perimenopause exercise

The Dos and Don’t of Exercise in Perimenopause

Exercise has always been a cornerstone of health, but it takes on a special importance during perimenopause, a transformative period in a woman’s life. This stage, marking the gradual shift towards menopause, often brings a host of symptoms – from hot flashes to disrupted sleep and menstrual cycle changes – courtesy of hormonal upheavals. So during perimenopause, getting regular exercise is more than just a healthy choice; it’s an important strategy to help alleviate some of your symptoms and safeguard your overall health.

Incorporating regular physical activity into your routine can help alleviate some perimenopausal symptoms while also providing long-term health benefits, like improved cardiovascular health, stronger bones, and enhanced mood. However, the high-octane workouts of our 20s and 30s – those hours of pulsating cardio and high-impact aerobics – may no longer resonate with you. It’s likely that in your 40s and 50s, you’ll need to reimagine your fitness routine to match the needs of your perimenopausal body.

Choosing the right type of exercises as we age, can make a huge difference in how we feel during this stage of life. It’s about finding activities that not only bring you joy but also align with your fitness level, ensuring that you can maintain a consistent and enjoyable exercise routine. Whether it’s engaging in low-impact cardio, embracing strength training, or exploring flexibility exercises, the goal is to strike a balance. This balance should be one that feels right for your body and lifestyle, helping you to maximize the benefits of exercise during perimenopause.

Why Exercise is Important During Perimenopause

Why is exercise so important during perimenopause? Because your body undergoes significant hormonal changes, like fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone. And these altered hormone levels can lead to a variety of symptoms such as weight gain, altered body composition, fatigue, mood swings, and hot flashes. Exercise is an amazing tool you can use to help manage these changes:

  • Weight Management: With the decline in estrogen, you may experience an increase in body fat, especially around your belly. Regular physical activity helps you to maintain a healthy weight and combat weight gain by burning calories and increasing muscle mass. Muscles burn more calories than fat!
  • Hormonal Balance: While you can’t stop the natural decline of your reproductive hormones, staying active supports overall hormone health. Did you know that exercise can help mitigate hot flashes by improving your body’s temperature regulation?
  • Mental Health: Fluctuating hormones may also influence your mood. It’s been proven that when you exercise your body releases your ‘feel good’ hormones like dopamine and serotonin. 
  • Bone Health: As we age and estrogen production drops, our bone density also drops.  Weight-bearing exercises can help slow down bone loss and prevent osteoporosis.
  • Energy Levels: Exercise boosts stamina and energy levels. So if you’re feeling tired, get out and move.

Remember, it’s important to choose exercises you enjoy and can stick with long-term. Whether it be brisk walking, swimming, or cycling, consistency is key.  There are tons of options, and you don’t have to go at it alone. You can find hours and hours of workout videos online that are specifically designed for perimenopausal and postmenopausal women

Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, along with muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days per week. Before starting any new exercise program, consult your healthcare provider, especially if you have any concerns or existing health conditions.

The Benefits of Exercise in Perimenopause

Regular exercise during perimenopause can be a huge support in helping you to manage symptoms, like:

  1. Hot Flashes and Mood Swings: Physical activity can be surprisingly effective in tempering the frequency and intensity of hot flashes. It can also support your emotional well-being, offering a nurturing touch to mood swings. and fostering a sense of emotional balance.

  2. Hormonal Balance: While exercise isn’t a direct substitute for hormonal therapy, it can positively affect your hormonal environment. Moderate physical activity can help in managing estrogen levels, offering some equilibrium in the midst of hormonal changes.

  3. Weight Management: Many women face weight gain during perimenopause due to changes in metabolism. A combination of aerobic and strength exercises can be effective in maintaining or improving body composition, addressing weight concerns in a healthy way.

  4. Fatigue: Despite common experiences of fatigue, staying active can actually enhance energy levels. Regular exercise improves cardiovascular health and increases stamina, helping you feel more energized throughout the day.

  5. Bone Health: Lower estrogen levels during perimenopause can impact bone density. Engaging in weight-bearing and resistance training exercises is vital for maintaining bone strength and health.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Exercise in Perimenopause

In perimenopause, it’s a time to nurture muscle mass, bone health, and hormonal equilibrium, all while gently respecting your body’s limits. So remember:

Do: Embrace Resistance Training 

Incorporate resistance training, using weights or bands or even just your body weight. This type of exercise can help in maintaining muscle mass, which is crucial for a healthy weight and regulation of blood sugar levels, reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes. Beyond muscles, strength training also supports your bone density. Helping to fend off bone loss and decrease fracture risks and osteoporosis. Focus on the strength of your legs, glutes, and core.

Don’t: Overdo Cardio

While cardio exercises like jogging or swimming are beneficial for cardiovascular health, overdoing them can increase cortisol levels, leading to increased stress. Strive for balance with moderate activities like brisk walking.

Don’t: Forget to Move Everyday 

Daily physical activity—no matter how light—can significantly improve your mood and relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression. Regular movement, even casual walking with a friend, can contribute positively to your mental health and sleep patterns.

Do: Stretch Often

Frequent stretching keeps the muscles flexible, boosts circulation, and can alleviate muscle tension. This simple form of physical activity can also be a form of mindfulness and meditation which helps in stress reduction.

Do: Exercises to Promote Flexibility and Balance

Incorporate exercises like yoga or Pilates that enhance flexibility and your balance. These types of exercises can decrease the risk of falls and improve your overall fitness.

Don’t: Overdo It 

Rest days are crucial. They allow for muscle recovery and help prevent injuries, allowing your body to heal and adapt. 

Don’t: HIIT  It Often

While effective, HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) shouldn’t dominate your exercise regimen. High-intensity workouts can strain your system, so it’s best to limit these so you’re not spiking cortisol and exacerbating hormonal imbalances.

Do: Give Yoga a Try

Yoga is a beautiful blend of physical activity with stress relief and can help manage menopausal symptoms like hot flashes. It also fosters strength, flexibility, and mindfulness, all beneficial during perimenopause.

Don’t: Forget to Breathe

Incorporate breathing exercises into your fitness routine for a calming effect. Deep, controlled breaths enhance any workout, improving oxygen flow and reducing blood pressure.

Do: Change It Up

Avoid exercise ruts by varying your routine—mix resistance training, yoga, walking, and other activities. This not only keeps it interesting but also challenges different muscle groups and systems in your body.

Don’t: Forget Pelvic Floor Exercises

Regularly perform pelvic floor exercises to maintain strength in the pelvic area. These are critical to prevent incontinence, which can become a problem as estrogen levels change during perimenopause.