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Working out Pre-Menopause can Boost Health in Later Life

Research published in the Journal of Physiology contends that women who want to enjoy peak health in later life should establish an exercise routine before they reach menopause.

Physiologically, a woman’s blood vessels are less able to grow after menopause compared to young women. Exercise is beneficial as it allows women to develop blood vessels in the muscles and build muscle strength.

The study showed that there are significant differences between men and women in the development of blood vessels. Blood vessels play a role in the susceptibility to conditions like strokes and heart disease and can be affected by hormones, aging and physical activity.

Estrogen plays an important role in heart and blood vessel health. When a woman hits menopause, the production of estrogen decreases, and these hormonal changes explain why women’s blood vessels are affected differently from men.  

The University of Copenhagen explored this topic on a cellular level. They first isolated cells from the muscle samples of older and younger women. They examined the capillaries and determined that skeletal muscle tissue can be developed, and exercise and movement aid this process.

The capillaries in skeletal muscle play a role in physical capacity, health and function of the muscle. In the capillaries is where the oxygen and nutrients can be taken to the muscle when needed. If there is a loss of capillaries, this can influence insulin sensitivity and affect the development of Type 2 Diabetes.

When older women complete aerobic exercise, they do not achieve the same increase in the number of muscle capillaries compared to younger and older men. Therefore, it suggests that older women do not attain capillary growth in the same manner as younger people, and this may be caused by a flaw in the cells that form capillaries.

Ultimately, exercise is important at every stage of life including before and after menopause. However, for women’s capillary health, establishing an exercise routine before menopause is essential.

The Study

To test the theories, researchers compared the muscle biopsies of women over 60 and women in their 20s. They isolated the blood vessel cells and viewed them in the lab.  

The older women in the study completed eight weeks of training. They participated in three cycling sessions per week at a moderate to high intensity. Beforehand, the women completed fitness and health testing to set a benchmark. After eight weeks, the capillary numbers and proteins were determined from the muscle biopsy.

Despite doubts about the older women’s ability to keep up with moderate to high intensity, the women in the study didn’t have any difficulty.

One author of the research, Nørregaard Olsen, made the following observations:

Another aspect that is worth highlighting is that many people doubted that the older women could handle such intensive training.”

However, the women, who conducted the cycle exercise training three times per week for eight weeks, with heart rates over 80 per cent of maximal heart rate for more than 60 per cent of the time, were excited and handled the training without problems,” says Mr Olsen.

Ultimately, the research shows that establishing an exercise routine before menopause is beneficial for health later in life. If you need help establishing an exercise routine, building strength or returning to physical activity, book an appointment with one of our experienced physiotherapists.

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