If you are like me and have read lots of articles, attended training and watched loads of YouTube videos in your mission to find out how to keep the vast majority of symptoms that come with the peri-menopause at bay, you will have read that any physical activity is helpful. Of course in general speaking physical activity at any age is beneficial and for women during midlife exercising carries additional substantial health benefits. The menopausal transition is associated with many health risk factors like e.g. the increased risk for cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, decreased bone mineral density, metabolic syndrome, and musculoskeletal symptoms. Exercise prescriptions for those health risks are the same as for non-menopausal women.
However research suggest in fact, some forms of exercise can exacerbate certain types of symptoms such as hot flashes or insomnia.
Considering this it is important to choose the type of exercise depending our symptoms that we are experiencing.
But how would we know which exercise is best for us? Well, first of all you should identify the symptom that is bothering you most. Ignore the articles that tell you to just work out more and everything will be okay. There is nothing “average” or “general” about menopause symptoms. Each and everyone of us is experience the transition differently and that also means that all physical activity shouldn't be the same for every women. Actually there is scientific evidence that shows that certain exercises have specific benefits on specific symptoms.
Often only the benefits of exercise are highlighted but it is important to know that exercise can also be stressful on the body.
Research has shown that too much exercise or too high intensity can result in:
Decrease sleep quality and length, which in turn is correlated with adverse physiological and psychological outcomes
Increase circulating cortisol levels, which can lead to increased abdominal fat, this is also the reason why we should keep exercising time to max. 40 min.
Have negative effects on thermoregulation as it causes substantial increases in metabolic heat production and core temperature
During exercise, metabolic heat production can increase by ten to twenty-fold and recent studies suggest that hot flashes are triggered by small elevations in core body temperature
These findings suggest that for menopausal women, moderate-intensity appears to have the most benefits
Highest menopause-specific quality of life
Lowest number of symptoms
Increased sleep, energy, confidence, mood
But what does that mean for you and your exercise regime. Some guidelines for exercise can can with your symptoms but also increase quality of life throughout your transition.
What are the best type of exercise?
Endurance/aerobic training best for increased sleep
Strength training for body image, strength, body aches and bone density
Yoga for vasomotor (VMS) symptoms and overall menopause-specific quality of life (Hatha yoga for cognitive function (memory, concentration))
Walking at ~3-3.5 mph for anxiety and depression
How long and how intense can the I exercise?
Moderate Intensity is preferable (60-70% Target HR)
Min. 3 x week (more days = decreased severity of symptoms)