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Movement (NOT Exercise) and Menopause: Embracing Physical Activity for Better Health

 

The power of reframing exercise to  movement


Whenever I mention the idea of movement, I often hear, "No, I'm not a  gym bunny or I can't run!" 


And I completely understand.


The common perception of exercise tends to evoke images of intense, sweat-drenched sessions in a gym or on a track—environments and activities that might not appeal to everyone, especially during menopause.


It doesn't have to be like that, though.


Not in my world, anyway.


exercising women

I constantly reframe the conversation around "exercise"  to something more inclusive and approachable: movement


Viewing physical activity or movement as a natural part of your day rather than a chore can help make it a sustainable practice. Whether gardening, taking the stairs, or a leisurely bike ride, all forms of movement contribute to your health during menopause.


Full disclosure: I used to be one of those people who thought that only sweat-inducing activities counted as proper exercise. Yoga? Walking? They seemed too gentle to be considered real workouts. 


However, my journey through menopause has taught me otherwise. It prompted me to delve deeper into what constitutes beneficial physical activity during this phase of life.


 

Why Movement Matters in Menopause


Physical activity during menopause isn't merely beneficial; it's essential.


Research overwhelmingly supports the notion that women who maintain regular physical activity throughout menopause enjoy a better quality of life than those who are less active. The advantages of staying active extend beyond those who have always been fit; initiating any form of movement during any menopause stage can dramatically improve your mood and enhance physical strength and endurance.


Consider this: the average age of menopause is 51, and with life expectancy rising, many of us can anticipate several more decades of life. Living those years to the fullest means continuing to do the things we love, which requires physical capability and health.


Furthermore, movement is especially critical for those experiencing early or premature menopause. The monumental emotional challenges associated with these conditions make the benefits of physical activity even more significant. 


Movement can improve physical health and serve as a powerful tool for navigating the emotional landscapes that menopause can introduce.


 

Comprehensive Benefits for Mind and Body


You don't need me to tell you this, but sometimes reaffirmation can help. 


Movement is incredibly beneficial for every aspect of your health, especially during menopause. Here's a closer look at how staying active can support your body and mind:


- Joint and Muscle Health: Regular physical activity helps maintain supple joints and strong muscles, easing some of the physical discomforts that often come with menopause. Keeping active ensures that your body remains flexible and capable, reducing the incidence of stiffness and pain.


- Cardiovascular Health: Heart health is a significant concern for menopausal women, as the risk of heart disease increases during this time. Even moderate exercise—such as brisk walking or cycling—can significantly enhance cardiovascular health by improving blood circulation and heart function.


- Bone Density: The decline in oestrogen levels during menopause can decrease bone density, increasing the risk of osteoporosis. Regular activities like walking, jogging, or light weightlifting are critical as they help slow down bone loss and maintain bone strength.


-Mental Health: Never underestimate the power of physical activity to uplift your mood. Regular movement acts as a natural mood enhancer, helping to alleviate common emotional challenges associated with menopause, such as anxiety, depression, and mood swings. It stimulates the release of endorphins, often referred to as the body's natural painkillers and mood elevators, which can create feelings of happiness and euphoria.


Incorporating regular movement into your daily routine can profoundly affect your physical and mental well-being, providing a holistic approach to managing menopause symptoms.


 

Overcoming Menopausal Exercise Barriers


In today's world, women face immense demands from others and often receive minimal support to prioritise their own emotional and physical well-being.


One of the primary obstacles to maintaining an exercise routine during menopause is a lack of motivation, closely followed by a shortage of time.


oxygen mask

To illustrate this, I often refer to the analogy of the oxygen mask on an airplane: parents are advised to secure their masks before assisting their children.


This principle is vital during menopause—when you're often expected to meet the needs of others before your own. 


Prioritising your health through regular exercise is akin to putting on your oxygen mask first, ensuring you're best equipped to care for those around you.


Menopause itself presents unique challenges that can complicate traditional exercise routines. 


Symptoms such as hot flashes, irregular periods, and mood swings can significantly hinder the desire and capacity to engage in physical activity. Additionally, the fatigue resulting from poor sleep can make the prospect of exercising feel daunting.


Weight gain during menopause can also impact your self-esteem and motivation to stay active. 

It's crucial to recognise these barriers and consider adaptive strategies.


One practical approach is to shift towards lower-impact activities, such as swimming or yoga. These exercises can be gentler on the body while still delivering substantial health benefits, allowing you to maintain an active lifestyle without overwhelming your system.


 

Creating a Customised Exercise Routine During Menopause


The secret to maintaining an active lifestyle during menopause lies in personalisation. 


Everyone's physical capabilities and preferences are different.


Understanding that there's no wrong way to be active is crucial. Every bit of movement counts.

The NHS recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week. This activity level increases your heart rate and circulation, leaving you slightly out of breath yet still able to converse if necessary.


The key is to choose what you love doing so that you can sustain this over the long term. 


Consulting Healthcare Professionals

If you last did a little exercise a while ago or have other issues, it's wise to consult with a healthcare professional. To be on the safe side and help reduce any problems with injuries. 


 

My Tips for Incorporating Movement into Your Life


Make It a Habit

Prioritise consistency over intensity. If it helps, set a specific time for exercise each day and treat it as non-negotiable 'me-time.' This helps establish a hard-to-break routine.


Make It Social

Exercise can be more enjoyable and motivating when done with others. Joining classes and clubs or engaging in activities with friends or family makes the exercise fun and provides crucial social support, which can be incredibly valuable during the emotional fluctuations of menopause.


Incorporate Variety

Mixing up your activities can keep exercise from becoming monotonous and ensures that you are engaging different muscle groups. Variety in your workout routine keeps it exciting and can make you more likely to stick with it.


Listen to Your Body

Be mindful of how your body reacts to different activities, especially as it changes during menopause. If certain exercises cause pain or are too strenuous, adjust accordingly. Don't hesitate to consult medical professionals if symptoms interfere with your ability to stay active. Always prioritise your comfort and safety.


Menopause is a period of significant change, and it is crucial to adapt your exercise routine to your daily feelings and physical state. 


Some days, you might be full of energy, while others require a gentler approach. By listening to and respecting your body's needs, you can maintain a fulfilling and healthful exercise regimen through menopause and beyond.


 


Conclusion: Embrace Movement for a Vibrant Menopause and Beyond


As we observe Mental Health Awareness Week, focusing on movement, it's clear that the benefits of staying active extend far beyond just physical health. 


Movement is a potent ally in navigating the complex changes of menopause, enhancing both emotional well-being and overall vitality.


Reframing the concept of exercise to include any form of enjoyable and accessible movement can transform your approach to physical activity. It's not merely about overcoming the symptoms of menopause; it's about seizing an opportunity to live your later years with joy and vigour.


Acknowledging personal barriers and committing to incremental, sustainable changes can dramatically enhance your journey through menopause. 


Movement isn't just a strategy for managing menopausal symptoms—it's a pathway to a more satisfying life.


So, I encourage you to step into a routine that celebrates movement in all its forms. This will pave the way for a healthier, happier, and more active life during menopause and beyond. 


Embrace movement not just as a remedy, but as a lifelong companion that brings joy, strength, and vitality.


 

I will post on IG a list of local groups that I have used and can thoroughly recommend as different options for exercise. If you are not local to me - they are simply reminders of what 'counts' as movement.


These include;

 

Remember, that I am here, should you want support, more information or accountability.


Start with small steps each day, and you'll notice the benefits over time. 


Nx



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