Exercise your way through menopause

The more I learn about the benefits of exercise during the perimenopause, the more committed I am to finding 30 mins (or more when I have chance!) a day for some sort of sport or exercise.

I know how much happier I feel for it and I am starting to realise how it can help, physically, emotionally, mentally and socially.

I’m absolutely no super athlete, I’m unlikely to ever enter, never mind win a race, and my interest in sport has waxed and waned over the years. By the time I reached my late 40s, it was down to it swimming on holiday and long walks with my sons at the weekend, when I could bribe them to join me.

Three years ago, when I was sleeping badly and feeling anxious and frazzled- both symptoms of perimenopause – a friend recommended indoor rowing. Within a couple of weeks I was sleeping through the night again and life seemed so much brighter.

I went on to row a million metres across 200 days and a marathon, 26.2 miles, five days before my 50th birthday, raising over £10,000 for MacMillan Cancer Support in memory of my Mum.

Energised by this new lease of life, I founded a website dedicated to sharing stories of women in their 50s who love all sorts of sports, from ballet to cycling, yoga to powerlifting, endurance running to open-water swimming.

I receive daily emails talking about the benefits of exercise for menopausal symptoms. From alleviating hot flushes (yoga is great apparently) to guarding against osteoporosis, something my Mum had – it’s important to include weight bearing exercise such as running, lifting, walking or dance – experts agree exercise is hugely beneficial during and post the menopause.

For me personally, the greatest benefits focus on four things: sleep; mood enhancement and stress relief; new goals; and friendship and community.

Sleep. Many women going through the menopause talk about either finding it difficult to go to sleep or waking at 4am, their head full of worries. As an overthinker, this is a pattern I can easily fall into. Exercising, whether I’m swimming, indoor rowing, zipping around on my bike in the Dales or practising my yoga poses (something very new to me), helps me sleep. And a good night’s sleep sets me up for the day ahead and all that I need to juggle as a mother, daughter, colleague, sister and friend. It’s the bedrock of my energy and happiness.

Stress busting. The menopause hits us at a time in our lives when we are often the most pressed and stressed. Like many women, I’m part of the Sandwich Generation. We are still caring for teenage children but also supporting ageing or unwell parents, alongside going out to work and looking after our homes. Sometimes this can be overwhelming.

On the days I carve out time, even in bursts of 15 mins for a brisk walk in the fresh air or on the rowing machine, my stress levels are always lowered and I simply feel more confident about my to-do list.

New goals. In our 50s, as children leave home for university, careers or their own adventures, it’s easy to feel a little lost and sense we are no longer needed as much as we were.

Sport is a wonderful way to set new goals and revisit dreams we put on hold as our families grew. Many of the women who share their story with me talk of finding themselves again having taken up a new exercise class, setting bigger challenges or even reinventing themselves with new careers as fitness instructors. A new sporting goal has a wonderful of carrying us through the doubts and anxieties the menopause creates, physically and emotionally.

Friendship and community. For me, one of the joys of the website is the women I meet and the chance to share, support and celebrate their dreams and achievements. Sometimes this is done virtually through social media and sometimes I’ve been lucky enough to meet in person for a swim, bike ride or dinner! Some of the women have set up their own women-only cycling or running groups. They are finding happiness in shared achievement – a 100km cycle, a new ballet performance, or simply going for a swim, walk or run together.

The menopause marks a physical change in who and where we are in our life’s journey, and comes at a time when our social and family life changes. The friendship and community that sport gives us through this time is huge.  We have people to talk to, dreams and worries to share, a sense that we aren’t alone.

Jo Moseley

About Jo Moseley

I live with my teenage sons on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales. I enjoy working for a Structural Engineering company. If I'm not on the rowing machine, I love swimming, in the pool, lido or openwater, and walking in the Dales or Yorkshire coast. I'm a member of the Women's Institute and I also love cooking and reading. I've recently taken up stand-up paddleboarding and running the #Couchto5K and I'm enjoying running for the first time ever! I also set myself a challenge in September 2016 to exercise 30 minutes a day in the fresh air for a year #RainOrShine30 and it's going well! Visit my website Healthy Happy 50 or follow me on Twitter @OneHappyRower.

  • Bridgette Hamilton

    What a lovely article Jo. As a woman in my early 50’s who has ‘waxed an waned’ as you put it!…in my relationship with exercise over the years…I bought a bicycle 2 years ago, which I use very regularly for short circuits round the neighbourhood and longer runs too when I can carve the time out my week… and really cemented my love of climbing big hills too, (just for the sake of it!)…the benefits are just huge. I think when we’re younger we tend to exercise more for purely keeping the weight down and reasons related to self image and body consciousness… Not necessarily a bad thing on it’s own, but it doesn’t bode well for long term commitment…Now, though as I get older, it’s my therapy. I absolutely couldn’t do without it, and get very mardy if I have to! I’m probably stronger and more agile than I’ve ever been and feel a million dollars…PLUS all the health benefits you have already mentioned in your article! I wish more of us would realise we don’t just need to to do it for vanity reasons, but for the joy of it! Which is why if you find an exercise that fits, that you love, you’ll not want to give it up…that will be motivation enough at the end of the day.

    Just wanted to say I love your website, and what you’re doing to inspire women by the way…well done! 🙂

  • Great article, Jo and all so true! I’m not as energetic as you but am doing some exercise every day – last week I swam, hiked, pilated, went to the gym and danced the night away (at a party, not zumba!) I definitely feel healthier, more supple and maybe even a little more toned. My motivation is to fend off old age for as long as possible!