Tried and True Fitness Tips for Women in Menopause
Lorraine C. Ladish, CEO of Viva Fifty, Author, Certified Yoga Teacher
Having been active my entire life, I can attest to the countless benefits of working out. I was a fitness instructor in my twenties and thirties, I’ve been a runner from a young age, and through the years I´ve also enjoyed jazz, modern and ballroom dancing, and yoga. Yoga has proven to be so beneficial to me in midlife that in the past year I became certified as a yoga teacher (RYT500), specializing in the 50+ population.
I´m happy to report that my bone density is excellent given my age, 56-despite my being small-boned and menopausal, all of which are high-risk factors. I credit good genes but also my daily fitness routine. If you´re having trouble getting motivated to work out, think of the improved quality of life you will enjoy when you get moving on a regular basis.
The benefits of exercise in midlife women
Exercise is beneficial not only to prevent weight gain associated with menopause, but also to improve your cardiovascular health and uplift your mood. Women tend to lose more bone mass after menopause due to lower levels of estrogen. Getting active, especially with weight-bearing physical activities like running or dancing help build and strengthen your bones.1
This time of the year is great to take stock of our current wellness routine and start thinking of what lifestyle improvements we want to make in the new year. I hope to inspire you to take up an exercise routine if you aren’t on one already, and to continue to challenge yourself if you are already a sports enthusiast.
The following are some activities you can get started on today. Keep in mind that the hardest part is overcoming the initial muscle soreness if you now lead a sedentary life. Once you’ve pushed past that, working out becomes less of a chore and, as your body becomes more conditioned, you will experience a mind shift. Eventually, there will be a time when you can actually enjoy exercising and reap the emotional, mental and physical benefits without discomfort.
Please remember to check with your physician before you take on any kind of fitness routine.
Simple fitness activities that benefit women in midlife
RUNNING OR WALKING
Walking is one of the simplest, most accessible weight-bearing and cardiovascular activities around. I like to define running as anything faster than walking. A gentle jog is great too. Forget about speed and focus on endurance. I find it easier to focus on walking or running for a certain amount of time instead of concentrating on distance.
Twenty minutes to half an hour at a time is ideal, but if you need to break it up into several fifteen minute sessions, that works too. The point is to get started and then simply keep up the good work.
To make it more enjoyable, listen to your favorite music, walk your dog, or enlist the help of a buddy or the company of a group of women who could also benefit from this simple, yet effective activity.
Simply slapping on some light wrist weights can help build strength in your upper body. Be cautious if you have osteopenia or osteoporosis. The best way to build strength, however, is lifting and supporting your own body weight. Traditional push-ups are extremely effective. Keep in mind that you should start the push-ups at your current level of fitness.
Maybe you need to do them standing up at first, holding on to exercise equipment designed for this. You could transition to using a bench, and then go down to the floor with your knees on the ground. And, finally, perhaps attempt traditional push-ups with straight legs.
I like to remind students that it doesn’t matter what your version of a push-up, or any other exercise, looks like. What matters is how your body feels doing it. And if you’re challenged enough standing up, keep it that way until you’re strong enough to take it up to the next level.
LEG AND ARM EXTENSIONS ON ALL FOURS
The core is like a girdle and is composed of the abs, transverse abs, back muscles, even the glutes and pelvic floor. The push-ups mentioned above are fabulous core-strengtheners. You can also practice arm and opposite-leg extensions on all-fours, with or without wrist weights.
Make sure you’re thinking of bringing the navel towards the spine (thankfully it’s never actually going to touch, but that thought will help you with proper form). Your shoulders should be right above your hands and your hips right above the knees. Start out only by extending one leg at a time, making sure you are engaging abs, back and glutes. Then reach one arm forward at a time, relaxing the neck and engaging the upper body and the core.
Finally put it all together and reach one arm forward as you extend the opposite leg back. Hold it for a few breaths, for as long as you can without losing proper form. Relax, and then repeat on the other side.
MODIFIED BOAT POSE
This is also a great core strengthener. Make sure that your back is straight, your neck is relaxed, and your chest is reaching towards the ceiling or the sky. You could start by raising only your legs, holding your upper body up with your arms behind your torso. When you are strong enough, then transition to lifting your arms out in front. Breathe in and out of your nose as you think of your navel reaching towards your spine.
Hold this pose for as many counts as you are able to without losing proper form, making sure your shins are parallel to the ground. If you feel you’re starting to round your back and your legs are lowering, gently come out of the pose, rest for a few breaths and then repeat.
Eventually, you may be able to extend your legs as your torso and your legs form a V shape. However, it’s fine if that never happens. As long as you feel your muscles engaging, you can forget about achieving a higher level in your workout. This is the best way to prevent injury as you get stronger.
Keep in mind that consistency over time is key
It’s not about exercising madly for one month out of the year. That is usually a recipe for burnout and can lead to the inability to get back on the exercise bandwagon once you fall off.
It is far more beneficial to exercise, say, three times a week for half an hour for twelve months, year in, year out. Of course daily movement is better, but short workouts done in a consistent manner help the muscles recover and strengthen far more effectively than going all out in January and doing nothing for the next eleven months.
Complement your fitness routine with dietary supplements
I completed a 12-week trial of EQUELLE as an option to help alleviate the frequency of hot flashes associated with menopause.† I am happy to report that after a few weeks of taking EQUELLE, I noticed that my hot flashes at night were not as frequent. Before that I usually had to get out of bed at least once a night to change and even put a towel underneath me. I’d say the frequency is down from four to five nights a week to two or three. That’s a big improvement. The active ingredient in EQUELLE is S-equol, which is naturally derived from a plant compound. It is a non-hormonal‡ dietary supplement that can help women feel their best. Supplementing my diet with EQUELLE, in addition to a consistent workout routine has made me feel my best during menopause.
- Mayo Clinic. “Exercise with Osteoporosis: Stay Active the Safe Way” 2019
Accessed on October 23, 2019.
†This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
‡Free from human or animal hormones. Contains trace amounts of isoflavones, a type of naturally occurring plant hormone.