13 Reasons the Right Exercise Matters More in Menopause

During menopause you’re more susceptible to negative effects of stress. Avoid the wrong exercise (that will worsen stress) and do the right exercise and you can reduce or eliminate symptoms of menopause. There are at least 84 symptoms associated with menopause. This short list of 13 pesky symptoms can be supported by the right exercise.

the right exercise during menopause

Hot Flashes (and Night Sweats)

Hot Flashes are potentially the most well-known and most-associated signs of menopause, affecting approximately 50% of menopausal women. They are a sudden sensation of feverish heat that spreads through your body.

Why they occur for some women and not for others, or why they may happen occasionally or for a time and then be gone, is not clearly understood. Vasomotor control is the reason behind why you might experience them when a girlfriend doesn’t when both your hormones may fluctuate.

Night Sweats are excessive sweat that occur during the night. They can contribute to sleep disruption and daytime fatigue or anxiety. That of course, is not the jackpot you want. Both hot flashes and night sweats are believed in part due to fluctuating or low estrogen levels.

Exercise can help this menopause symptom if it’s the right exercise. 

Women who are more fit, with better body composition, and who exercise with adequate intensity experience up to 62% less frequent and or intense hot flashes. What you need to beware of is your tendency to jump to conclusions about how to reach higher fitness levels. Longer and “more” exercise is not the answer. Due to this fast-paced life and your midlife status, the rules have changed.

In midlife, in 2020 and beyond, if you’re still playing the exercise game according to 1980 rules, you will lose.

Will You?

The variability of progesterone related to amount of estradiol had the greatest correlation with hot flash occurrence in more than one study. Increased progesterone variability was associated with decreased hot flashes. Though there’s not much that can be done to influence the variability in your progesterone levels. However, you can exercise to optimize your natural progesterone. Namely, keep stress (cortisol) in check.

Simply start with a smart plan according to your status right now. (more tips below). Ultimately,  include high intensity intervals at the duration, frequency, and time of day that supports you instead of throwing you under the bus.

Learn how with the After 50 Fitness Formula for Women

Did you know that if the only time you can exercise is late day and you push through high intensity, instead of losing weight you could set off a cascade of events that cause you to gain? The right exercise at the right time of day is a must.

the right exercise during menopause

Fatigue

Fatigue is that sluggish, always-tired feeling doesn’t go away with a good night’s sleep. You feel unproductive, moody and this fatigue can cause what’s known as wired-and-tired feeling. You desperately want to get a good night’s sleep and shake it but can’t. For some women this is like period week fatigue only it doesn’t go away.

Extended periods of fatigue can be signs you’ve just been pushing through, using caffeine or sugar or both to serve you short term. If you rely on external substances too long, that false energy you borrow is going to catch up to you in the end and you will pay back that debt.

If you rely on external substances too long, that false energy you borrow is going to catch up to you in the end and you will pay back that debt.

So, what do you do when menopause fatigue hits and your calendar says HIIT? Or Long run? You rest. You can’t build fitness on a false foundation. Fake it till you make it doesn’t work with your midlife fitness. Plan the work. Work the plan. Override the calendar and rest if your workouts or your sleep, appetite, mood, or digestion is suffering.

An entire chapter in You Still Got It, Girl! Is dedicated to Rest & Recovery. Oh, there are chapters on exercise and on sleep too but Rest & Recovery is something few of us learned to do well. Now? We have to pay attention. (The course is either your first or next step).

The right exercise when you’re fatigued could be no exercise. We need to remember what it’s like to just move more and rest well.

the right exercise during menopause

Low Libido

Libido is your overall sexual drive or desire for sexual activity. It’s influenced by biological, psychological, and social factors. It’s not just that you may feel dry and a lack of interest thanks to hormone shifts. If you’re experiencing fatigue and other menopause symptoms like weight gain and belly fat, you don’t feel sexy or want to be seen or touched.

One of my first Flipping 50 TV episodes was dedicated to low libido and what you can do about it. It’s partially due to changing hormones. But a lot of midlife women don’t realize that the exercise they’re doing (or not doing) is also destroying libido.

The right exercise will boost your testosterone. The wrong exercise kills it and the mood, girlfriend. Simply said, from boardroom to bedroom this hormone is important. Last, exercise that gets your hips moving increases blood flow there and so it’s not all intense. Whether it’s dancing for you or it’s Pilates or Yoga is up to you. 

Make this flip: Stop the endurance exercise and get on the short, intense train. Plus? If your partner snores? You may need to just have play dates together and sleep separately or the libido will keep being a problem. Sleep deprived and sexy don’t belong in the same sentence.

the right exercise during menopause

Sleep Disorders & Insomnia

Sleep disorders & Insomnia are often brought on by night sweats. Anxiety & Depression (below) can also be to blame. If your mind just won’t shut down and quiet when your body is crying for relief from fatigue, there are things you can do. If you think of your symptoms as little messengers something isn’t quite right, it may not just be hormones. Or it may be that your hormones will be helped by some gentle shifts.

It may be a micronutrient deficiency showing up. After all, at midlife, several things may be catching up to you. Have you had a less-than-5-star diet? Are you pretty passionate about your coffee and your wine both? Have you neglected your exercise? Just review your last month and get honest. If “busy” got in the way of you exercising and your regular routine is now a random one, get back on it if only for sleep. Truth is just 10 minutes of exercise can boost sleep by 33% according to a poll by National Sleep Foundation.

It could also be exposure to EMFs (too many screens, electronics) in your lifetime or at least right now. Our bodies weren’t made to handle all of this.

There are about 20 different things you can do (and stop doing) to support sleep. Try them sequentially, not randomly and adjusting until you’ve eliminated each one or find it works is something most of us struggle to do on our own. “I’ve tried everything,” too often means I’ve randomly tried this and that for a while. 

The right exercise to help with sleep depends on how you’re currently sleeping.

Need support? The After 50 Fitness Formula for Women course! Rates increase Sept 1, 2020. Get 2.0 version now at 1.0 rates during the anniversary sale.

The Short List:

Menopause Symptoms Lessened or Eliminated by (Proper) Exercise

  • Hot flashes
  • Fatigue
  • Night Sweats
  • Libido
  • Sleep Disorders
  • Weight Gain
  • Incontinence
  • Muscle Tension
  • Osteoporosis
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Belly fat

the right exercise during menoapause

Weight Gain

If you’ve experienced weight gain, I have good and bad news for you. First, you can do something about it. Second, menopause is not to blame. Hormone fluctuation may have caused sudden weight gain. But often at a deeper level there is some behavior change that either did or needs to happen.

You may, as I did, find yourself in a perfect storm. Everything that happened for me in 2019 put me in a place of toxin exposure (hormone disruption), physical and emotional stress (hormone imbalance x 2), and related time and financial stress (hormone disruption). By the end of the year I’d gained 10 lbs. Now, at first glance, it’s possibly reasonable. However, I was training for an Ironman (that’s 140.2 miles of swimming, biking, and running in a day).

Endurance activity has the potential to throw women in midlife (and others) under the bus with adrenal fatigue and it certainly did me. I’d successfully trained for 7 prior to it, with excellent health (albeit, I modified my protocol intentionally for optimum training as opposed to volume).

During menopause, what you’ve been able to get away with until then, you may not.

Learn more during the anniversary sale for the After 50 Fitness Formula Course.

the right exercise during menopause

Depression & Anxiety

Depression & anxiety are mood disorders more common among women than men. Dropping estrogen can negatively influence production of neurotransmitters (brain hormones) like dopamine and serotonin that regulate mood. Combined declining levels of progesterone and estrogen make it hard to restore happiness after incidence of sadness or anxiety.

During the pandemic if you’ve had a little more struggle with this, though perfectly natural and normal with a decrease in our social connections, as a woman in midlife you may struggle a bit more than you would have going through this say 10 years ago.

What can you do? Mood boosting exercise is a big part. Get outdoors and move and lift weights. Both are associated with increase in serotonin, and reductions in anxiety & depression.

the right exercise during menopause

Belly Fat

Belly fat didn’t make many “common symptom lists.” For over 90% of the women I’ve worked with belly fat is a big complaint, whether or not they’ve gained weight. Fat deposits tend to favor the belly.

There are two types of belly fat, visceral fat and muffin top or the pinch-an-inch type.

Visceral belly fat is internal around your organs. Muffin top is that spare tire, often in front and back for women.

The two types of fat respond to exercise differently. The right exercise for targeting menopausal visceral belly fat is high intensity interval training. Altering exercise to include high intensity intervals a few times a week can be enough. However, the muffin top requires more. You’ve got to do intervals and cut out your extra-curricular carb intake.

Learn more about the right carbs and the right timing of them. Save $50 before rate increase Sept. 1.

the right exercise during menopause

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis and osteopenia (less than optimal but not quite to the 2.5 Standard Deviations from optimal bone that is osteoporosis) are both growing concerns for midlife and older women.

For good reason. Bone loss on average can be between 1-3% of total bone density per year if you’re not doing something about it.[Resistance weight training has the greatest positive influence on bone density. High impact weight bearing exercise is second. The emergence of vibration therapy also contributes to bone density. However, vibrational therapy has to be combined with function stability movement for optimal prevention of falls and fractures.]

During the 3-5 years around a woman’s menopause bone losses can accelerate to 3-5% loss annually.

What’s the answer, or rather, what’s the answer while you’re at home, opting not to go to the gym during the pandemic? At the gym using the leg press, chest press, and seated row for strength will help most to load your hips, wrists, and spine. At home focus on squats, lunges, bent over row and chest press.

For 3 live (and the recordings) workouts register for the After 50 Fitness Formula for Women course (Bonus value: $300). 

You’ve been conditioned to believe any exercise is better than no exercise. During menopause the right exercise for each woman is unique.

the right exercise during menopause

During the After 50 Fitness Formula for Women course Anniversary Sale I’m keeping old rates while you get the New 2.0 updated course PLUS you’ll get 3 live (and then recorded sessions with me, value $300). Rates increase Sept 1. Live sessions begin soon! 

4 thoughts on “13 Reasons the Right Exercise Matters More in Menopause”

  1. Thanks Debra for answering lots of my questions in one post!
    Love the reminder to listen to my body and if I am too tired for Hiit it’s ok to skip it!😉

  2. I’m 61, in good shape, never been overweight. I’m looking for a program that will help me build muscle (not just tone, not mostly cardio based either). I’ve been working out for 35 yrs already but I do have belly fat and love handles (I never had before) plus some menopause symptoms. How does your program differ and can it be customized for building muscle (not just toning and maintaining) ? I’ve spent too much money on other programs that were disappointing. Thank you.

    1. Hi Kimiko, I understand your frustration. The biggest way we’re different is we’re the only membership built for women in menopause and post menopause with programs designed based on research featuring women in menopause as subjects. You’re not a mouse, a mini-man or a 20 something. And, ALL women over 50 are intent on building muscle… or they’re losing it. We’re not a pink dumbbell type of program. You are gaining or you are losing muscle. There’s maintenance that occurs.. but not because you’re not trying to gain. I address the stimulus (the exercise), the building (recovery process) and the injury avoidance (other lifestyles and over all effect of the plan) in an integrated approach. I am a woman flipping 50, and have studied them for 36 years. I’ve got you covered. I have no idea what you tried. Did you ask… “is this program built for me based on science on women like me?” If not, chances are it was set up to fail you.

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