How exercise can help with Menopause, and perimenopause
Menopause is a tough time.
When you’re in a symptomatic menopausal state, your hormone levels are fluctuating and that can cause hot flushes, night sweats, insomnia, mood swings, joint pain & weight gain. But, there’s one thing you may not realise: exercise can help with these issues. In fact, getting regular exercise will help with many of the side effects of menopause.
Exercise can help prevent weight gain, and it’s part of a healthy lifestyle that can boost your mood, reduce stress and improve sleep.
It may be tempting to skip the gym because of hot flushes or aching joints but remember exercise doesn’t have to involve vigorous activity to be beneficial. In fact, walking for 30 minutes a day has been shown to reduce many menopausal symptoms.
Exercise can be done at home or at the gym, in the morning or in the evening, with a friend or by yourself. The important thing is that you’re doing something active each day!
If you exercise regularly, then there is no reason to stop now but you may need to rethink your exercise goals to take into consideration aching joints, fatigue, etc. If your body is telling you to slow down – listen to it! Ideally your exercise choices should include some cardio and strength sessions for heart and bone health; stretch, yoga or Pilates to maintain your range of movement and to reduces stress levels.
However, if you haven’t been exercising before or during this stage of life and want to start doing so now, it’s important not to start too hard or too fast -your body may need some time to adjust before reaching its maximum capabilities again after years of being inactive.
To get started with exercise, try a walking program, visit one of our gyms, or take part in a group exercise class! If you prefer to stay home, try yoga or Pilates classes with our FIT4 OnDemand offering via our app.
Hormone fluctuations may affect appetite and weight gain.
The perimenopausal years can be a time when you gain weight, sometimes as much as 20 pounds. This is in part because of the natural slowing down of the metabolism that happens as we get older but also hormone fluctuations influence our mood, appetite and food choices.
Also, as you age, your body loses muscle and builds fat. When this happens before the menopause, it isn’t so bad because hormones help you build muscle if you exercise and do strength training exercises regularly. During the menopause and afterwards, however, there’s a shift in hormone levels that makes it harder for women to lose weight by eating less than they burn off through activity.
Change the focus from weight loss to improving behaviours around food.
Losing and maintaining weight loss at any age is a challenge but when you are going through the menopause it can be one of the most frustrating battles you’ve ever undertaken. You can be eating healthy, exercising and still not be able to lose any pounds. Accepting this and looking instead at positive behaviour changes that will improve your health, stress levels, physical & emotional symptoms is a more positive strategy. For example,
- Cutting down on coffee and sugar to reduce frequency of flushes, improve stress levels and sleep.
- Reducing alcohol consumption to help with bone and heart health and it can help with mood and hot flushes.
- A balanced diet with healthy proteins, carbs, fruit and vegetables can help with physical and mental health.
Studies suggest regular moderate exercise may improve sleep quality for at least six months after you begin exercising regularly.
61% of peri & menopausal women report that they struggle with their sleep during this time. Sleep quality is really important for your mental & physical health. Poor sleep impacts on your mood, your relationships, work, brain fog, eating behaviours. If you have trouble sleeping, try these tips:
- Moderate caffeine intake (nothing after 2pm).
- Sleep hygiene – temperature, light and devices can all impact on your quality of sleep. – keep those screens turned off while you’re winding down!
- Studies have shown that some gentle yoga or meditation in the evening can help improve sleep quality.
Research also shows physical activity may reduce inflammation and increase levels of endorphins and other feel-good hormones in your body.
A study in the journal Menopause showed that regular physical activity is associated with lower levels of depression and anxiety, especially among women who exercised at least three times a week. In addition, research has shown that exercise may increase the time it takes for hot flushes to begin in women who have them.
Exercise can also help you sleep better and reduce stress, which may help to improve your mood. It can also reduce inflammation and increase endorphins – the happy hormones.
If you’re looking for ways to feel better, regular exercise is a great place to start.
It’s not just about weight management – it’s about improving your health and quality of life overall. And if you’re worried about how much exercise you should be doing, remember that it doesn’t have to involve vigorous activity every day.
You don’t have to spend hours at the gym, but even just 20 minutes of moderate activity each day will help you feel better and will help with your overall wellbeing.
We hope these tips will help make your transition much smoother than expected.