Menopause can put your body through the ringer, both physically and mentally. With joint aches, hot flushes, migraines and fatigue, alongside a host of mood related symptoms such as anxiety or feeling down, exercise in menopause can be the least appealing notion in the world. Who wants to go out running when your knees are hurting? Who wants to head to Zumba when you feel like crying?
This can be especially frustrating when we consider that exercise has a series of benefits generally, but in particular can really help aid and alleviate menopause symptoms. If you’re not a fitness fanatic, getting into a new sport can be daunting – especially when you already may feel a bit rubbish.
There’s also the additional dilemma of the sheer amount of choice out there – it can feel like there are classes for every single exercise in the world, from Pilates to crossfit to spin to hip hop dancing. There can be too much choice! By the time you get up the effort to lace up your trainers, you can be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of options out there.
Here is a helpful guide to some exercise choices that have been linked to an improvement in menopause symptoms and could help you combat menopause weight gain and improve your fitness in menopause by easing you into exercise. These exercises can bring immediate benefits and help you feel better and brighter through menopause.
Boxing has been gaining in popularity recently as a high-impact cardio-focused exercise that helps with muscle toning, fat burning and general strength – especially among women.
Traditionally considered a ‘man’s sport’, boxing has received a host of new female fans, leading to many gyms offering women-focused boxing programmes – and we can see why. Boxing is a great cardio activity and can help keep up heart health, strengthening your heart muscles and lowering the risk of heart disease.
Menopause can often increase your risk of heart disease, so this intensive cardio can do great things for your body. The high impact nature can also help reduce menopause weight gain, raising your metabolic rate and helping to replace fat with muscle.
Studies have indicated that boxing has been linked to increased bone density in menopausal women (fighting off osteoporosis, also common in menopausal women) alongside improving physical function. More than this, boxing can help you feel confident and strong – and allow you to vent out some of your anger and frustration!
Tai-Chi combines the strength benefits of boxing with a smoother, less energy-intensive rhythm, so if high-intensity training is not for you or a bit too intimidating to start off with, turning to tai-chi is another great option for menopausal exercise.
In fact, tai-chi seems to have no end of benefits – studies have indicated that tai-chi improves both bone density and neurological function, helping to cut through brain fog and target joint aches, can shore up immune systems in menopausal women, and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
One study suggests that tai-chi could be one of the most helpful exercises to target and alleviate menopausal symptoms, ‘reducing insulin resistance and related physiological risk factors for cardiovascular disease; improving mood, well-being, and sleep; decrease sympathetic activation; and enhance cardiovagal function.’ The physical benefits are accompanied by a whole host of meditative mood boosters – helping you in more ways than one either during or post-menopause.
Speaking about mood boosters, dancing is one of the best exercises for menopause mental health out there. Maybe when you were younger you went to a ballet or tap class – why not take it up again? This time without the pressure of perfecting your plies and rather just in pursuit of joy.
With the advent of Zumba and other popular, dance-based classes, there’s a range of dance options for whatever music and style fits your preferences. Square dancing, for instance, has been linked to improved mood and a reduced likelihood of depression in perimenopausal women, while other studies suggest that flamenco improves physical health and neurological function.
Even if you aren’t into cowboy boots and flamenco gowns, dance as a general practice has been linked to improved self-esteem, increased metabolic rate, bone density and immunity. So, whether you’re in menopause or post-menopausal, pick whatever shoes fit you best, and get dancing!
Swimming is quickly gaining ground as a helpful, stimulating activity great for menopausal women – not only for the mental benefits of having space and time in cool clear water, but also for its physical rewards.
With cold water swimming and wild swimmers popping up around the country, such as the Bluetits cold water women swimmers, maybe it’s time to check it out. Cold water swimming benefits menopause, with studies linking it to improved energy levels and a reduction in hot flushes, but even if you don’t have access to the freezing British sea, your local leisure centre can provide just as many benefits to improve your symptoms.
Swimming has been linked to reductions in arterial stiffness and improvements in cardiac health and muscle strength in menopausal women, alongside a significant decrease of body fat in areas associated with menopausal weight gain.
More than that, swimming has also been linked to a reduction in depression and anxiety in menopausal women. With that host of benefits it is not difficult to see why swimming can be so good for you in menopause, who could resist pulling out the swimming costume?
Though you may have already been approached by the disciples of yoga – whether it’s your friends, or your children, or even your mum – you might already be rolling your eyes when you see that yoga has been included on the list. How can it have that many benefits? It must be exaggerated! But don’t be too quick to write off yoga.
An exercise that seems relatively low-impact, and easy to start doing for people with all levels of exercise experience, yoga has a disproportionately brilliant effect on your body, mind, and menopause symptoms.
Yoga has been tied to a whole host of benefits – from helping to prevent memory loss and aid brain function, boost your metabolic rate, protect against osteoporosis and bone density loss alongside mediating anxiety and depression. Maybe the disciples had the right idea all along.
Yoga in menopause can help cut through brain fog, protect valuable processes inside your body, and lift your mood – it also comes with the benefit that you can incorporate it into your daily life relatively easily. Is it time to start shopping for a yoga mat?
The best exercises for menopause weight gain
If you’re in a hurry or lead a busy lifestyle, it can feel as if you might not have time to fit in a serious regime change or new exercise routine. However, even five minutes of stretching and moving your body can help you feel better. Jane Dowling, an exercise expert, demonstrates a set of movements that can help to improve your menopause symptoms.
Why exercise can help with menopause
When you are struggling with menopause symptoms, exercise may feel like the last thing that you want to do, even when you know which exercises can help you best. However, the benefits are really too good to miss out on.
Exercising during menopause can:
- Boost your mood and lower anxiety rates by raising endorphins. Those who are physically active have lower rates of depression, and often suffer less with cognitive decline. This can be a real boon when you’re combatting brain fog!
- Reduce weight gain. Regular exercise can help increase muscle mass and lower fat, which can sometimes increase around the menopause
- Protect your bones! As your oestrogen levels drop, your bone density can suffer. Regular exercise can maintain and strengthen your bones, which can help prevent osteoporosis, and also help alleviate some of those joint aches
- Reduce the risk of comorbid symptoms like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer
When you’re aching, in pain, or struggling with low mood, the last thing in the world that you may want to do is lace up your running shoes. But in the world we live in now, with an array of choices to suit anyone and everyone’s exercise tastes, moving your body can be a joyful, energising experience, and can make a difference to your menopause experience. Exercising during menopause has been associated with a reduced rate of cancer, dementia, cognitive decline, low mood, and hot flushes. When the list of benefits is that long, why not give it a try?