How Women Can Stay Fit During Menopause And Beyond

08/20/2013 07:51 am ET | Updated Aug 20, 2013
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Is exercise the cure to menopause? Not exactly, but it definitely comes pretty close. According to physical therapist Jill Boissonnault, exercise can lessen many of the most severe symptoms of menopause -- namely muscle loss and decreased bone density. "The architecture that makes up our bones decreases as we age and this decline speeds up during and after menopause," Boissonnault says. Meanwhile, men and women alike lose 1 percent to 2 percent of their muscle strength every year after age 60 unless they intervene with a solid exercise regimen.

Boissonnault recommends that women engage in high impact exercise. "If there are no problems like joint or knee problems, jogging, jumping and going up and down stairs quickly are highly effective," Boissonnault says. "Walking isn't enough."

New research shows that exercise is most effective if muscles and bones are being stressed. In terms of strength training and weight lifting, women need to keep in mind that the peak load on bone matters more than the number of cycles or reps. Women new to exercise can find out how many reps and what load is appropriate from a physical therapist or other healthcare professional.

Diet can also slow down the effects of menopause on muscles and bones. Eating calcium-rich foods and drinks like milk and yogurt will help women stay strong as they go through menopause and move forward after menopause. Non-dairy foods with calcium include dark green vegetables, seeds, nuts, herbs and soy. Women can also take dietary supplements to ensure that they are consuming the right amount of calcium to stay fit. Foods with vitamin D are also important as they help the body process calcium. Yummy sources of vitamin D include salmon, tuna, orange juice and eggs.

Unfortunately, diet and exercise cannot prevent the symptoms of menopause; they only slow down their course. Since the surge in estrogen during menopause will inevitably cause some loss in bone density, women need to be prepared for an increased risk of fracture from falls. Exercise that promotes balance is a great way to decrease the risk of falling. Some people might choose to hire a specialist that can assess a home and ensure there are no dangerous spots that could cause falls. For more information click here.

Working out and eating right during menopause can be a fun and enriching experience. According to Boissonnault, people can increase muscle mass and get healthier very late into life. What are you waiting for?

Earlier on HuffPost:

Eat This, Not That: Foods To Avoid During Menopause

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