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Mind + Body, December 2011

Published on: November 27, 2011

Women's exercise and menopause statisticsExercising too much? Better (meno)pause

From the department of “no good deed goes unpunished,” we have this news: A recent Japanese study—published in the December 2011 issue of the journal Menopause—found that women who exercised a lot were at “moderate but significant” risk for early menopause.

Researchers at Gifu University studied 3,115 premenopausal Japanese women, ages 35–56, and found that those who exercised eight to 10 hours per week were 17 percent more likely to reach early menopause than women who were more sedentary.

Although the study only shows a link between heavy exercise and early menopause, the health takeaway is worth thinking about:  Although menopause lowers a woman’s estrogen levels, reducing her risk of breast cancer (estrogen can promote breast tumors), it is also correlated with a higher risk of osteoporosis and heart disease.

Exercising in moderation may have other benefits. In a study reported by Reuters Health, researchers at Penn State University’s Aging & Psychology Laboratories have concluded that moderate exercise is more beneficial to a middle-aged woman’s sense of well-being than vigorous exercise. In their study of 134 women ages 40–60, researchers found that moderate exercisers felt better after their workouts—meaning that they’d be more likely to continue to exercise in the future.

In moderation, of course.

Women's running shoesDecember's List

You got to move it, move it!
5 tips for successful moderate exercise

What is moderate exercise, anyway? The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week—activities that make you break a sweat, but don’t leave you feeling out of breath. The health benefits are many, but getting started (and staying motivated) can be hard for busy, busy parents. According to the article Getting Started (on the AHA’s website, making regular exercise a part of your life is easier if you:

1. Ditch the boredom. Do activities you enjoy—skiing, brisk walking, yoga, bicycling. And mix it up! Getting or staying in shape doesn’t have to mean hitting the gym every night after work. Get a friend to join you for a walk one day, then go to a dance class the next. If you like what you’re doing, you stand a better chance of coming back for more.

2. Make the time. You’re more likely to remember to exercise if you schedule it into your day.

3. Dress matters. Wear the right clothing for the activity of your choice and you’ll be more comfortable (and more likely to stay with it).

4. Be reasonable. Sometimes you’ll miss a session. Sometimes you won’t feel up to it. Go easy on yourself, and if you fall short of your expectations, try again another time.

5. Track it. Keep an activity log so you have a record of what you’ve done, for how long and how you felt afterward. Being able to look back on how far you’ve come is a powerful motivator.

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