October is menopause awareness month – let’s talk fitness for menopause! One question I’m often asked is what would I recommend as an exercise plan once we hit the perimenopause/menopause stage and why? It’s such an important topic so here are some recommendations as well as my reasons why!
Menopause comes with a cacophony of symptoms and changes which, let’s be honest, are not at all welcome. These range from surreptitious weight gain, joint aches and pains, the dreaded flushes, general lethargy, anxiety and mood changes. But one thing that has been proven time and time again is how exercise can really help at this time and make a huge difference both physically as well as mentally. What is key to say at the start is to listen to your body and that everyone is different.
So, firstly why does exercise help women at this time and what are the key things you need to know when it comes to fitness for menopause?
- Helps to maintain a healthy weight – especially at a time when putting on weight can seem to happen overnight. Once you hit the perimenopause your metabolism begins to slow down and there is a loss of oestrogen which results in a change in the way that fat is stored. Pre-menopause we store fat around our hips and thighs but with this drop in oestrogen we tend to store it more around the middle. Exercise, especially strength training, if done consistently can help prevent weight gain and reduce body fat.
- Secondly and so very key is how essential exercise is for muscle mass and bone density. From the age of 35 both of these begin to decline and we become more at risk of osteoporosis. Strength training can play a significant role in not only maintaining our muscles & keeping physically strong but also encouraging new bone cell growth and therefore preventing bone fractures/osteoporosis risks. The drop in oestrogen in menopause exacerbates the loss of bone density – it is estimated on average women lose up to 10% of their bone mass in the first five years after menopause. Using resistance-based exercises has been proven to help significantly with this and I have had personal training clients whose bone scans have been reflective of this.
- Anxiety and Stress – this is key in perimenopause & menopause. Exercise reduces stress levels, boosts mood, endorphins and generally makes you feel great (have you ever said “I really regret doing that class?!”). Exercise reduces cortisol levels and strength training as a whole is better than cardio for reducing these levels and putting less stress on the body in general.
- Helps us to sleep better. Menopause is renowned for interrupted sleep which in turn leads to poor food choices, low mood and low energy. Exercise helps us to sleep better in turn also boosting immunity levels.
- Strength and balance exercises are focused on improved posture, mobility and coordination which we reduce the risk of falls in later life and make us less prone to injury in general.
- Exercise will reduce the risk of other diseases such as cancer, diabetes etc. Alongside this is how key it is to heart health particularly when we incorporate cardio exercises into our workouts.
So what do I recommend when it comes to fitness for menopause?
I recommend 3x a week of strength training workouts alongside 2 of cardio – which can be just a brisk walk or a cycle. Always take rest days to allow the body to refuel and recharge. Strength training can be with or without weights & it’s key to build up gradually and focus on technique. It can be just 30 minutes so it’s easy to fit into your day!
I am also a huge advocate of Wild Nutrition and the way they support women through perimenopause and menopause. The team at Wild Nutrition are really great and I had the pleasure of meeting with them recently. “Over the years, Dr Harper and I have treated many thousands of women with a shared holistic vision, integrating nutrition’s exercise, sleep and, if apt, HRT. Together we’re curated two foundational trios to support women through every twist and turn of their perimenopause and menopause journeys.” Henrietta Norton – Nutritional Therapist, founder and formulator at Wild Nutrition. Take a look at their recent perimenopause report here.
Intrigued to know more about Caroline’s Circuits? I run 3 online classes a week all based on strength on my fitness platform. They are all recorded so if you cannot make them live you can do them at a time that suits you. Try a class for free here or read more about the platform here.
If you have any questions please do get in touch.
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