Menopause and exercise: Can I win the weight battle during lockdown?

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Menopause and exercise is something I’ve talked about many times – okay, loads. But when I stepped on the scales this week, I realised one thing: I’m such a hypocrite.

You see, I know all the benefits of working out and I also know how good it makes me feel. I love the feeling of running for a couple of hours or stretching out in a deep down dog.

So why haven’t I done any throughout lockdown?

Well, that’s not true. I’ve done the odd bit every now and then – and then rewarded myself with a couple of glasses of wine. Because of course doing the first day of C25K burns up all those calories…

But on Sunday, I pulled on my favourite skinny jeans and noticed something I haven’t seen for a while: a roll over the top.

Lockdown lard

Lockdown has made exercise more difficult for someone like me, who was never that much of a gym bunny in the first place. I hated exercise at school – I was the overweight girl who came last at everything. Even the PE teachers gave up on me.

Added to that, I have been “treating” myself because life is so miserable right now with Covid. Cheesecake on special offer at the supermarket for after dinner, some nice chocolate, a glass of wine or three at night – every night…

Gradually, my weight has crept up until I’m now a stone over my happy weight and parts of my body jiggle that really shouldn’t. Menopause and exercise is something I talk about – over a bag of crisps!

So, after rolling off my skinnies, I have decided to do something about it.

Menopause and exercise: Why it matters

Exercise offers a load of benefits to menopausal women, including:

  • Preventing weight gain Exercise can cause a calorie deficit which can help prevent the middle-aged spread so many of us can experience at this time. I know for me, moving more and eating better was the easiest way I found of losing weight and it’s only by stopping this that I’ve put weight on.
  • Increased heart health Working out is one of the most effective ways of strengthening your heart and helping your cholesterol. Falling hormone levels mean we lose the protection oestrogen gives us in warding off “bad” cholesterol (LDL). Exercise builds up levels of “good” cholesterol (HDL)
  • Increase bone mass Exercise, especially weight-bearing exercise, can slow bone loss, lowering the risk of fractures and osteoporosis that come with the loss of oestrogen (you can find out more about oestrogen and what it does to our bodies here).
  • Helping your mood I don’t get a high after exercise that many report, but I do feel better all round. It’s just a great way to reduce our stress levels.
  • Reducing hot flushes Studies suggest that exercise can reduce the severity of hot flushes and night sweats by helping our body temperature regulate itself.

What exercise is best for menopause?

No exercise will help if you don’t enjoy it – because you’re not going to keep doing something you enjoy. So the best exercise is the one you like and will stick to!

menopause and exercise
Me… Before!

When it comes to menopause and exercise, these have added bonuses:

  • Strength training Weight-bearing exercise has so many benefits at this time. Muscle burns more calories than fat, so it can help with your weight. Plus it helps protect your bones, too. And relax, it doesn’t have to mean hitting the gym – dancing, climbing stairs, hill walking and gardening all count as strength training, says the NHS.
  • Yoga I’ve written about the benefits of yoga many times and it continues to be an exercise that I love and go back to. It stretches my tight bones and muscles, relaxes me and gives me a sense of peace that is often missing in menopause. Studies have also shown it can help with the psychological and physical symptoms of menopause.
  • Cardio Aerobic exercises that get your heart pumping and your lungs working are great for menopause symptoms. This can be Rosemary Conley workouts (still love them!), brisk walking, jogging, cycling, Zumba… Don’t go overboard, however, and start off small.
  • Balance moves As we get older, our posture goes and this can affect our stability, so balancing and slow-moving exercise can help as much as a HIIT workout. Try Tai-Chi to help focus and concentration, while building up balance and muscle co-ordination.

How often should you exercise?

Women under 65 should aim to do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio a week and strength training at least two times a week.

It is so important to do a rest day, too. Don’t be tempted to keep going seven days a week as your body needs to recover in order to get stronger.

And start off small. My favourite yoga guru Chaz Rough always says: “Leave your ego at the door.” The only person you’re in competition with is yourself and as long as you see an improvement, it doesn’t matter if you’re first or last.

So what am I doing?

First of all, the last time I wrote about my weight I had a couple of trolls say I wasn’t “body positive”. But If body positivity is about anything, it’s about loving your body – and I do. I’ve watched my muscles interact during exercise sessions and it’s wonderful. A true miracle.

I love my body so much that I want to look after it and my lifestyle isn’t doing that at the moment. I want to live a ripe old age and I will do everything possible and science has repeatedly shown that being at a healthy weight is one of the best ways to do this.

Which is why I’m cutting down and eating better, rather than “dieting”. And I’m as surprised as anyone that I’m suggesting Joe Wicks! Mr 50Sense picked up the Joe Wicks 30 Day Kick Start Plan and we love it. We’ve tried two recipes – pork chop with grilled peach, mozzarella and watercress and sausage, fennel and chilli rigatoni – and they were delicious.

I’m also having more for breakfast. Usually, it’s a couple of slices of toast to watch the calories followed by lots of snacks. Lots. Of. Snacks. So now I’m having overnight oats with yoghurt and berries and my calorific snacking has stopped.

Of course, I’m also exercising. To be honest, menopause and exercise should be things that go together! I started on Monday, with this:

30 Minute Beginner Weight Training for Beginners - Home Strength Training Full Body Dumbbell Workout

It’s now Wednesday, and my muscles are aching!!! My legs are knacking, so I’m going to work on my upper arms today. I plan to start running again, too. Good old C25K again…

And to hold myself accountable, I’m going to post monthly updates – hence the photos! My plan is to feel better – physically and emotionally – by summer.

Wish me luck!

What advice would you give about menopause and exercise? Let me know in the comments below.

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