Exercising Your Way Through Perimenopause
You’re absolutely shattered, the hot flushes won’t stop and your boobs have been aching all week. When the symptoms come, the last thing you want to do is hit the gym or sit between the glowing twenty-somethings at yoga.
Cue the sofa and a bar of chocolate and your problems are solved right? Now here’s where you’re wrong. As horrific as it might seem, embarking on a bit of exercise has many benefits for perimenopausal women.
Sadly, your symptoms won’t be cured. Nor will it halt the process, erase any wrinkles or tighten your pelvic floor (learn how to do that here). But it will leave you feeling better and benefit you in the long run.
Why Bother With Exercise During Perimenopause?
When you exercise your body releases feel-good chemicals known as endorphins. These trigger a positive response in the brain which makes you feel better, enhancing feelings of happiness and blocking any feelings of pain. This will help improve your mood, which often takes a nosedive during perimenopause.
And fear not. You don’t have to sweat it out in a 45-minute spin class to feel these benefits. Just a brisk walk or a spot of gardening – anything that raises your heartrate slightly – will trigger this response.
Another reason to start, or to keep up the exercise, is to prevent menopause-associated weight gain (yes, sadly this is a thing!). You may have noticed fat around the stomach area is more stubborn than in previous years. While exercise won’t prevent this from happening, it can help reduce the weight gain and stop those extra pounds from sneaking on.
Finally, your falling oestrogen levels will have numerous effects on your body, one being muscle wastage and strength loss – known as sarcopenia. Keeping physically active can help maintain muscle mass, as well as slowing bone loss which can lead to osteoporosis and fractures.
Mix It Up
If you’ve always been active, keeping up your normal routine is a good place to start. Make sure you exercise at a moderate intensity and incorporate weight or resistance training into your routine.
If you’re more of a “relaxed” individual when it comes to exercise and gym classes rarely (or never) appear in your diary you should start off slowly. Go for a short walk or join a yoga or Pilates class. Build exercise into your day so that it doesn’t seem like such a chore.
As well as cardiovascular exercise and strength training, try to stretch after your workouts to keep your muscles flexible and prevent any injuries. Most fitness classes will finish with a stretch session to guide you through safe ways to stretch your muscles while they are warm.
So next time you feel the symptoms coming on, don’t let them get you down. Grab your trainers, roll out a yoga mat or pop on a fitness dvd. Not only will it leave you feeling better about yourself in the short term, your post-menopausal self will thank you for it in a few years’ time.