Menopause and why you need to exercise

menopause and exercise

If you want to do everything you possibly can to deter menopausal weight gain and combat the midlife expanding waistline then there is no escape – you need to exercise.

In my last blog “Menopausal weight gain – it’s real, it’s necessary, it’s stubborn!” I talked about our 30 billion fat cells and how they grow larger as soon as they detect declining levels of estrogen. They do this so they can produce more estrogen to protect you during your menopause transition. Every woman will go through menopause and it’s both normal and necessary to put on weight. Weight gain is a way for your body to produce estrogen, feel better and live longer.

debra-waterhouse-bookcoverSo we all need to accept that our menopausal bodies will never look like they did in our teens and twenties. But at the same time, we don’t want our weight to get out of control. In her book “Menopause Without Weight Gain”, Debra Waterhouse (M.P.H., R.D., Nutritionist), claims that the only way to boost metabolism, stimulate the fat-releasing enzymes and shrink your fat cells without compromising their ability to produce estrogen is through exercise.


When you become fit she claims, your fat cells automatically become smaller. They learn that there is another existence and they don’t have to function solely as fat-storage receptacles.

This is great news for weight control but actually your menopausal body is depending on you to exercise in order to do much more than lose weight. You need to move your body more than you ever needed before. Why? Because, quite simply, your life depends on it.

menopause fat cells and exercise
The arrows ‘in’ the above image represent fat-storing enzymes, the arrows ‘out’ represent fat-releasing enzymes.

Regular exercise will also help you with fighting fatigue, recharging your metabolism, reducing mental sluggishness, sleeping soundly, stabilizing your moods, diminishing your food cravings, reducing hot flushes, achieving greater mobility, balance and agility, strengthening your bones, reducing your risk of breast cancer and heart disease, stabilising your blood sugar and living a longer life.

Wow, when you read that list, what is there not to love about exercise! And the great news is it doesn’t matter how out of shape you feel, how much extra weight you are carrying, how old you are or how busy you are. Starting today will make a difference.

Losing Weight

If weight loss is your main motivator for exercise then you need to have the right combination of exercise to encourage your fat cells to release stored fat. Aerobic exercise will manufacture fat-releasing enzymes that trigger your fat cells emptying fat into your bloodstream, while strength training will speed up your metabolism and condition your muscles to burn up released fat. So you need a combination of both these kinds of exercise.

For aerobic exercise, you could try swimming, jogging, cycling, dance, exercise classes like step or walking. But beware, if you have been walking as your form of exercise for a few years now it’s time for a change. Try changing your route, introducing hills or stairs into your walk, develop a jog/walk routine or walk with a pack. But if you are just starting an exercise programme, walking will give you all the fat burning benefits you need.

Each form of exercise you choose to do will use different muscle groups. If you repeat only the same activity, your muscles and fat cells will become complacent. So cross-training by mixing up your activities – walk one day, swim another, cycle another – will speed up fat burning as well as preventing boredom! Aim to build up to 60 minutes of aerobic activity four days a week at a moderate intensity.

For strength training, you don’t necessarily have to join a gym and do weights. You can choose from activities like tennis, squash, basketball, golf, kayaking, bowls, lifting free weights, yoga, pilates or even gardening. All of these exercises strengthen your muscles.

Each week combine one hour of this type of strength training with your four hours of aerobic activity and you will be burning fat – not to mention gaining all the other benefits of regular exercise – live longer, live healthier, sleep better, think better, feel better!

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