Why You Should Exercise Your Way Through Menopause

Lady stretching

Leading a sedentary lifestyle is never good for anyone. But if you’re perimenopausal or menopausal, being active can significantly improve your quality of life and ease some symptoms as you go through this transition.

Research-Based Recommendations

In one study, menopausal women who exercised for a year experienced significant improvement in their mental and physical health, while symptoms worsened for women who did not exercise. The exercise program consisted of cardiovascular, stretching, muscle strengthening, and relaxation techniques.

The researchers were so encouraged by the results they said they’d like to see exercise programs offered as part of primary healthcare for menopausal women.

While the jury is out on whether exercise can significantly reduce hot flashes, night sweats, and sleep disturbances, we do know that exercise is particularly helpful in treating mild to moderate depression, which some women experience during menopause.

Weight Gain Doesn’t Have to be Part of Menopause

What’s more, exercise can help you keep your weight under control. Many women think that weight gain during menopause is only associated with hormonal changes, but studies have found that women who are physically active are less likely to gain weight than sedentary women.

Exercise will not only help you burn more calories, it will help combat the natural muscle loss associated with aging. By exercising and building muscle, you’ll increase your metabolism and the rate your body burns calories each day. These factors together help to increase the calories you expend and fight weight gain.

Exercise also will help to prevent abdominal and visceral (inside around your organs) weight gain that’s associated with increased heart disease and diabetes; will lower blood pressure; and will improve your cholesterol levels. And it can help protect your bones, as the years immediately following menopause are normally a time of rapid bone loss.

Cover All Bases with Exercise Variety

In general, you should make sure you exercise your heart (aerobic conditioning), strengthen your muscles (weight training), and stretch for flexibility. Consider activities such as walking, cycling, swimming, weight machines or exercise bands, yoga, or pilates.

As you go through menopause, you lose the cardio protective effect of estrogen, and with that your heart disease risk rapidly increases–equal that of men–reinforcing the need for regular cardiovascular exercise.

Make It Fun

And remember, exercise should be enjoyable. Find ways to exercise that are pleasurable and you can share with friends, such as hiking, tennis, dancing, so you can stay connected while promoting your good health. As always, be sure to check with your doctor before starting any new exercise routine.

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Jennifer M. Payne, MD, CAQSM

Jennifer Payne, MD, CAQSM, is a physician with LG Health Physicians Sports Medicine. Fellowship-trained in sports medicine, Dr. Payne is a consultant for USA Weightlifting and a team physician with Dutchland Rollers.

Education: Medical School—Georgetown University School of Medicine; Residency—Lancaster General Hospital Family Medicine Residency Program; Fellowship—York Hospital Sports Medicine.

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The LG Health Hub features breaking medical news and straightforward advice to help individuals of all ages make healthy choices and reach their wellness goals. The blog puts articles by trusted Lancaster General Health clinical experts, good 'n healthy recipes, videos, patient stories, and health risk assessments at your fingertips.