How Does Menopause Affect Workouts?
Originally Published July 21 on aaptiv | By Deanna Debara
As a woman, there are plenty of ways that your body changes as you get older. But, one of the most major changes is menopause. Menopause is a blanket term that covers the physical and emotional changes that you experience when your body—as a result of no longer releasing eggs every month—stops menstruating.
And we’re going to be honest, the list of physical and emotional changes during menopause is pretty lengthy. “The most common symptoms of menopause include irregular periods, hot flashes, sweating, insomnia, depression, anxiety, feeling apprehensive, weight gain or loss, fatigue, poor concentration, memory loss, and heart palpitations,” says Sherry Ross, MD, OB-GYN and women’s health expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA.
Clearly, menopause is a time of physical change. So, you might be wondering if these physical changes impact your workouts in anywyay. Read on as we explore the connection between menopause and exercise and how to adjust your routine for the change.
When does menopause start?
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to when menopause hits. There are a number of factors (like getting a hysterectomy or going through chemotherapy) that can affect when menopause occurs. However, for most women, it happens in your 40s or 50s. “The average age of menopause is 51 years old,” says Dr. Ross.
That means that if you’re approaching (or well into) your 40s, it’s time to start planning for the upcoming changes to your body—and figuring out how to tweak your workouts so that they work for you in menopause.
How does menopause affect workouts?
Menopause can impact workouts in a few different ways:
One of the major ways that menopause impacts workouts is through your motivation. Menopause can make you feel exhausted—and, when you’re exhausted, the last thing you feel like doing is lacing up your shoes and rocking a workout. “Many menopausal women feel tired and fatigued,” says Dr. Ross. “Exercise [can be] the last thing on their mind.”
Weight gain, depression, and anxiety—which are pretty common side effects of menopause—can also make it harder to find the motivation to hit the gym. “Weight gain [can] make women feel more lethargic—and less inclined to want to work out,” says Dr. Ross. “Emotional upheaval—including depression and anxiety—[may] also prevent trips to the gym or putting on your tennis shoes.”
As mentioned, menopause comes with a lot of side effects. And, unfortunately, a lot of those side effects can make working out a challenge. “All the symptoms of menopause can impede a women’s ability to work out,” says Dr. Ross. “[For example,] hot flashes and night sweats make the thought of working out and breaking a sweat less desirable.”
If you’re dealing with a ton of menopause-related side effects, they can get in the way of your workouts—and make sticking to a regular exercise routine challenging.
Loss of Bone Mass
During menopause, your body’s production of estrogen slows to a near-halt, which leads to a loss of bone mass and can increase your risk for osteoporosis. Because your bones are more fragile during menopause (especially as menopause progresses), you need to be careful about taking risks at the gym. “If you have any type of bone loss associated with aging and menopause, I would avoid exercises that may increase the risk of falling or create instability,” says Dr. Ross.
How to Make Workouts Work For Fou During Menopause
So, the bad news is that menopause definitely has an impact on your workouts. But, the good news? There’s no reason why your workouts need to stop after menopause starts. In fact, continuing to work out during menopause is one of the best things you can do for your body, your mind, and your overall health. “It’s completely unanimous that there is a long list of benefits from regular exercise. Exercising as little as 30 minutes, three days a week can show immediate health benefits [for women during menopause],” says Dr. Ross.
There are a few ways to change up your routine as your body changes.
Get your cardio on.
If you’re not already rocking cardio on a regular basis, now is a great time to start. “Aerobic exercises such as brisk walking, jogging, bicycling, and swimming are especially helpful for menopausal women,” says Dr. Ross. “These types of activities help with weight loss or allow women to maintain a healthy weight [during menopause.]”
Not only is cardiovascular exercise great for weight management, but it also delivers a potent rush of endorphins, which can be super helpful in fighting menopause-related depression or anxiety. (They don’t call it a “runner’s high” for nothing).
Make your exercises bone-friendly.
As mentioned, women can experience a loss of bone mass during menopause, so exercises that build bone strength are extra important. “Weight-bearing and muscle strengthening exercises build bone. Weight-bearing exercises are those exercises where your feet and legs support your body weight,” says Dr. Ross. “Low impact exercise—such as fast walking, elliptical, and stair stepping machines—not only build muscle and endurance but also build the amount and thickness of the bone.”
Start slow and stay consistent.
You know the old saying “slow and steady wins the race?” Well, that’s never been truer than when talking about working out during menopause. Consistent exercise during menopause is a must if you want to feel your best. But, if you’re not used to working out on the regular, don’t burn yourself out right out of the gate!
“Starting slowly is recommended for menopausal women,” says Dr. Ross. “Getting into a regular routine is the best strategy. Regular exercise improves metabolism, increases heart rate, [and] improves breathing and body temperature all contributing to a better blood circulation strengthening the heart. Regular exercise also improves your energy, mood, and emotional stability.”