Here’s my five tips for exercise during perimenopause and beyond.
1: Stop before you can’t smile anymore!
It’s important to stick with a level of intensity and duration that you’re used to, or even ease it back a little. Your body is coping with a lot right now. You may find your recovery time is lengthening. At any time when the body has more demands placed on it (pregnancy, infection, chronic inflammation, chronic stress, perimenopause), the medical community advises that we don’t take on new diets or intense exercise regimes.
This is because exercise causes a release of one of the stress hormones, cortisol, and more so if you push to a new level of intensity. Already elevated in mid-life, it gets very difficult reduce cortisol to levels that are healthy for our body.
I can help you understand why this affects weight gain in ways you might not expect.
2: Mix it up.
Our bodies need a lot of different movements to stay healthy:
- Our joints and fascia (which helps stop bits of our body from sticking to other bits) respond well to flowing movements like swimming, dancing and somatic-style yoga
- We also need to work on muscular strength and bone density via things like pilates, a weights programme, or stronger yoga
- It’s important to keep our heart health in mind. Things like running, or walking, preferably on varying terrain (Find a hill and hike up it!), will help vary heartrate.
- Our brain health may suffer if we don’t get outside, so don’t limit your exercise to the gym or yoga studio. Though yoga is great for our brains too…
3: Let your body make the decisions
During perimenopause you will find that each day you can feel very different. We can get exhausted at unexpected moments, and filled with energy at others. Your body is also more vulnerable to chronic inflammation if you get injured, and more prone to fatigue if you overdo it. You may also find you have a bit more pain at this time.
Let go of that workout programme… It’s a time to work WITH your body, until it re-finds balance and becomes a little more robust and predictable again.
Really tune in and listen. If you set out for a run for example, be open to the possibility that, after a few minutes, your body may decide that a brisk walk may serve it better that day.
4: Rest after exercise
In addition to not over-doing it, taking time to chill after every exercise session will help reduce the stress hormone that’s been released, and bring the nervous system back to Rest and Repair setting.
Try strolling gently, or sitting on a park bench breathing deeply for 10 minutes after a run, rather than rushing to get on with your day.
If you have more time, do a little bit of gentle yoga (restorative yoga is amazing for the nervous system) after the gym, or a guided meditation.
You can learn more of the biochemistry of this (if you work in women’s wellness, exercise, or are a yoga teacher) by joining my menopause training
5: Exercise for pleasure not penance.
This is partly a feminist issue! We’ve spent many years seeing our body as the enemy, and used exercise as an atonement for the “sin” of eating a slice of cake. At some point in your menopausal transition it’s my hope that you will wake up one morning thinking “Enough! Who cares how the world thinks I should look or behave!” and you will begin to exercise because you want to, and how you want to!
But there’s another really important reason: doing things that give you pleasure increases the amount and number of feel-good hormones that get released into the body. As well as making you… well… feel good, these hormones have important positive benefits for many areas of our health and wellbeing.
It’s the perfect feel-good cycle for a more positive relationship with exercise, with our bodies, and with our life.
If you’d like to know more about what’s going on in your body from your 40s on, and why these tips are so important, or if you need help learning the many ways a yoga class that’s specific to menopausal needs (like sleep, anxiety, weight gain and more) can help you, get in touch with me.
There’s a lot more about the bio-chemistry of this phase, and how to help your clients in my Certificate in Teaching Yoga for the Stages of Menopause, open to pilates teachers and PTs, massage therapists etc too.