Pilates and the Menopause
The hormonal changes in a woman’s body during peri-menopause and menopause can cause some very challenging symptoms and health risks. The two main health risks are cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. Regular physical activity is vital to promote both heart and bone health.
Life can be an exhausting juggle and exercise might be on the bottom of your to-do list, however, rather than causing fatigue, exercise has been shown to boost energy levels in peri-menopausal and menopausal women.
Benefits of Pilates for Menopause
Pilates can offer you so many health benefits, from muscle strength and flexibility to emotional wellbeing. It is available to everyone, whatever level of fitness you are. All exercises can be modified to suit each person’s individual needs.
1. Pilates for strength and bone health
Maintaining bone strength is fundamental to help prevent osteoporosis (reduced bone strength and health). Reduced oestrogen levels can lead to bone loss causing bones to become thinner and weak and more likely to break. Pilates exercises involve the push and pull of muscles on our bones that provides the stimulation needed for bone strength and to prevent bone loss. Adding in resistance bands, pilates balls or hand weights can further help to improve bone health.
2. Pilates to improve mobility and flexibility
Reduced oestrogen impacts our joint health, with less lubrication leading to aches and stiffness. The less we move the stiffer and less mobile we become, which can create more joint pain. Mobility and flexibility (joints moving well with a good range of movement) are key aspects of Pilates practice. Pilates is controlled and low-impact which helps to keep joints safe, improves mobility, and in turn, muscle flexibility.
3. Pilates to improve posture, balance, control and co-ordination
As we age we lose our balance skills and this can lead to trips and falls. Softening of the muscles through hormonal changes not only means less strength but less control over movement. To help counteract this, certain Pilates movements require an element of balance, either in standing or on the mat. Some Pilates exercises also challenge our co-ordination which in turn helps improve our balance.
4. Pilates to build core strength
Pilates builds core strength to coordinate with the control at the joints and through-out your body. A strong core will help your joints work more efficiently and assist with postural control and balance. Almost all Pilates movements require an abdominal or pelvic floor engagement which helps to build a strong ‘core’.
5. Pilates to improve pelvic floor health
As oestrogen levels decline the pelvic floor muscles also become thinner and less flexible. Pilates works on improving pelvic floor strength through gentle engagement as you move.
6. Pilates to ease stress
Moving with the breath is one of the fundamental principles of Pilates. Pilates is a mindful movement that both exercises your body and soothes the mind. You are entirely in the moment as you focus on the movement and when you connect with your body and the breath, you begin to feel calmer. This can help reduce anxiety associated with menopause.
Note: Always consult with your doctor, physiotherapist or health care professional before you decide to commence a new exercise program.