The healthy menopause plan: Keep active!

Keeping active in your 40s and 50s has a wealth of benefits.  Here I cover why it’s important to find the type of exercise that’s right for you and that supports the needs of your changing body.

There’s lots of benefits to doing regular exercise through the perimenopause, menopause and beyond.  It can help to boost your energy, reduce hot flushes and night sweats, bring your stress levels down and help to manage mood swings, low mood and anxiety.  Importantly it can also help to support bone and heart health, areas of your health that need particular attention at this time of your life.  Choosing the right type of exercise is important and in some cases less is more!

So why is exercising in midlife any different to when you were in your 20s and 30s?

It’s helpful to recognise the changes your body is going through or has gone through. You’ll have been losing muscle mass since your 30s and if you’ve been fairly inactive, you’ll have been losing up to 3 to 5% of your muscle mass every decade.  Since muscle uses more energy than your fat stores, as you get older and your muscle mass drops, your metabolic rate will also drop.  As you go through the perimenopause and menopause, the amount of testosterone produced by your ovaries also declines and so again this causes reduced muscle mass, lower energy levels and a reduction in your metabolic rate. 

Once you are post-menopausal and have very low levels of oestrogen, you can lose of up 20% of your bone density during the 5-7 years after the menopause and your risk of cardiovascular disease doubles due to the loss of the protective effect of oestrogen.

So as you enter this new phase of your life, you can reap significant benefits by adding in some regular exercise that’s right for you.    Here are my top 5 tips.

1. Make your day more physically active

This is a good place to start, especially if you’ve not done much exercise in the past or haven’t been doing a great deal of exercise recently. 

If you work at a computer for most of the day and especially if you’re currently working from home, try to take a walk around the block before you sit down to start work.

Again, if you do a lot of computer work, it’s good to step away from your screen every 45 minutes and take a 2-minute mini exercise break and do some stretches, which may also help in reducing joint aches and pains.

If it’s feasible, why not stand up and walk around while you take phone calls.

And when you visit the supermarket, park at the edge of the car park furthest away from the entrance.

If you have a pedometer or Fitbit, you can see how many extra steps are added to your daily count by making these simple changes.

2. Aim for around 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week

This is recommended by the World Health Organisation and you can break this up into five 30-minute sessions.

Regular exercise that raises your heart rate and leaves you feeling slightly breathless will support heart health, as well as helping to reduce menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats and disturbed sleep.  It may also help with ‘brain fog’ by improving blood flow to the brain.

It’s worth noting that if you’ve not done much exercise previously, hot flushes may initially worsen.  Also, if you’re experiencing high stress levels and feeling exhausted, a high intensity workout could leave you feeling even more depleted.  That’s why it’s best to start gently and build up slowly.  Brisk walking, dancing and raking up leaves all count as moderate intensity exercise. Weight bearing exercise (that is, any exercise you do standing up such as walking or jogging) is particularly helpful in supporting your bone health.

3. Strength training

This is something I never really started to think about until I reached my 40s.  It’s definitely an activity I’d encourage you to embrace in midlife!  Activities that strengthen your muscles include cycling, more gardening (!) as well as doing squats, push ups and using free weights or weight machines at the gym.  Strength training helps to build and maintain muscle mass and so helps to increase your metabolic rate, which helps to manage your weight.  These strengthening exercises are also beneficial for your bone health. 

4. Yoga

Yoga can help with balance and flexibility and is recommended, along with Tai Chi, by the NHS to help with mood changes and anxiety during the menopause.

5. Find an activity that works for you and start today! 

This is the most important tip!  Regular exercise can really help to support you as you go through the perimenopause/menopause and it’s a great investment in your long-term health and wellness.

Do check with your GP before starting any new exercise plan, especially if you have any existing health conditions.

And if you need help in managing your perimenopausal or menopausal symptom, do get in touch and I’d be happy to organise a free call.