles that support your pelvic floor.
If you add in an active heel-toe roll this engages the whole back line of your body and activates your pelvic floor via its connection to your pelvis. So if you’re Nordic walking, who needs kegels?
3. It’s low impact
Taking care of your pelvic floor and joints as you age also means choosing low-impact sports that will protect rather than aggravate any potential weaknesses. Unlike a sport such as running for example, Nordic walking is gentle on your pelvic floor and joints. No-one wants leaky bladders and aching knees either now or in the future!
Maintaining mobility and strengthening muscles in order to support our future bodies best is what the way forward. It seems counterintuitive but, combined with the moderate exercise required to support cortisol levels, sometimes less really is more.
4. It’s weight bearing
Muscle mass also declines from the age of 40. Women’s bodies also need extra weight bearing work from mid-life for bone density and strength. This is particularly important as there is a direct relationship between the lack of estrogen during perimenopause and the later development of osteoporosis.
Nordic walking is in itself a muscle strengthening, weight bearing exercise, but coming to our Nordic walking workout classes will increase the intensity and load, giving you even more benefits.
5. Great for your wellbeing
One of the best things anyone can do for their wellbeing, whatever gender they are or whatever stage of life they are at is just to get outdoors. This is even more true for women in perimenopause and menopause. Exercise, particularly outdoors, is known for its stress-busting benefits. Combining the two means Nordic walking really is the best exercise for menopause.
Add to this the social element of our classes plus the sense of community they bring and you’re ticking a lot of boxes for your menopausal wellbeing. Signing up as a member a club also means you’re more likely to exercise regularly, which is key to seeing and feeling the benefits.
So the time is now!
Any member of our club will vouch for the fact that Nordic walking is more than just great exercise, and this is the joy of Nordic walking – that it offers so much more. Taking action during perimenopause and menopause is a great way to optimize your wellbeing for the long term. It’s such a great form of exercise for women that we’re amazed it’s not prescribed by doctors alongside HRT!
The Bristol & Bath Nordic Walking Team