Exercise & The Menopause

The menopause has long been a taboo subject. Despite roughly 8 in 10 women experiencing menopausal symptoms, women are often embarrassed to talk about the changes taking place and as a result many stop exercising like they did before. 

We take a look at some common questions surrounding the menopause and fitness, including the benefits of exercise and how to keep motivated.  

 

What are the menopausal symptoms?

There are a range of physical, emotional, psychological and sexual symptoms of menopause. These can include depression, sleeplessness, loss of concentration and brain fog, heart palpitations and joint stiffness as well as the well-known night sweats and hot flushes.

 

What are some of the reasons why women stop exercising during the menopause?

A Sport England report published in 2017 suggested that 30% of women surveyed became ‘less active’ during the menopausal years. It’s thought that this could be due to the impact of physical menopausal symptoms, lack of knowledge about good ways to exercise, the stigma of menopause, lack of support and lower levels of motivation.

 

What’s the best kind of exercise you can do while going through the menopause?

Something you love! Exercise is important at all stages of life and the health benefits during middle age are undeniable. To achieve good all-round fitness, you ideally want to feature some cardio to get your heart rate up, weight-bearing exercise to build and maintain bone density, strength and pelvic floor exercises to improve muscle tone and some mobility exercise to prevent your joints from stiffening up.

 

How might exercising during menopause be different to earlier in life?

As we get older our bodies take longer to prepare for, and recover from, intense exercise. Therefore warming up and cooling down gradually is very important, as well as allowing proper rest and recovery time in between workouts. As a guide, aim for your warm ups and cool downs to be at least 10-15 minutes each. You may also find that you gravitate towards lower impact activities compared to when you were younger, but there are no hard and fast rules!

 

What are the benefits of being active during the menopause?

Following the onset of menopause, research has found that women have an increased risk of diseases such as cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. Exercising during and after the menopause prevents weight gain, reduces the risk of serious diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes and strengthens your bones which reduces the risk of osteoporosis and fractures. Being more active is also likely to have a positive impact on your mental health, reducing the likelihood of depression and anxiety brought on by the menopause.

 

Where can women go to for support?

The NHS website is a good place to start for information about support, as is making an appointment to talk to your GP. Recent documentaries like “Davina McCall: Sex, Myths and the Menopause” have opened up the conversation about menopause and addressed some of the most common menopause myths.

 

What are some top tips for being active during the menopause?

  • Set yourself some realistic and specific goals to help you focus and maintain motivation. 
  • See where you can incorporate being active into your social life; meet up with friends to go for a walk or cycle instead of sitting down drinking a coffee.
  • Start your day doing some simple stretches, targeting your calves, quads and hamstrings to keep your leg and hip joints supple.
  • Keep drinking lots of water: aim for at least 6-8 glasses a day.
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