Getting out of bed, off the couch, and out of your comfort zone can be incredibly challenging when it comes to exercise. It’s even more daunting if you’re trying something new, or if it’s simply been a while since you felt motivated to exercise (we’ve all been there).
When it comes to menopause, the idea of exercise can feel nearly impossible. How do you summon the energy to work out when you can barely make it through the day without a hot flash or persistent pain? And if you’re struggling with weight gain, you’re bound to feel self-conscious in the gym.
Don’t worry – all hope is not lost. There are small, incremental steps you can take to getting and staying active during menopause that will help you maintain a healthy lifestyle and possibly alleviate some menopause symptoms.
Menopause and exercise: Why you need it
Exercise is crucial for maintaining a healthy lifestyle at any age, but during menopause, it becomes even more important. First and foremost, it can help you battle weight gain, specifically the abdominal fat that many women contend with during menopause. Maintaining a healthy weight helps reduce your risk of various types of cancer, including breast cancer, colon cancer, and endometrial cancer. It also decreases your risk of type 2 diabetes and can help strengthen your bones. Finally, exercise can be a mood booster for those struggling with menopause mood swings or depression.
Fitness tips for menopause
Everyone has to start somewhere, so keep that in mind if this is your first foray into exercise, or if it’s just been a while. Here are a few ways to gradually add more movement into your daily life.
- Walk more. The Mayo Clinic recommends the aerobic activity for women in menopause to maintain a healthy weight. If you’re able to, schedule a few brisk walks into your day – this could be before work, during lunch, and after work. Block off time for them on your calendar so you don’t forget. Even better, recruit a walking buddy and motivate each other to move. If you’re up for it, you can try jogging – check out the Couch to 5K running plan for beginners.
- Hop on your bike. Another fun exercise option is biking. If you have a bike, you can explore your local parks, or even bike to work if you’re feeling ambitious. Many cities have bike shares now, allowing you to rent a bike on the cheap. Here is an extensive list of bike shares nationwide.
- Stretch more. Yoga has countless benefits, from increased flexibility to improved moods. It just so happens that it can help alleviate some symptoms of menopause, too. There’s no need to enroll in costly classes – there are plenty of free online yoga classes, including ones made just for menopausal women.
- Try Tai Chi. Maintaining stability and balance can prevent falls and make other exercises feel easier. Tai chi is a low-impact, a 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.
How to stay motivated for exercise during menopause
Now that you know how and why you need exercise during menopause, one question remains: How do you get motivated to do it?
We have one word for you: community. To hold yourself accountable, get motivated, and stay committed to a healthy lifestyle, there is no better way to do it than finding people just like you.
We chatted with angel investor and triathlete Kris Messner about why a community – online or otherwise – is so valuable for menopausal women seeking a healthier lifestyle.
“I’m a part of a women’s only multisport club that we formed three years ago,” Kris said. “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 exactly 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,” she said. “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 a regular basis. But as we said earlier, everyone has to start somewhere. A community can give you the boost you need to get started.
“We have people in our group who are trying to run their first 5K,” said Kris. 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.”
Menopause and exercise: it’s not impossible after all
Developing healthy habits like exercise can be challenging, but it’s all about finding the right routine that works for your lifestyle. Try one or more of the exercises above to explore what you like best. To get motivated and feel supported, find a community of women like yourself who are at different stages in their exercise journey. You never know – you just may grow to love your new exercise routine!