What are the benefits of exercise during menopause?
Updated: May 14
Both menopause and perimenopause are normal and natural, but, as we women know, it can be challenging. There are many ways and methods to support yourself through this transition, but regularly exercising is an easy one that doesn't cost anything and can be done at home or in your local area. And before you roll your eyes, thinking I'm talking about pounding the streets in your running shoes or undertaking the latest at-home hour-long aerobic session, exercise takes many forms. For example, get walking regularly, undertake some gardening or put more effort into the housework to get the heart pumping! Short HIIT sessions and resistance training can all help too. And, of course, if running and hardcore cardio is your thing, go for it! So, what are the benefits of exercise during menopause? I've done a deep dive into the subject to provide just some of the reasons why exercise is so crucial during the perimenopausal, menopausal and post-menopausal periods:
As we age, women become more susceptible to osteoporosis. This is a condition that causes our bones to become weak and brittle. This can lead to fractures and other serious health problems. Exercise can help maintain bone health and prevent osteoporosis by strengthening bones and increasing bone density. Weight-bearing exercises such as running, walking, resistance training, or weightlifting are particularly effective at promoting bone health.
Weight gain is a common problem during menopause and perimenopause. Hormonal changes can cause our bodies to store more fat, especially around the abdomen. Exercise burns calories and increases metabolism so it can help manage weight alongside a healthy diet. Regular exercise can also help maintain muscle mass, which can decrease with age and contribute to weight gain.
Mood swings, anxiety, and depression are common symptoms of menopause and perimenopause. Exercise releases natural mood boosters called endorphins that have been shown to affect mood positively. Regular exercise can also help reduce stress and anxiety, which goes hand in hand with improving sleep quality, contributing to improved mood.
Hot flashes are probably one of the most common symptoms associated with menopause. They can be seriously uncomfortable and, more often than not, disruptive coming out of nowhere when you least expect it. They cause sweating, flushing, and rapid heart rate, but exercise has been shown to reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes by regulating body temperature and improving circulation.
As we age, our risk of heart disease increases (as if we didn’t have enough going on), but getting in regular exercise is perfect for improving heart health. It can assist in strengthening the heart muscle, helping improve circulation and reducing the risk of high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases. Taking regular exercise can also improve our cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of diabetes, both risk factors for heart disease.
As we age, we’re also likely to become more susceptible to falling and other injuries, so exercising regularly can help maintain our flexibility and balance. Yoga, Pilates, and other stretching exercises are particularly effective at promoting our balance and flexibility, and keeping active like this will also help us maintain our independence as we get older. It means being able to enjoy hobbies, activities and our communities which can only be good for our mental well-being.
Ultimately, when it comes to exercise during menopause and perimenopause, it's essential to find enjoyable and sustainable activities that we’re going to stick with. There’s no point starting in a class or joining a running club if you hate it. Cycling, walking, swimming, and dancing are all great fun options for a low-impact exercise that can be done regularly without it feeling like a chore. Strength training (resistance) and short high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can also be effective, but starting slowly to avoid injury and gradually increasing the intensity is essential.
And last but not least, it's important to talk with your GP or healthcare provider before starting a new exercise routine, especially if there are any underlying health concerns. A doctor can help identify any potential risks and provide guidance on the best types of exercise for individual needs, so check before you start.
Finally, a reminder that exercise is not meant to be a chore, so try different things and find the fun exercise for you. Only then will you stick with it, which is essential for keeping your mind and body in check!