Switch Up Your Exercise This Winter

A woman power walks with weights down a leafy path.

With many of us facing further cutbacks on our energy consumption this winter the timing is perfect for us to switch up our exercise routines to stay warm and ensure we're doing the most appropriate type of exercise for our bodies through menopause.  All forms of exercise are worth doing at any stage of the menopause (although people with joint problems may want to avoid impactful sports like running and some team games) so don't give up an activity or sport you love, just add in some different workouts to achieve a good blend of exercise.

In our younger years we may have avoided weight lifting, certainly with heavy weights, to avoid developing a bulky physique.  As we age past 40, however, we will lose 1-2% of muscle mass per year as part of the ageing process.  This means ideally we need to increase our weight training both in terms of frequency and in actual weight.  Instead of performing many repetitions with light weights, we should aim to complete 8-12 reps of an exercise before feeling that we can't do any more.  This type of weight lifting helps us build muscle, and stimulates bone production in a way that light weights simply cannot.

Lifting weights is definitely a good way to keep warm too, so if you have a log burner or open fire, make sure stacking wood and bringing it indoors is your job.  They say firewood keeps you warm three times, once cutting and chopping, once loading, and once burning.  The more of these activities you can do yourself, the better it is for your body and your energy bills.

Studies indicate that high intensity interval training (HIIT) has been shown to reduce body fat, especially belly fat, in menopausal women, with cycling activities being most effective.  High intensity interval training is great for raising body temperature and getting your heart going, and because you're training your body to recover quickly as well as engage quickly, it is one of the best ways to ensure cardiac health into later life.  If you have an exercise bike gathering dust, try to get in a couple of 10 minute sessions a day, three days a week.  There are lots of online videos and classes you can participate in with your static bike, so you can even enjoy the social aspect of it.

Swimming can be done in an HIIT style; warm up in the slow lane with a few continuous lengths, doing two styles of stroke (if you can) to work more muscles.  Then switch to the next speed of lane and keep up with the faster swimmers.  Eventually you'll be zipping through the water with the fastest of them, but do ensure you take breaks every few lengths to allow your breathing and heart rate to come back down.  You can switch lanes throughout your session to build endurance and speed in different lanes, and the water supports your joints and circulation, giving you a very efficient workout.

Balance and stretching exercises are another vital component of any good menopause exercise plan.  Although these low impact types of exercise aren't going to contribute directly to weight loss, they are a really important part of your physical health in terms of warming up before more strenuous exercise, and in keeping you supple in later life.  Yoga, pilates and ballet barre classes are all perfect ways to ensure your joints and muscles stay supple.  Done as a warm-up for aerobic exercise or weight lifting these low impact activities help to avoid injury.

Finally, walking with friends is a fantastic way to stay warm and stay social while getting in some exercise at the same time.  We can't ignore the positive impact that a supportive group of friends has on our lives at every stage, so ensure you plan a walk every week or fortnight with your girlfriends, or even just with one friend every week to keep you both fighting fit.  With the right blend of exercise you'll stay warm, happy and healthy.

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