Pilates Benefits for Menopause


What is the Menopause?

Before I blog about the Menopause, some of you may wonder, how can I give advice about the menopause if I haven’t experienced it. Well, let me explain.  For us women, it happens, we can’t avoid it. Some of us have seen our own mothers experience Menopause and at some point, my time will come, but what I can do, is to provide a little bit of advice from the knowledge I have gained over the years.

Menopause, also known as the “change of life”  is the time in most women’s lives when menstrual periods stop permanently, and they are no longer able to have children. This will normally occurs between 45 and 55 years of age with Medical professionals often define menopause as having occurred when a woman has not had any vaginal bleeding for a year. It’s a stage of life, when women become deeply concerned about aging and feel like the best of life is now behind, as their body starts demonstrating unpleasant changes and their emotions seem to run out of control.

Symptoms of the Menopause.

Before menopause, the functioning of the ovaries and the secretion of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone decline. The reduction in the levels of estrogen create a hormonal imbalance that results in several physical an psychological symptoms.

Woman’s periods typically become irregular, which means that periods may be longer or shorter in duration, or be lighter or heavier in terms of the amount of flow. These changes generally happen several years before the actual menopause begins. This transition phase is called perimenopause. During this time, women will often experience hot flushes which will typically last from 30 seconds to ten minutes and may often stop occurring after a year or two. Other symptoms may include vaginal dryness, mood changes and trouble sleeping.

Symptoms_of_menopause_(raster)

 

 

 

 

Menopause and your bone health

Women can lose up to 20% of their bone density in the five to seven years after the menopause. This makes post-menopausal women more at risk of Osteoporosis which may increase weak bones and fractures.  Pilates, specifically, is a form of exercise that is often mentioned with regard to osteoporosis. But in Pilates there are definite parameters as far as what exercises are appropriate for osteoporosis.

We must have strong bones that can bear our weight and allow us mobility

Bone is a dynamic tissue, like muscle, that strengthens in response to forces it has to resist. Gravity is one such force, and working against gravity is what we refer to when speaking of “weight-bearing exercise.” The combination of compression and tension from gravity and from our muscles plays a major role in bone strengthening.

The resistance can come from weights, elastic bands, but you can also consider your own body weight as resistance in some instances, like a push-up. In this example, you’re using gravity and your own body weight to provide resistance and induce muscle pull.

Pilates Benefits and Exercises.

Pilates exercises can improve brain activity, improve the general attitude towards life, increase alertness during the day and enable a restful sleep at the end of the day.

Pilates is very much focused on Breathing, Strength, Balance, Flexibility, Endurance and Coordination.

Breathing and Relaxation: Breathing reduces stress, can help with anxiety attacks and helps to attain clam and enhance focus.

Strength:  A decline in estrogen levels, will be a decline in bone density, however, exercises bearing resistance may help reduce and even reverse this effect.

Balance: Balance exercises will focus on enhancing your posture and body awareness which can help prevent falls and avoid injuries.

Flexibility:  These exercises are so important to keep muscles flexible and to reduce pain and stiffness in the body.

Coordination: Coordination exercises help to improve concentration, challenge your memory and increase brain activity.

Pilates Exercises.

  1. Back Extensions: (The Dart – upper back extensions, Forward Stretch, Opposite Arm and Leg Reaches, The Saw) Working on back extension is imperative for clients in the Menopause. As we age, we have the tendency to lose good posture, weakening more and more the strength in our back extension muscles.  We need to focus on strengthening our scapulars, mid to lower trapezius, rhomboids and serratus anterior.
  2. Arm work:  (Triceps Press/Bicep Curl with Resistance Band) is essential for clients in menopause, as they lose fat deposits in the arms and the skin gets saggy especially in the triceps area. It is crucial to strengthen and build up muscle taking in consideration that as we age we have more difficulties to do any kind of over-head arm work exercises. . The aim is to develop arm and shoulder strength, flexibility and control.  It is imperative for the client to pay special attention to core strength and stability, good posture and alignment. Considering that at this stage there is a tendency of kyphosis (I refer to my clients as stressed shoulders….relax!!!) the correct placement of the shoulders before performing the arm work block.
  1. Lateral flexion rotation: (Mermaid, Side Bend) Focusing on abdominal control with emphasis on the oblique’s, spinal mobility and scapular stabilization. The sides of the trunk generally become weaker as the muscles lose some tone with the aging process.
  1. Leg/Glues Work:  (Side Kick, Thigh High Lift, The Frog, and Leg Pull front) The focus is on strengthening hip extensors, hip adductors, Hamstrings, knee extensors and keeping pelvic stabilization.
  2. The Core:  (Hundred, Double Leg Stretch, Toe Taps, and The Bicycle) this is an area of the body where women in menopause lose tone and gain weight.
  3. Hip Work: (Bicycle, Hip Rolls, One leg Circle) this area tends to lose strength and stability. It is important to keep this area functional to help prevent issues with balance.
  1. Stretching:  It is of great importance for women in this stage to stretch in order to keep muscles flexible and reduce future pain and stiffness in the body

Its not all Doom and Gloom

In addition to the biological an physiological changes, women at this stage in life (unless you have started the menopause at an earlier age)  are generally experiencing changes in their family structure, as their grown children have started to leave their home and it’s at this time, when women can finally have more time to dedicate for themselves. To pursue their interest and passions, and to connect with their friends, to experience a sense of freedom.

 

Sarah Pennicott

Pilates Teacher/Advanced Personal Trainer

http://www.Master-Fitness.co.uk