Menopause symptoms vary considerably between women. Common issues such as hot flushes, sleep disturbances and midlife weight gain are typical, as our bodies naturally become less metabolically active as we age.
The good news is that lifestyle modifications and following an exercise programme can absolutely help with improving mental health, reducing the severity of menopause symptoms, and protecting your longer-term well-being, where women lose bone mass and become at greater risk of heart disease and other conditions from around age 50.
One of the important phrases here for me is ‘mid-life’. Menopause is part of being human, but by no means indicates that you need to live with night sweats or accept a lower quality of life.
Being active and engaging in movements that leverage your own body weight can make you feel vibrant, healthy, and energetic, whether you’d like to shed excess pounds to boost your heart health or become the strongest you have ever been. Let’s talk about exercise for menopause.
How Can Exercise Help Manage Menopausal Symptoms?
The nature of menopause means that every woman’s experience differs – but many people gain body fat because their bodies adjust how they utilise energy and store fat.
Lowered levels of the hormone oestrogen can be tackled with hormone therapies, where appropriate, but engaging in moderate-intensity exercise can help by keeping your blood vessels active and strong, maintaining muscle mass, preventing loss of bone mineral density, and lifting your mood.
The National Library of Medicine advocates for exercise for postmenopausal women when those symptoms such as sleep disturbances have passed, since strength training, adapted to ability as necessary, can help with:
- Preventing bone loss and osteoporosis.
- Decreased chances of developing cardiovascular disease.
- Maintaining a healthy body weight.
- Supporting a strong pelvic floor to avoid serious conditions such as pelvic organ prolapse.
You don’t necessarily need to start with vigorous aerobic exercise. Although most healthy women benefit from working out two to three days a week, excessive strain can be counterproductive, especially if you want to exercise to help relieve stress.
Instead, I recommend incorporating activities such as brisk walking, Tai Chi or taking a dance class and building up to muscle-strengthening exercises to enhance your wellness, fitness, endurance and strength without putting your body under unnecessary duress.
What Impact Can Exercise Make on Menopausal Women?
My fitness tips are always adapted to the individual because there isn’t any one-size-fits-all solution, and the best training programme for you will depend on the exercise intensity you are already used to and your primary goals.
Because menopause means the majority of women gain weight and gradually lose muscle mass, it is crucial to consider your strength and metabolism before you start working out. However, if you’d like to ease menopausal symptoms while making positive lifestyle changes, the outcomes can be significant.
Researchers have found that the advantages of preventing weight gain also lessen the potential of developing certain diseases, including breast cancer, so the effort is profoundly beneficial.
Here’s how exercise can help:
- Better sleep: insomnia or irregular sleep can be alleviated with workouts, which support restorative sleep patterns.
- Better mood: hormonal changes can affect your mental health and mood, relieved by endorphins released during fitness activities.
- Better bone health: lower oestrogen levels affect bone mineral density, which resistance training combats.
- Better body composition: anything that helps you burn calories can help avoid or manage hormonal weight gain.
- Better immunity: exercising during and after menopause and staying at a healthy weight can protect you to some extent from various cancers and heart diseases.
Now we’ve seen how beneficial an exercise programme can be, let’s look at the top exercises I recommend healthy women experiencing menopause try incorporating into their schedule.
Cardio-Based Exercise For Menopause
Cardio workouts such as brisk walking, dancing and cycling, alongside aerobic activity such as HIIT workouts, work to keep your heart working properly, as exercising means your heart pumps blood more effectively.
These types of workouts are suitable for most healthy women at any stage of menopause since they can help to reduce hot flashes, maintain a healthy weight, prevent excess body fat, and keep your lung capacity high.
Strength Training Workouts
Strength training exercises are fantastic since the stronger and more capable your muscles, the lower the impact of oestrogen loss, which creates a bigger chance of developing issues with bone mass, fracture risks and conditions like osteoporosis.
Whether you’d like to use weight machines or perform free-standing weight-bearing exercises, I recommend working with a qualified personal trainer to ensure your form is correct and you perform each movement safely.
Weight training options include:
- Bodyweight exercises, such as push-ups, planks and squats.
- Lifting dumbbells, kettlebells or barbells – increasing in weight as you become stronger.
- Resistance training with weight machines or resistance bands.
If you’re new to training in a gym or starting a regular exercise routine, you can begin with low-impact movements combined with yoga and Pilates to gradually build your fitness and shed excess pounds at the same time.
Mobility and Balance Exercise for Menopause
Finally, balance and mobility are often neglected, but maintaining a steady balance can extend our longevity and prevent serious falls – the loss of muscle mass affects both midlife women and men, so working on your balance is always worthwhile.
I’ve mentioned Tai Chi, ideal for those looking to improve their long-term quality of life. You can also try other guided movements that engage your core and the larger muscles in your posterior chain that stabilise your posture.
Focusing on the mind-body connection is important, using deep breathing to concentrate your efforts and movements, and you can incorporate mobility exercises into other workouts to mix up your exercise intensity.
How Often Should Women With Menopausal Symptoms Exercise?
As mentioned, overdoing it is unlikely to diminish menopausal symptoms, and the best advice is to incorporate moderate aerobic activity, up to around two to three hours a week, split into one-hour sessions to avoid fatigue.
For example, two strength training days and one cardio day could be the perfect mix for many midlife women, lessening symptoms of menopause, enriching your holistic well-being, and ensuring your body is strong, fit and capable.