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The bone-loading exercises every woman should do before and during the menopause
October 17th 2017 / 1 comment
In a new series, wellbeing and menopause coach Jane Dowling shows you how to look after your bone health
My mission with this Get The Gloss series is to help you with your journey through the menopause and to feel as great as you possibly can. I’ll give you the tools to find a life you love through diet, exercise and lifestyle changes.
I would like to talk about exercise during menopause first, as lots of women contact me on how to get started and what exactly they should be doing. If you have never exercised before, please don’t worry, now is a great time to start! If you are a regular exerciser then just make sure you are targeting the areas that are vulnerable. Please, before you undertake any new exercise programme, do have a visit with your GP to get the green light.
Every woman should be doing some bone loading, cardio and stretching exercise. I am going to concentrate on bone loading as it is often overlooked, and I cannot stress enough how important our bone health is.
Why bone health?
I am so passionate about this that I am going to give you some hard facts about the ageing process. Before you read on, I want you to remember that my advice on how to strengthen bones will also help banish belly fat - as a healthier, stronger muscle burns fat at rest.
If you carry out toning and strength work, not only are you keeping your bones healthy but it will be easier to keep the tummy fat away, stay slimmer and you will feel fantastic! Strong body, strong mind.
Osteoporosis is the silent killer; after 30 years of age our bone density hits a decline. This decline is so great that it’s frightening. When we hit menopause that decline speeds up, therefore doing weight bearing/bone loading exercise is more important than ever before.
When we are young our bones are very dense, so for any hit we take through impact work, jumping or falling we are at low risk. Imagine honeycomb; when we are young the holes are very small, therefore making the bone stronger. However, as we age our hormone levels (especially oestrogen) decline, and these holes become bigger, therefore have a higher risk of fracture.
The major sites of osteoporosis are hips, wrist and spine. Hip fractures in older people can be extremely detrimental for that individual; usually a woman will not know she has weak bones until she has a fall or fracture.
Dowager’s humps/kyphosis can also occur; this is where the upper spine takes on a curve. It means the vertebrae have weakened and collapsed in on themselves.
The lower spine is also affected; having osteoporosis in these sites can cause a lot of pain. Specific exercises (see seated back extension below) can help alleviate the pain by making the muscles stronger therefore supporting the structure and taking pressure off the nerves which cause the pain, such as pain radiating down the leg – commonly known as sciatic pain. There can be other reasons for sciatic pain - if you are in doubt see a health professional for a proper diagnosis.
During menopause when our oestrogen hits a decline, the collagen in our joints is also decreased. This leads to pain in the knees, hips and lower spine. These pains are sometimes overlooked by GPs and put down to wear and tear, when in fact it is due to a decrease in oestrogen and collagen thanks to the menopause.
However, strength training and stretching exercises can help.
What is Bone Loading?
Bone loading means putting stress through your bones by an external force.
This can be your own body weight with exercises such as press ups, or using external weights, such as fixed resistance machines in the gym, exercise bands, or free weights – these can be hand held weights or even just water bottles!
If you do have osteoporosis then some forms of exercise can be harmful, such as running, jumping or other impact work. You also need to be careful with certain spine exercises such as ab curls and back extensions, as if you have osteoporosis in the spine this can aggravate the condition; you must keep your spine straight when performing exercises. A lot can still be done, so don’t be put off.
Any muscle that you work, please make sure you stretch it out after each session.
For the Lower Spine: Seated back extension
You can do a back extension either on the floor or on a ball, however if you have osteoporosis in your spine then this can be contraindicated. So, stick with this seated version and not the one you may do in an exercise class where you are lying face down on the floor.
This exercise is great for the lower spine and is totally safe if you have osteoporosis.
Keeps abs pulled in
Keep back straight
Keep your arms straight
Hold in the upright position for 6 seconds
For the Wrists: Tricep dips
Press ups and tricep dips are great for wrist strength and to help with toning arms. There are many variations of this exercise but you can see how I do this in the photo.
Fingers pointing towards body
Bending elbows 60%
When you come up to a straight position, do not snap elbows.
All exercises need to be performed 12 times, three times per week. So do one exercise then the other and rotate – be sure to stretch afterwards!
Find out more
As part of World Menopause Day Jane will be in the audience on Channel 5 Live on 17th October during a panel discussion with ‘the menopause doctor’ Dr Louise Newson who will be discussing women in the workplace and menopause. Tune in to find out more and visit Jane’s website to find out more about her upcoming Women in the Workplace event
There are many different exercises that you can do these are just 2 of many - follow me on Instagram for daily updates at @menoandme, or for questions or if you would like to join our community please visit www.menoandme.com or email me on [email protected]