Practising Taekwon-Do after menopause?
By Master Annick Van Driessche, checked by the ITF Medical & Anti-Doping Committee
What is menopause?
Menopause is the time that marks the end of the menstrual cycles. It’s diagnosed after 12 months without a menstrual period. Menopause can happen at the age of 45-55.
Menopause is a natural biological process. The physical and emotional symptoms of menopause may disrupt the sleep, lower the energy or affect emotional health.
In the months or years leading up to menopause (perimenopause), women might experience these signs ands ymptoms:
- Irregular periods.
- Vaginal dryness.
- Hot flashes.
- Sleep problems.
- Mood changes.
- Weight gain and slowed metabolism.
- Thinning hair and dry skin.
- Loss of breastfullness.
Signs and symptoms, including changes in menstruation can vary a lot among women. Each body is different.
Skipping periods during perimenopause is common and expected. Often, menstrual periods will skip a month and return, or skip several months and then start monthly cycle sagain for a few months.
Periods also tend to happen on shorter cycles, so they are closer together. Despite irregular periods, pregnancy is still possible.
Menopause can result from:
- Naturally declining reproductive hormones: when a women approaches her 30’s less hormones (estrogen and progesterone — the hormones that regulate menstruation) will be produced. In her 40’s menstrual periods may become longer or shorter, heavier or lighter, and more or less frequent, until eventually — on average, by age 51 — the ovaries stop releasing eggs, and the menstruation will stop.
- Surgery that removes the ovaries (oophorectomy).
- Chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
- Primary ovarian insufficiency. About 1% of women experience menopause before age 40 (premature menopause).
Every women is different, every body reacts in a different way.
In general after menopause, the risk of certain medical conditions increases. Examples include:
- Heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease. When the estrogen levels decline, the risk of cardiovascular disease increases. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women as well as in men. So it's important to get regular exercise, eat a healthy diet and maintain a normal weight.
- Osteoporosis. This condition causes bones to become brittle and weak, leading to an increased risk of fractures. During the first few years after menopause, bone densit ymay be lost at a rapid rate, increasing the risk of osteoporosis. Postmenopausal women with osteoporosis are especially susceptible to fractures of their spine, hips and wrists.
- Urinary incontinence.
- Sexual function.
- Weight gain. Many women gain weight during the menopausal transition and after menopause because metabolism slows.
Practising Taekwon-Do after menopause?
When facing problems, the best is to consult a doctor. However, there are somethings we can do ourselves…. Not quitting Taekwon-Do is one of those things…
Exercise is important, also during and after menopause. Research has been conducted on exercise reducing menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, poor sleep, vaginal dryness and sexual dysfunction. It can also help to maintain good mental health, as well as preventing osteoporosis and helping to lose or maintain weight.
Both cardio and strength exercises can have an impact during peri-menopause and menopause.
Exercise and brain health
Exercise has many proven benefits, one of which is increase of endorphins during exercise.
Endorphins are chemicals that interact with the brain to reduce feelings of pain. They also trigger a positive feeling in the brain. Exercise also increases serotonin release, which helps to make us feel good!
It has been hypothesized that reducede ndorphins in the brain (specifically the hypothalamus) may provoke hot flushes. Regular physical exercise can decrease the frequency and severity of hot flushes.
Strength training can help to reduce the risk of osteoporosis. A 2018 study even states that it ‘may be the most optimal strategy to improve the muscle and bone mass in postmenopausal women, middleaged men, or even the older population.’ The jumping is Taekwon-Do also helps a lot to strenghten the bones.
It’s no secret that exercise helps with weight loss. 150 to 250 minutes per week (25-35 minutes a day) of moderate physical activity is effective in preventing weight gain, and provide minimal weight loss. More than 250 minutes per week of physical activity is associated with significant weight loss.
More weight loss is seen with dietary restrictions.
Resistance training does not seem to be an effective means for weight loss but is associated with numerous other health benefits, including:
- Improved muscle strength and tone – to protect the joints from injury.
- Maintaining flexibility and balance, which can help remain independent when ageing.
- May help reduce or prevent cognitive decline in older people.
- Prevention or control of chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, back pain, depression.
- Improved mobility, balance and posture.
- Increased bone density and strength and reduced risk of osteoporosis.
- Improved sense of wellbeing – resistance training may boost your self-confidence,
- improve your body image and your mood.
Exercise is beneficial in all life stages, including perimenopause and menopause. So it’s a good idea to keep on practising Taekwon-Do after menopause!
The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the AETF or its members.