Getting out of bed, off the couch, and out of your comfort zone when you’re not used to exercise can be incredibly challenging. Menopause symptoms can make it doubly so. How do you summon the energy to work out when you’re not sleeping or can barely make it through the day without a hot flash or persistent pain?
First, give yourself a break and realize that you might be having a legitimately hard time. Second allow yourself to take small steps toward establishing or keeping and exercise routine. There’s a good chance that exercise will alleviate some or your menopause symptoms — so let that be a little bit of motivation.
Exercise is crucial for good health, but it becomes even more important as well age. It helps you maintain a healthy weight; reduces your risk of various cancers, including breast cancer, colon cancer, and endometrial cancer; decreases your risk of type 2 diabetes; and strengthens bones. It can also boost your mood booster and promote better sleep.
If this is your first foray into exercise or if it’s been awhile since you had a regular routine, remember that everyone has to start somewhere. Here are a few ways to gradually add more movement into your daily life.
- Walk more. If you’re able to, schedule a few brisk walks into your day. Walk 15 minutes before breakfast, 15 minutes at lunch, and 15 after work. Block off time on your calendar so you don’t forget. Recruit a walking buddy at the office.
- Go jogging. If your joints are up for it, a couch to 5K plan takes you on three runs for nine weeks.
- Hop on your bike. If you have a bike, go explore local parks or even bike to work if you’re feeling ambitious. If you don’t own a bike, see if your city has a bike share, which allows you to rent a bike on the cheap.
- Stretch out. Yoga has countless benefits, from increased flexibility to better balance and improved mood. Beginners benefit from in-person instruction, but there’s no need to enroll in costly classes if you can’t afford it. There are plenty of free online yoga classes, including those for menopausal women.
- Try tai chi. Tai chi is a low-impact, mind-body practice that combines meditation with slow, deliberate movements that help build balance, decrease blood pressure, and boost strength. It’s ideal for those who aren’t in the best shape and want to explore a new form of exercise.
Knowing that you need to exercise is one thing, getting motivated to move is another. So we have one word for you: community.
There is no better way to stay committed to a healthy lifestyle than to find people who are trying to get fit, too. A community — online or otherwise — is valuable for women seeking a healthier lifestyle, says triathlete Kris Messner. “I’m a part of a women’s only multisport club that we formed three years ago,” she says. “I was trying hard to do triathlon training on my own, but it gets lonely. Having a group — I’m in a closed Facebook group for women — is a great way for women to connect online because you can do it anytime. Facebook can be valuable for finding communities of like-minded people that you wouldn’t meet otherwise.”
So how do the women in her group help each other stay motivated?
“Just the idea that we’re supporting each other has been profoundly helpful in terms of being accountable,” Messner says. “We post our races on a shared calendar, and once a week someone will go through and announce all the races everyone is doing — and everyone chimes in and gives their support. My husband knows that the first thing I’ll do when I finish a race is to post to my group and let my team know how I did.”
Of course, not everyone is running races, let alone competing in triathlons, but a community can give you the boost you need to get started on your personal fitness journey.
“We have people in our group who are trying to run their first 5K,” Messner says. “Just because you don’t think you can do something doesn’t mean it’s impossible. When I first started doing triathlons, I literally couldn’t run a mile. Everyone is where they are when they start. Just because someone is at a different place than you, it doesn’t make you any less good. You can still support each other, even if you’re in different places.”
Now is the time
Developing healthy habits like exercise can be challenging, but it’s all about finding the right routine that works for you. Try one or more of the exercises above to explore what you like best. Try others, too, such as dance classes and spin classes. Many women really love the camaraderie of group exercise. Whatever you choose, do it because you love it, because it makes you feel strong and happy. Then you’re more likely to stick with it for life.