Exercise during the menopause
Everything you need to know about exercise during the menopause
All women will experience the menopause at some point and, while there may be some common ground, the symptoms that come with this will be unique to them. You might be lucky in experiencing only mild and short-lived symptoms or you might experience the dreaded hot flushes and mood swings. However mild or severe your symptoms are however, there are plenty of exercises that you can do during the menopause that will benefit your health and fitness and will aim to reduce your stress levels.
The importance of keeping moving during the menopause
Whilst there’s no evidence to suggest that exercise can reduce menopausal symptoms directly, there have been plenty of studies that have shown that exercise can help to relieve stress and enhance your overall wellbeing.1 Exercise has also been shown in studies to help prevent weight gain and reduce the loss of muscle mass,2 which many women experience as symptoms of the menopause.
What type of exercise or movement workout is best during the menopause?
Cardio fitness is any type of aerobic activity that raises your heart rate and keeps it there for an extended period of time. There are many options of cardio-based movement workouts, so the important thing is to find something that you enjoy doing so that you’re more likely to stick to it. This could be walking, jogging, going for a swim or riding a bike. Even daily activities that you can do around the house, such as gardening, can be classed as cardio activity if they raise your heart rate enough and cause bit of a sweat.
Strength training is particularly important during the menopause as this is when your osteoporosis risk increases, but strength training can help build bone and increase muscle to reduce this risk. As with cardio training there are number of types of strength training that you can do. If you’re at home you can choose hand weights and resistance bands or if you prefer to go to the gym you’ll be able to use weight machines or free weights. Be sure to work to a level that works out your muscles without causing unnecessary strain and if in doubt speak to a personal trainer.
The way you experience the menopause will be different to the way someone else does. We’re all unique and we all have our own unique symptoms. Whether symptoms are mild or more bothersome, mindfulness activities such as yoga and meditation are beneficial to everyone and have been indicated in studies as being able to offer some relief.3 These practices are intended to calm your mind by centring your focus and may be able to relieve symptoms such as hot flushes, irritability and fatigue.
How to get the best out of your exercise
As with everything in life, it’s easy to over commit and then feel disappointed when we don’t achieve what we set out to do. If you’re new to exercise remember that any movement is better than no movement. Set yourself some goals and make them achievable, realistic and specific so that you can measure them. For example, rather than simply stating that you’re going to exercise more try quantifying this with something like ‘I’m going to walk for 20 minutes each morning before work’ or ‘I’m going to go for a swim every Saturday with a friend.’ Finding someone else to exercise with is a great way to ensure accountability, keep you motivated and help you have fun while enjoying the health benefits of physical exercise.