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Training with weights, resistance bands or your own body weight will help to maintain bone and muscle density. This type of training can have cardiovascular benefits too. However, it is important to consider the appropriateness of the exercises before practicing them.

  • If you know you have a weak pelvic floor, lifting weights may not be suitable. Learning correct core and pelvic floor engagement and breathing patterns is vital anyway but especially when we know the pelvic floor muscles can be potentially weaker during our menopausal years. It may be better to use resistance bands but having expert guidance and building up slowly will help you to know what you can safely achieve.
  • If you have any injuries, especially if they are back or neck injuries, you will need to consider the appropriateness of weighted work.
  • Your trainer should ALWAYS check your health status and allow you to build up slowly when working with strength based exercises.
  • Be careful not to copy exercises you may see on social media or in magazines. I don’t feel full guidance is given and you can risk injuring yourself.

We need to slow things down too! Practicing mindful movement provides so many benefits. Of course there are other methods of movement but as I teach Pilates and have enjoyed the benefits of a little yoga here and there, I am using them as great examples.

  • You have time to connect your mind and body and can really feel what your body is doing, what feels ok (and what doesn’t!). It will also help to promote relaxation. Moving slowly is quite often more challenging than moving quickly! It takes strength to control your body in slow movements. Many Pilates and Yoga exercises can be incredibly strengthening.
  • Practicing these types of disciplines feels so wonderful and rewarding as they both allow you to work from the basic level. It feels so great when you can achieve something that you couldn’t before!
  • You can really take the time to enjoy that ‘me time’. I always say, “shut the door and close the world off and allow yourself to totally absorb yourself in what you are practicing”.
  • Breathing techniques are used in these methods of exercise, promoting relaxation to calm the nervous system. This will help to reduce stress.

We often ache as we go through the perimenopause and beyond. It would be so easy to think that exercise will make us ache more but it is more likely that it will help alleviate aches and pains. Stretching often goes to the bottom of the pile and we discard it in favour of ‘working out’ which we feel is of more benefit. However, this type of exercise is as just as important as any other discipline.

  • Keeping your joints mobile and your muscle tissue and facia (connective tissue) moving will allow more freedom of movement in your body.
  • Stretching and releasing muscles will help to maintain muscle fibre length, aid recovery post-exercise and allow you to work your muscles in their full range.
  • Releasing muscles is as important as strengthening them. Muscles that do not release may become tight and may not function as well. This includes the pelvic floor muscles which function optimally when they are contracted and released in equal measures. Therefore this type of training has many benefits.
  • It feels amazing to stretch. Many of my participants say they feel like they have had a massage!

Many types of exercise challenge your brain. Different movement patterns or sporting techniques all contribute to maintaining cognitive health.

  • Try a choreographed exercise class such as a step class, dance fitness, old school aerobics or anything that requires you to put steps together!
  • Learning a new technique or sport will get the brain cells working as well as the body!

We tend to focus on this type of activity so much when we are younger. Possibly because we see it as the best way to manage our weight and because it feels so good to leap about! Whilst it is still important to get some training in for our heart and lungs we may feel it’s time to change the way we do this.

You may be happy running miles or participating in the types of exercise you have always enjoyed and that is perfectly fine as long as it isn’t placing undue stress on your body. It is also worth noting that whilst activities such as long runs can be a great stress reliever, they can also cause you to release more stress hormones as there is a lot of stress placed on a body participating in running. This won’t work in your favour in the long run (pardon the pun!)

Consideration needs to be given to your pelvic floor muscle health if you are doing high impact activities. If you notice you have stress incontinence when impacting I would advise to change to low impact and address the issues your pelvic floor muscles may be having.

It really doesn’t matter what you choose to get your heart rate up. As long as it is appropriate to you.

Have you noticed that you don’t feel as balanced? That you feel less confident about doing certain things like walking in slippery mud or ice and snow? We lose our ability to balance as we age and, as with all types of exercise and movement, I believe in a preventative approach. For years I have recommended standing on one leg whilst you brush your teeth or waiting for the kettle to boil!

It is so easy to lose our confidence in what our body is able to do as we age and this is particularly true of balance. So practicing activities that challenge balance, stability and change of direction are something we should aim to be practicing.

  • Coming back to Pilates and Yoga – these are great disciplines for encouraging balance and stability. The strengthening effects of this type of exercise help us to build confidence when we need balance. You will find that the positive effects on your core strength will help immeasurably.
  • Any one leg standing exercises are fantastic, not only for balance practice but also for loading your bones and building bone density. A Barre workout is great for this and has many other benefits such as strengthening the whole body and improving posture. In addition the rotational movement of the hips can contribute to pelvic floor muscle strengthening.
  • Try a bit of ‘beam walking’ or walking along a narrow path or wall (stay safe of course!) This is great for practicing balance
  • Practice activities and exercises that demand quick changes in direction and make sure that your body moves in all planes of movement, not just forward and back or side to side
  • Exercises where you either close your eyes or stand on one leg whilst following a moving object (even if its your hand) are great
  • Walk on gradients and different surfaces
  • If appropriate add some spinning movements in some of the classes!
  • There are so many other things you can do to improve balance and your confidence in balancing so have a play and find out what works best for you!

You will have heard the term ‘functional movement’ and ‘functional exercise’. Quite rightly we want to move and exercise in a way that is going to help us in our everyday life.

We take for granted what our body is able to do and often it’s not until something comes along to challenge this that we take action. We get a back problem - we take up Pilates. We injure ourselves - we rehabilitate and seek treatment. We suffer with stress - we take up mindfulness, relaxation or breathing techniques. We start gaining weight - we increase our exercise sessions. We notice our muscle tone isn’t as good - we take up weight workouts. We feel stiffer - we take up stretching.

These are all the things I believe we should be doing regardless of whether our body is asking for them. Exercise should always have balance. Doing only one type of activity is more likely to cause issues and muscle imbalances. Prevention is always better than cure.

However, we have to start at the point we are at and move forward so if your exercise and movement regime has lacked one facet it’s not too late to start! A balanced exercise program is what will help to maintain functionality. It doesn’t have to be labelled as a ‘functional movement / exercise session’, all good exercise programs should contain movements and work that add to your functionality. At this stage of our life as a woman, we should be particularly aware of learning good technique and appropriate activities to help us to stay strong, mobile, cardiovascularly fit, maintain good bone and muscle density, create a healthy pelvic floor, maintain a healthy weight, reduce stress, aid sleep and avoid age related diseases.

Exercise doesn’t have to be in the shape of classes, a sport or the gym!
We don’t have to be a slave to something we don’t enjoy! Though I do believe that with a little searching, most of us do find something we enjoy.

There are so many activities that will give you the benefits without attending the gym!

  • Walking – speed it up, use hills! Walking is a great activity for getting your heart rate up, enjoying nature and fresh air, strengthening the muscles in your lower body and has such a feel good factor so great for our mental health too. Nordic walking with poles will increase intensity and help use muscles in your upper body too.
  • Housework / shopping / gardening – you can really make use of your body doing everyday chores! Mopping floors, hoovering, sweeping, bending and stretching to reach places, going on all fours to wash the floor, moving heavy objects around (as long as it’s safe), carrying shopping bags and lifting them in and out of the car, raking leaves, mowing the lawn, weeding, clipping….the list is endless! Consider how mobile that keeps you, how you are loading your bones and using your muscles and if done with vigor (put some great music on while cleaning to get you going and perhaps even have the odd boogie in between dusting!!) and you may even get a sweat up too!
  • Biking – you may just like to use a bike to get somewhere, it doesn’t have to be you going out cycling for sport. Using a bike instead of the car has great benefits! You can increase your heart rate, use the muscles in your bottom, legs and core
  • Playing outdoor games – perhaps you have younger family members or Grandchildren you can run about with playing games? Great for cardiovascular health, balance, speed, mobility, sharpness, core strength, muscular strength, bone loading and more!
  • For restorative activities – you don’t need to do yoga or meditation to practice breathing deeply and relaxing. You can put on some beautiful music, sit quietly and do these things without the “formality” of a class!
  • Releasing tight muscles / connective tissue - you don’t have to invest in flashy equipment, you can use tennis balls, squash balls and some imagination. And you just need to move!
Whatever you choose to do at this stage of life to keep you fit and active, try to consider incorporating a diverse range of activities and ensure you are doing as much as you can to maintain good physical fitness.

It can feel like an effort and your motivation can be lacking. We can find ourselves making excuses not to exercise but always find the time to go on social media! Most of the time we can find at least 20 minutes to do something. You will never regret forming an exercise habit and your body and mind will thank you for it!