You won’t experience all, and some women may experience none at all. However, one common symptom that so many women talk about is their lack of energy. This can happen for a number of reasons, and the good news is that you can do something about it.
When you enter the perimenopausal phase, your hormones rise and fall like a rollercoaster. Over time, your female hormones decrease until your body stops making them. These hormonal changes will impact your energy levels and can lead you to feel fatigued.
Add night sweats and insomnia to the fatigue you are already experiencing, which will undoubtedly leave you feeling more exhausted. This is also when many of us find ourselves caring for children, elderly or sick parents, which can add another layer as we try to manage more than we can. However, if we are better prepared for the changes that will inevitably occur, then we can equip ourselves for this transition, which may help us avoid these feelings of exhaustion.
If we can learn to make time for regular exercise in our late 30s, it will be easier to stick to a routine when we start our menopause journey. Getting into good habits early and finding your “fitness groove” (working out what’s right for you, whether that’s walking, weights or workouts) lays an excellent foundation for “midlife”. Exercise is one of the best solutions for fatigue and can increase energy levels. It can also improve other menopause symptoms and aid with weight gain, which can contribute to lower energy levels.
Nutrition is also crucial for the management and preparation of menopause. If we can implement positive lifestyle changes sooner rather than later, you will find it easier in the long run.
You only need to make some subtle changes here. By including more protein in your diet and cutting back on alcohol, sugary, and processed foods, you will give yourself the best chance to manage any more severe symptoms. Again, the sooner you incorporate these changes, the easier it will be.
As our sleep is often heavily impacted at this time, it is an excellent time to consider implementing some sleeping rituals to help you prepare. Leave your phone in the kitchen at night and read before bed. Try mindfulness and breathing work, calming the body and clearing the mind. If you find techniques before you enter menopause, you will know you have a great toolkit to use when the time comes.
If you haven’t had the time to prepare and your menopause has taken you by surprise, please know you can still do something about it; this is a time you can thrive if you make some essential lifestyle changes and look at how you are moving your body to make sure you’re getting the maximum benefits and results.
As mentioned previously, lack of energy and fatigue can see you putting off your workouts, and other obstacles can be overcome. What is essential to understand is that exercise and nourishing your body will help you manage many of these.
Many women find that their usual fitness routine isn’t doing what it had previously delivered. This is due to falling levels of oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone, which can contribute to changes in your body composition. Women find that they are beginning to store a little more fat around their middle and hips and it’s essential that we adjust our training to help combat these changes.
This is when I see so many women overtrain and undereat because they fear weight gain. Please note this will only put more stress on your body and make you feel more sluggish as your body can’t fuel the workouts. To help yourself and make progress, you will need to look at how, and the biggest question of all is why you are training now. It’s time to realise that exercise is more than “looking good” – we must move for our bones, joints, heart, brain and mental health.
An ideal workout week for women going through menopause would include 2-3 strength training sessions, 1-2 cardio workouts – HIIT, running, swimming, cycling – anything that elevates your heart rate. It’s important when you lift that you look at a program offering you the opportunity to build strength, which will mean increasing weights over time.
The NHS recommends we aim for 150 minutes of exercise a week and breaking this down into chunks will seem more achievable at 30 minutes – 5 times a week.
The decline in oestrogen means we are more susceptible to osteopenia and osteoporosis. So, now is the time to introduce weight training if you haven’t already. Strength training exercises will help build bone and muscle strength and support metabolism.
Women must also recognise that rest is a fundamental part of any exercise program, and as we go through menopause, we are not afraid to have days off. It will not hinder any progress; it will do the opposite.
I would love to encourage you to look beyond the aesthetic benefits of exercise because this will allow you to make progress and empower yourself as you journey through menopause. If you stop chasing your 30-year-old self and look to future-proofing your body for mobility, strength, and longevity, you can find a love of movement giving you energy for life.