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Battling menopause with exercise

By Kat Carney
CNN Headline News

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(CNN) -- Menopause is a normal part of a woman's life that is brought on by declining levels of estrogen and progesterone, which trigger the end of regular menstrual cycles.

While the onset of menopause is typically around age 52, it actually begins "silently" in a woman's 40s, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Symptoms of menopause can include hot flashes, sleep disturbance and mood changes. Menopausal women are also at an increased risk for osteoporosis and heart disease.

Doctors can prescribe hormone replacement therapy to alleviate symptoms associated with menopause, but lifestyle changes such as increased physical activity are also recommended.

In fact, exercise programs that include a combination of aerobics, resistance training and stretching can help reduce both the immediate symptoms of menopause and the long-term health risks.

Aerobic, or "cardio," exercises are those that increase your heart rate. Choices can include brisk walking, aerobic dance or biking. Menopausal women should aim for 20 to 60 minutes of aerobic exercise most days of the week.

Resistance, or "strength," training helps menopausal women build and maintain lean muscle mass. This type of workout can be done at the gym on weight machines or at home with dumbbells. Either way, exercisers should learn proper form, in order to avoid injury. Try to aim for two to three strength workouts per week.

Experts also recommend finishing each workout with stretching exercises to improve and maintain flexibility.

Formerly sedentary women should start slowly and build up to the recommended times, but aim for a minimum of three days per week.

And as always, be sure to check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.


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