If you’re a woman over 45, or if you’re experiencing perimenopause symptoms, I recommend making sure that your weekly exercise programme has certain key components.

You don’t have a weekly exercise programme?

Now is a brilliant time to start one! This programme doesn’t look that different from the programme I’d recommend for every woman – but as we enter the perimenopause and menopause years, we benefit more than ever from vigilantly looking after ourselves. In short, we can no longer get away with the things we could get away with in our thirties!

Why is exercise so important in the peri- and menopause years?

With a bit of luck you’ve still got at least 30 years left. You want them to be quality years, not years stuck in a chair or being worried about falling. 

When we’re 80, 90 or 100, we want to be strong and fit enough to do the things we love, whether it’s keeping up with family, hillwalking, gardening, sea swimming or simply being able to go to the toilet without assistance. Now more than ever, it’s a case of use it or lose it.

Exercise can bring joy. Exercise can help us avoid injuries (fractures or frozen shoulders, anyone?) Movement is life – moving helps with almost everything from mental health to constipation to obesity.

The three biggest midlife exercise mistakes

  1. Moving less as you get older. Yes, midlife can bring limitations, such as pelvic floor weakness or reduced mobility, but there are ways to improve these things – or ways to work around them. 
  2. Relying entirely on easy workouts. If you can run 5k without too much trouble, that’s great. But what doesn’t challenge you doesn’t change you. If every workout is a not-too-hard workout, it’s going to be of limited value.
  3. Running marathons. Honestly, long, steady-state cardio is not your best friend in midlife. It puts a lot of stress on the body and can leave you depleted, tired, and more likely to carry weight around your middle. Now is the time for the short and sweet workouts – and by ‘sweet’ I mean INTENSE.

What have I done this week to…?

This is the phrase I use when I look at my weekly exercise programme. I want to tick all of the following boxes so that my body is well nourished when it comes to exercise.

  • What have I done this week to train my strength?

We all lose between 3% and 5% of our muscle mass every decade over the age of 50. Menopause accelerates muscle loss, which leads to reduced balance, reduced strength and increased likelihood of fractures. Strength training doesn’t have to be weightlifting (although that’s great too) – it can be bodyweight or resistance bands, at home or in the gym or a class environment. I’m thinking of an exercise you can do for a maximum of 5 repetitions and then you REALLY need to rest for 1-2 minutes – not the kind of exercise you can do for two minutes without batting an eyelid.

  • What have I done this week to mobilise and limber up?

Do you groan when you need to stand up because your joints are stiff? That’s loss of mobility. The hotspots for midlife stiffness are the shoulders, upper back, pelvis & lower back and feet & ankles. Some yoga classes are great for working on this, as are range-of-movement exercises and stretches you can do while watching TV (should you have time to watch TV).

  • What have I done this week to rest, restore and be mindful?

This can be nature walking, breathing exercises, self-massage routines, some yoga classes – think of things that make you go ‘ahhhhh’. Massage and mindfulness are also great for this.

  • What have I done this week to hit my lactate threshold?

Lactate threshold is the point at which you’re sweaty, out of breath and ‘feeling the burn’ – not shying away from the burn but embracing it for 10-20 seconds. Ideally you’ll do this once per week – a short high intensity session or a tabata are great. This gives you a short burst of adrenaline and the accompanying boost in Human Growth Hormone. Recovery after this sort of session is essential – the day after should definitely be an easy nature walk or gentle stretching.

  • What have I done this week to make me happy?

Can your exercise routine make you feel joy? Can you be part of a community, feel connected and sociable? Or does solitude bring you more joy? Happiness is vital to good ageing, and part of this life stage is ditching the things that make you miserable.

  • What have I done to add impact?

Although it’s not suitable for anyone with injury problems, impact (jumping, skipping, bouncing) is great for bone health. If your usual choices are rowing or swimming or cycling, can you build in some impact? It could be in your high-intensity interval training.

  • What have I done to keep myself vital?

Vitality is the often-overlooked aspect of healthy ageing – we want to stay sharp, resilient, unafraid, and definitely not doddery! This is about being able to move quickly when needed – to avoid, to catch, to respond. It’s about challenging all the senses and can look like sport, or like play. 

For a stronger menopause and a third age filled with vitality and joy, make sure you’re taking good care of yourself and building a great weekly routine. 

Interested in building a brilliant exercise routine every week?

I offer personal training sessions to build you the ideal weekly programme, whatever your current fitness level. If the idea of gym workouts is not your thing, we can build something you can do at home. Why not book a Clarity Call with me to see how we can work together?

Elspeth Alexandra - Women's Health Coach in Edinburgh

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