Easy Ways to Modify Exercise During Menopause
Don’t miss the opportunity to make your workouts alleviate some of the challenging health and fitness aspects of menopause. This post will include all the kinds of exercise you’ll want to incorporate into your fitness routine and some of the things you might want to avoid. Before we get into it, remember that ANY exercise, quality sleep, hydration and quality time with loved ones is first and foremost the BEST possible thing you can do for your health.
How menopause affects physical fitness and why you should adapt exercise for menopause
During menopause, your ovaries stop responding to the hormonal messages from the pituitary gland in your brain. This means that eventually, ovulation and menstruation stop too. For most women, menopause starts between 45 and 55, but some experience an ‘early menopause’, which is classified as menopause that begins before a woman is in her 40s. Approximately 5% of women will experience early menopause.
During the menopausal phase, the hormones most associated with our menstrual cycles – estrogen and progesterone – start falling, leading to various physical and emotional changes. This is why you should adapt exercise during menopause. Here, we’ll be focusing on how you can adapt exercise to alleviate some of the effects of menopause. If you want to know about the hormonal changes that occur in more detail, this blog post details how menopause impacts hormones and even covers the 3 types of estrogen we have in our bodies.
These hormonal changes cause decreased bone density, decreased muscle mass, and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Don’t worry though – these are all health risks that can be alleviated with the right kind of exercise!
Exercise to improve bone density and muscle mass loss during menopause
Estrogen is important for bone health because it promotes the activity of osteoblasts, which are the cells that make new bone tissue. So, when estrogen levels drop, so does bone density. When it comes to muscle mass, estrogen increases the ability of your muscles to generate force. With lower estrogen levels, your muscles gradually weaken and muscle mass is lost.
Strength training is proven to improve both muscle mass and bone density, so incorporate some form of strength training exercises into your routine. Note that it is harder to train your lower body relying on bodyweight, as opposed to your upper body where you can utilise planks and push up variations. If you don’t want to go to the gym, you can buy some weights to keep at home. For efficiency, focus on exercises that target major muscle groups and compound movements – which are exercises that move more than one set of joints at a time. Examples include squats, deadlifts, shoulder presses, and rows.
One more thing to mention about building strength at home is the use of resistance bands. With a couple of different bands, there’s so much you can do! Better yet, they’re so light and take up no space at all. However, tor maximum effectiveness, it is advised that you incorporate weight training into your routine, rather than relying resistance bands or bodyweight
Loss of bone density and muscle mass are also natural effects of ageing in general, not just menopause. We cover it in our post on modifying exercise for age, which is full of valuable insights into how to make the most of exercise at each stage of life!
Alleviating risk of cardiovascular disease with exercise during menopause
Estrogen not only keeps are bones and muscles storng, it also helps your body maintain healthy levels of cholesterol. So, menopause puts you at a higher risk of high cholesterol. High cholesterol increases your risk of heart and circulatory problems because it causes fatty deposits to collect inside the walls of blood vessels, increasing blood pressure and in turn, the risk of heart attacks and stroke. Something else worth noting here is that heart palpitations as a result of menopause, which can occur especially during hot flashes, are usually harmless!
To counter this, introduce cardiovascular exercise into your fitness routine. Bupa UK recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week for menopausal women. This will improve the efficiency of your heart pumping blood around your body, and prevent clots.
If this is your thing, you can opt for high-impact workouts such as HIIT and running, however, to minimise impact on your joints, consider low-impact workouts like walking, swimming, cycling, and using elliptical machines. You can still incorporate high-intensity exercises but with care and with adequate recovery periods.
Maintaining flexibility with exercise during menopause
Estrogen plays an important role in keeping your joints lubricated, so during menopause it is normal to experience joint stiffness. Gosh, estrogen does SO MUCH, doesn’t it?!
As is the case in all stages of life, stretching regularly is SO important. Stretching keeps muscles healthy, releases physical tension, relaxes you, and directly impacts how your muscles heal after a workout.
General mobility work is something you can incorporate into any of your workouts. Mobility exercises include moving from a frog pose into a deep squat, a child’s post into a downward dog, and hip circles. Yoga, pilates and Tai Chi are other great ways to maintain a mobile, fit body. You can find out more about how yoga can help alleviate stiff joints during menopause here.
Exercising during menopause for emotional health
For many women, menopause is a trying time emotionally. The NHS inform website reports that women may experience stress, anxiety and even depression. You can find out more about menopause and mental health, here. Exercise is proven to improve mental health by boosting endorphins, and serotonin, and by improving blood flow to the brain!
Also, exercise is a chance for you to get out of your head and into your body. By giving you a mental break from your day-to-day concerns, exercise during menopause gives you some of the same effects as meditation!
What to avoid when choosing exercise during menopause
To minimise the risk of injury, there are some workouts you may want to avoid. High-impact exercises like jumping burpees and running put a lot of pressure on your joints. So are exercises that require momentum – such as using your knees to achieve an overhead press. So, if these aren’t things you’ve been doing for years already, proceed with caution!
Listen to Your Body
Each person will experience menopause differently. You may feel fluctuations in energy levels, joint pain, and other physical discomforts, or you may feel great! There are plenty of women who feel the best they ever have during menopause. The healthiest choices you can mark will come by listening to your body and responding intuitively. Rest and recovery days should be included in any routine to allow your body to adapt and repair.
Getting support from a personal trainer
Having a personal trainer support you with exercise during menopause will help you get the best possible results, and feel confident about what you’re doing and why. A certified fitness trainer who has experience working with menopausal women is highly recommended. They can give you specific guidance on the best exercises for you considering not only the fact that you’re experiencing menopause, but also your unique needs and goals.
By modifying your exercise routine to accommodate the changes and challenges associated with menopause, you can maintain overall health, manage weight, enhance bone density, stay strong, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and promote emotional well-being. Remember to listen to your body, seek professional guidance when needed, and embrace an active lifestyle beyond your workouts to navigate menopause with vitality and ease.
If you want to find out more about exercise and menopause, we’ve posted about it before! You can find nutrition tips for menopause here and what you might experience during menopause here!