How should I exercise through the menopause?
Updated: Mar 26
Weight gain is not an inevitable consequence of the menopause but you will probably find you have to work harder at controlling your weight during this time. Declining oestrogen levels trigger a change in body shape – fat starts to accumulate around your middle rather than on your hips and bum.
Our weight is a reflection of the balance between what we consume (in food and drink) – ‘energy input’ – and what we expend through our ‘energy output’. Small changes in eating habits will certainly help reduce your ‘energy input’ as you go through the menopause but at this moment we are looking at the ‘energy output’ side.
Your ‘energy output’ is:
Your resting metabolic rate – RMR – energy needed just to maintain your bodily function which you would use even if you lay in bed all day. This accounts for 50–75%
Day to day activity level – depends on the level of general movement and exercise each day. This accounts for 25–50%
Your resting metabolic rate decreases with age but with a regular and frequent exercise regime it won’t drop as far as if you did no exercise. In addition, by doing regular exercise, you also increase your energy output for that day and, if that exercise increases the size of your muscles, then this increases your resting metabolic rate too – so by exercising you can have up to a triple effect on your energy balance!
It only takes a small change in our energy balance for our weight to start climbing or falling. Whilst it’s important to come to terms with the fact that your body shape will change with age, it’s worth not letting it get out of hand. If you do find your weight creeping up, the sooner you do something about it – with diet and regular exercise – the better!
To improve your RMR, you need to exercise at the right intensity using your heart rate and your age as a guide.
Now you know the heart rate you want to achieve, the best way to do this is through using a heart rate monitor as you exercise. Stepometer and Pedometers are motivating too.
You should try and include at least three but preferably five sessions each week – two or more focusing on cardiovascular exercise (that gets you into a sweat) and one or two of weight training, of at least 30 minutes duration.
Remember, if fat burning is what you want from your exercise then this is achieved after 45 minutes of continuous moderate exercise but, if you haven’t exercised for a while, be sure to build up slowly.
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