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From hot flashes to high intensity: Navigating exercise and menopause

Whether we’re dreading the day we are officially welcomed to the club or embracing it with ease, menopause is one of the most significant milestones in a woman's life. The transition marks the end of decades of reproductive years and comes with substantial challenges, from hot flashes and hormone fluctuations to insomnia and fatigue. 

As uncomfortable as these changes can be, we aren’t helpless. There are ways to manage them and make it easier for us to live happy, healthy lives. 

A great place to start is with movement. Exercise can significantly improve symptoms of menopause while providing several other added health-related benefits, including:

  • Improved metabolism

  • Increased mobility

  • Better heart health 

  • Increased muscle mass

To help you feel more comfortable navigating this transition period, let’s explore a bit more about perimenopause and menopause and how movement can help you keep those symptoms under control. Let’s get started.

Discover tips on how to use exercise to alleviate menopausal symptoms.

Understanding perimenopause and menopause 

First, let’s take a moment to understand the physical and emotional changes that often come with this life transition. 

Perimenopause: Symptoms and causes

Perimenopause is a prelude to menopause. It signals the beginning of the end of a woman’s reproductive years, typically around the mid-40s.

During this time, your ovaries will begin to produce less estrogen as you prepare to stop releasing eggs. As estrogen levels drop, it affects another hormone created by the ovaries called progesterone. This phase is often marked by fluctuating hormone levels.

While the average length of perimenopause is four years, it may last much longer than that or just a few months. 

Symptoms can include:

  • Irregular periods, as well as blood clots or spotting 

  • Hot flashes

  • Changes in mood (Irritability, mood swings, depression, anxiety) 

  • Insomnia and sleep problems

  • More frequent urination

  • Vaginal dryness

  • Discomfort during intercourse

Menopause: Symptoms and causes

After going without a period for 12 consecutive months, a woman officially moves on to menopause around her early 50s. At this stage, the ovaries no longer produce eggs or much estrogen. 

So, what does this mean? Well, symptoms experienced during perimenopause will likely continue or fluctuate as your body attempts to adjust to ongoing changes in your hormones. Some women may seek out menopausal hormone therapy to ease symptoms, but this is not recommended for everyone as it comes with several risks. 

The safest, most effective way to deal with menopausal changes is to focus on your holistic health through diet, exercise, community support, and prescription medication when advised.  

Exercise and menopause

If it seems like exercise is recommended for just about every health ailment, it’s because movement is one of the greatest tools for our health. It reduces stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, creates endorphins —AKA happy hormones—and can even relieve symptoms caused by menopause. 

One recent study involving 305 middle-aged women found that those who participated in regular physical activity experienced less severe menopausal symptoms than inactive women. 

Some additional benefits of exercising during menopause include:

  • Increased cardiorespiratory function: Supports metabolism and reduces the risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes.

  • Increased bone mass Offsets the decline of bone density, supporting your body against osteoporosis and injuries from falling, as well as improving mobility. 

  • Reduced back pain

Types of workouts for menopause

Another recent study found that moderate physical activity is particularly useful in reducing menopausal symptoms, even more so than high levels of activity. This is another excellent, science-backed reminder that the healthiest thing you can do for yourself is integrate movement into your life sustainably. 

Here are a few workouts for menopause ideas:

  • Low-impact strength training

  • Yoga and stretching 

  • Barre

  • Aerobic exercise 

  • Pelvic floor work

Tips for working out during menopause

  •  Consult with your doctor

Everyone’s journey through menopause is different, and it’s important to adjust your lifestyle and workout plans to fit your unique needs. Chat with your doctor to see if there are any areas they believe you should modify exercises to avoid doing more harm than good.

  • Start slow and build

Think about movement as a long-term commitment. Rather than diving in headfirst with super-high-intensity workouts five days a week, try to incorporate exercise gradually to avoid burnout. 

Here are some easy ways to get started:

  • Aim for 8,000-10,000 steps daily 

  • Low-impact strength training 2x a week

  • Group Zumba or cardio class

  • YouTube yoga videos 

  • Weekly runs with a friend

Easing into regular exercise will also allow you to try different types of workouts until you find a good fit.  

  • Modify your workouts as needed

It’s also important to remember that your workouts in your 50s may not look the same as they did in your 20s— and that’s okay. We want to adapt our workout routines to our abilities in every phase of life rather than the other way around. 

For some people, it may be best to avoid high-intensity or high-impact workouts (such as burpees, long-distance running, or box jumping) for mobility reasons or to reduce the risk of injury. For others, these types of exercises might be perfectly fine in moderation. 

When in doubt, consult a doctor or personal trainer. 

  • Find a workout buddy or support group

Humans were made to be in community. Finding one to support you through the fitness side of your menopausal journey can make a big difference both physically and mentally. You’ll feel more motivated if you’re working out with a friend and likely increase your chances of sticking to it. 

Check out our group fitness classes and running community right here in Cincinnati.

  • Listen to your body

Most importantly, remember to tune into what your body is feeling every day because what works for you today might not tomorrow. Exercise is here to enhance your well-being and quality of life, and menopause is an especially delicate time.

Consider factors like:

  • How you are sleeping

  • How you feel after different physical activities

  • What changes you notice in notice in your body after some time

A community of like-minded women

Menopause is not an easy transition for most women. Along with all of the physical changes, we also have to deal with mental challenges that no one except us sees. If you’re experiencing this change now or are prepping to, know there are strategies and people out there to help you manage these struggles. 

Hey, I’m Luan from Sculpt & Glo Fitness. Through group fitness classes and personal training, I help busy moms and women of all life stages gain confidence and find their glo wherever they are on their fitness journeys.

I believe fitness is not a chore, it’s a choice! If you’re ready to take the leap, I’d love to help you realize your fitness goals.

Sign up for my newsletter for updates and promos, and follow along on Instagram and Facebook

If you have more questions about starting your fitness journey, schedule a free consultation call.

Phone: 417-619-0391

Discover tips on how to use exercise to alleviate menopausal symptoms.

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