What's the Best Menopause Workout? Climbing the stairs

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Good news for those of you looking to improve your health but don't want to commit to gym membership for a multitude of reasons. According to new research carried out by the North American Menopause Society and recently published in the journal Menopause, climbing the stairs may be as good for your heart as a gym workout. 

The study reveals that climbing the stairs, especially for post-menopausal women, helps lower blood pressure and improve heart health. Taking the stairs, rather than the lift, could benefit most post-menopause women who are oestrogen deficient, or suffering muscle problems and circulation issues.

You may be fed up with us banging on about it, but we can’t stress enough how important it is to acknowledge that as we approach menopause increasing our fitness levels is crucial for maintaining both a healthy heart and bone strength. This report emphasizes that it’s just as important to work on fitness levels beyond menopause. If you've been struggling to maintain fitness and perhaps find the thought of going to a gym or fitness class too daunting, then this may be the first step (excuse the pun!) to your new fitness regime.

Scientists found that women had ‘real and perceived barriers’ to some of the usual exercises recommended for preventing age-related loss of muscle strength, so wouldn't do them. Although high-intensity resistance training, like lifting weights is great for improving post-menopause fitness, the study found it can raise raise blood pressure for those suffering prehypertension or hypertension (high blood pressure).

What is high blood pressure?

High blood pressure is a long-term medical condition; it makes your heart work harder to pump blood and may cause hardening of the arteries.  If untreated, it increases your risk of heart attacks and strokes.

What happens if your blood pressure is too high?

If your blood pressure is too high, it puts extra strain on your blood vessels, heart and other organs, such as the brain, kidneys and eyes.

Whilst we’re talking facts, around 45% of British women will suffer from heart disease or a stroke. Cardiovascular disease is the biggest single cause of death for post-menopausal women in the UK. So, let’s be positive and look at what can be done to change these statistics. 

How to prevent high blood pressure post-menopause?

By keeping fit you could lower your blood pressure. Climbing the stairs gives you the benefits of aerobic and resistance exercise, improving both blood pressure and leg muscle strength. Maybe you can do this in the privacy of your own home without prying eyes, or by taking the stairs whenever you're out and about? Best of all, it’s FREE! 

Before this study, stair climbing hadn't been evaluated for beneficial effects on hypertension and stiffening of arteries. The study showed this easily-accessible activity reduced stiffening of arteries and blood pressure, whilst increasing leg strength in stage two hypertension of post-menopausal women.

Why is climbing the stairs good for your heart post-menopause?

JoAnn Pinkerton, Executive Director of the North American Menopause Society, said: ‘This study demonstrates how simple lifestyle interventions can be effective in preventing or reducing the negative effects of menopause and age on the vascular system and leg muscles of postmenopausal women with hypertension.’

If you want to find out more information on how you can maintain a healthy heart through menopause and beyond, then check out our symptoms page, Healthy Hearts. Also, our blog Home Heart Health