Menopause is the natural part of ageing that usually occurs in women between the ages of 45 and 55. It can be very difficult to deal with, as symptoms like hot flushes and anxiety can hinder everyday activities. According to a survey by Women’s Health Concern, a third of women experiencing menopause hadn’t tried anything to reduce or prevent the symptoms. Well guess what? Exercise can help.
Exercising during and after menopause has loads of benefits, all you need to do is take the first step. It can help with hot flushes, insomnia, prevent weight gain and osteoporosis, strengthen your bones and even boost your mood. What’s not to love?
Anxiety is a common symptom of menopause. It’s normal to have mood swings and feel more anxious while your body undergoes these changes. Doctors may prescribe antidepressants, but this is treating the symptoms, not the cause. Mood swings are caused by a drop in oestrogen levels, which is why it’s so beneficial to exercise. It helps boost endorphins, which will leave you feeling happier and less stressed.
Jo Moseley was badly affected by anxiety during her menopause, but found exercising brought her peace and happiness. Give mindfulness a go, as paying attention to the present moment can help you feel more grounded and prepare you for tasks ahead.
Starting to exercise initially can be daunting, but once you realise that anything can count as exercise hopefully, you’ll feel less intimidated by it. There are plenty of beginner workouts that you can try at home, to help build up your confidence and for you to find out what you like most!
If you need a reason to get out of your house and get some fresh air, try joining a local walking or hiking group. Many gyms offer induction days, where a member of staff takes you around and shows you how to use the equipment. This is a great way of slowly easing yourself into gyms, if it’s something that interests you.
Group exercise classes are a great option if you’d like to get out of your house to exercise but need some guidance. Exercise classes are fun and sociable, and the presence of a teacher will ensure that you exercise in the correct ways. Look up over 50s exercise classes in your area, as chances are you’ll find people who are going through similar experiences.
Sometimes the only way you can guarantee you exercise is if it becomes part of your routine. Creating a fitness plan may help, they vary person to person, as there is no one way to exercise that works for everyone. However, we would recommend including cardio, strength training, holistic and stretching exercises.
Planning out exactly what you want to focus on and creating structure can help guarantee you stick with exercising in the long term. Don’t feel intimidated by lycra clad gym bunnies or burly young men, most people are so focused on what they’re doing that they won’t notice what you’re doing.
With cardio, start with doing 10 minutes a day of brisk exercise, such as walking, and gradually increase the intensity and duration. Strength training is important for women going through menopause as it helps slow the normal bone loss. Something as simple as walking around with light dumbbells can be beneficial, so start from the very basics and slowly build it up once you feel comfortable.
Give yourself realistic goals to stick to so you’re working towards something, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t reach them or have a few days off. Even activities such as gardening can help improve health, as long as you remember to warm up and cool down safely.
Holistic exercises are great as they help keep your mind and body fit. Be kind to yourself, reward yourself for doing a particularly challenging workout but don’t beat yourself up if you have a cheat day.
Find an exercise you love and try to stick to it. You’ll feel much more motivated to exercise if it’s something that you actually enjoy doing. Set yourself goals – whether that’s to run 5k in half an hour by the end of the year, or to perfect a Pilates move in a month.
Give yourself something specific to work towards, so it feels as though you’re getting somewhere.
Exercise is best with a friend. Encourage your friends to exercise with you – the more the merrier. If you can’t find anyone who wants to exercise with you, then try joining some exercise classes and making some friends there.
Finding some age-specific classes can be great too, as you’ll find people who are going through menopause too. Don’t be scared to try new activities – Jo Moseley had no idea that she would enjoy paddle boarding so much, but all it took was for her to give it a go.
Starting a new exercise will open many new doors for you, one of which will be friendship!
Exercise during and after menopause offers many benefits to both your mind and body. It can help prevent weight gain, reduce the risk of cancer, strengthen your bones and boost your mood.
Exercise can slow bone loss after menopause, which lowers the risk of fractures and osteoporosis, both big problems in menopausal women due to the lack of oestrogen. If you experience hot flushes, it is recommended you exercise in the morning, as this means you avoid the hottest part of the day.
As the ovaries stop producing oestrogen, the adrenal glands become overworked, which contributes to you feeling stressed, tired and overwhelmed. If you take time out to be calm and focus on something – whether that’s exercise or meditation, it will help your body relax and you will feel the benefits.
Jo Moseley, 54, is an inspiration to all women going through the menopause.
One day in May 2013, she burst into tears in the biscuit aisle of Tesco’s. She felt totally overwhelmed by life and was in the early stages of the peri-menopause – although at the time she didn’t realise.
Jo made a decision to start exercising when she was 48 and hasn’t looked back since!