Exercise During the Menopause

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

Exercise during menopause is useful for combating many problems associated with menopause, including hot flashes and night sweats. Exercise in your 40s and 50s can also help combat osteoporosis, depression, insomnia and reduce your risk of cardiovascular problems. Women who are entering menopause should adopt a daily fitness program specifically designed to cater to their individual needs and fitness goals. They can do this by paying attention to their personal medical history, health, emotional well-being and wishes.

Many women find they have no trouble maintaining a healthy weight until they enter their menopausal years. Then suddenly, as if overnight, pounds seem to pile on despite a seemingly healthy diet. Fortunately you can combat the weight gain commonly associated with menopause and aging if you follow some simple steps we’ll outline below.

Benefits of Exercise For Older Women

Older women who engage in routine exercise programs stand to gain a lot. Exercise will not only help you look and feel great, but will improve your body’s ability to combat disease and injury. There are many benefits of regular exercise apart from those above including:
  • Improved digestion.
  • Decreased incidence of depression.
  • Decline in nervous system disorders.
  • Lower body fat.
  • Reduced rate of internal aging.
  • Improved urinary continence.
  • Improved sexual libido.
  • Decreased menopause symptoms including hot flashes and insomnia.
  • Decreased menopause weight gain.
  • Lower risk of diabetes.
In fact, the American Journal of Public Health reported that women who exercised four times every week or more had less than half the risk for diabetes than women who rarely exercised. Besides, exercise makes you feel great. Why wouldn’t you want to participate in an activity that improved your health and helped you relax? In addition, regular exercise may help combat age related muscle soreness and stiffness. For that reason alone exercise is worthwhile!

Menopause Specific Exercise and Fitness Program

When it comes to menopause, every woman is different. However, researchers have found that certain strategies seem to help universally when it comes to fighting menopausal weight gain. The top three strategies often recommended to women in their 40s and beyond include:

1. Eat smaller but more frequent meals to help boost and maintain your metabolism.

2. Engage in a wide variety of physical activities, including jogging, walking, biking and strength training.

3. Improve your emotional well-being by adopting healthy attitudes about your life and your body as you age.

These seem like pretty easy steps right? That’s because they are! Women do have the power to control their health and well-being as they age. It’s simply a matter of taking charge not just of what you put in your mouth, but also how you feel about your body from the inside out.

Emotional Fitness and Menopause

Eating right is only part of the equation when it comes to menopause. Many women have a hard time getting over the fact that their body is changing. The reality is however that you will probably not be as thin as you were when you were 18 when you reach menopause. The good news is some women are ten times as healthy in their menopausal years as when they were in their 20s. Why? They are making better choices. They are eating right. They know their bodies and embrace their self image.

Remember, as you age your body will change. Most women’s hips will expand a bit. Their waist and chest will look different than they did at 20. However these changes are just as remarkable and appealing as those that occurred in your early 20s. Your goal should not be to look like you did when you were 20. Rather, your goal should be to look and feel good, to sleep well and to maintain balance in your life. Doing so will help you not only look and feel great, but also reduce your risk for osteoporosis, diabetes, heart disease and other age related illnesses.

Routine exercise including strength training may not return your body to its 18 year old shape. However it will help prevent osteoporosis and keep your body toned and well functioning. Your clothes will continue to fit well as long as you are willing to include almost daily exercise into your lifestyle. Most women will realistically gain anywhere from 2 to 12 pounds during the menopausal years. The amount you gain has as much to do with your lifestyle as it does genetics. Remember that a small weight gain may help your body remain energetic and strong throughout your 50s, 60s and beyond. Embrace your body and empower yourself as you age. Remember as a woman, you deserve to feel great regardless of your size or shape!