Embarking on the journey through menopause doesn't mean bidding farewell to your fitness goals. In fact, staying active during this transformative phase is not just beneficial; it's vital for maintaining overall health and well-being. Let's delve into the intricate dance between menopause, fitness, and health, exploring personalised strategies and drawing inspiration from the real-life stories of women who defied the odds, including the well-known fitness advocate Davina McCall.
How Menopause Impacts Fitness and Overall Health
Menopause triggers a symphony of hormonal shifts marked by a decline in oestrogen and progesterone levels. These changes can influence metabolism, muscle mass, and bone density. As a result, women may notice shifts in their body composition and an increased predisposition to conditions such as osteoporosis. However, understanding these changes allows us to tailor fitness and nutrition strategies to address these challenges effectively.
Exercise and Nutrition Strategies Tailored to Menopause
- Hormone Friendly Workouts: Embrace a mix of cardiovascular exercises to boost heart health and strength training to counteract muscle and bone loss. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) can be particularly effective in maintaining metabolic rate and supporting weight management.
- Resistance Training for Bone Health: Loss of bone density is a common concern during menopause. Resistance training, including weightlifting, has been shown to positively impact bone mineral density, reducing the risk of osteoporosis.
- Nutrient-Rich Eating: As hormonal changes impact metabolism, focus on nutrient-dense foods that support bone health and overall wellbeing. Calcium-rich foods, vitamin D supplements, and a well-balanced diet can help manage weight and mitigate the risk of conditions associated with menopause.
- Hydration for Hormonal Harmony: Adequate hydration is crucial during menopause, helping regulate body temperature and supporting metabolic processes. Opt for water-rich foods and beverages to stay well-hydrated and enhance overall health.
At-Home Menopause Friendly Workout
Follow this action plan, tailored to your changing hormones, designed by Dr Michael Mosely on the Fast 800 App.
- 30 seconds gentle walking on the spot
- 5 push-ups against the wall
- 30 seconds high knees walking on the spot
- 5 half squats
- 5 lunges and stretch arms above head
- 30 seconds jogging on the spot
Perform each exercise for 20 seconds (this is called your work period) followed by a 40-second break (this is called your rest period). Repeat the routine 2-3 times.
You'll need two light dumbbells. If you don't have any dumbbells at home, use water bottles or tinned food. And if you need the workout to be more challenging, increase your work time and decrease your rest time. For example, you could exercise for 30 seconds and rest for 30 seconds; or 40 seconds of work with 20 seconds of rest.
1. Alternating lunges
Lunges are one of the staple leg strengthening exercises which should be included in any varied workout program.
How to do it: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, looking forwards and keeping your shoulders back - take a large step forwards with one foot and lower yourself as low as comfortably possible.
Both knees should be roughly at 90 degrees. Raise yourself back up, focusing on using the front leg to do so, stepping back into a standing position. Remember to breathe out as you come back to standing and don’t go too fast: 2 seconds down, 2 seconds up.
Repeat the action, stepping forward with the other foot, and alternating for the allotted time.
Tips: Try to imagine you are pushing the floor away from you with your front when returning back to standing. Throughout the exercise, engage your core to remain steady - do this by pulling your belly button in towards your spine. Also, try to keep your chest up, rather than bending your torso forwards.
2. Hip thrusts
This exercise activates your hip flexor muscles and your glutes, as well as strengthening your hamstrings.
How to do it: Lie flat on your back. Bring your feet in towards your bottom so your knees are bent, with your feet slightly apart. Raise your hips by pushing against the floor through your heels so your knees, hips and shoulders are in line, to a bridge position.
Exhale as you hold the bridge position for 2 seconds and then inhale as you lower yourself back down to the floor. Repeat for the working time.
Tips: Keep the soles of your shoes on the floor throughout, while also keeping your shoulder blades on the ground. Squeeze your bottom when you raise your hips to maximise tension in the right muscles.
An excellent exercise for developing core strength. The plank will test your mental strength as well as your physical ability.
How to do it: Lie, face down, on your exercise mat. Keeping your knees down, push yourself up onto your elbows, making sure your elbows are positioned slightly behind your shoulders.
Lift your knees, keeping your head, shoulders, hips and feet in a straight line. Don’t push your head down and remember to keep breathing! Hold this position for the work time specified.
Tips: If you find this too difficult to begin with, keep your knees down and complete the exercise in this position. Ensuring you create a straight line from your knees, through your hips to your shoulders. Or, do a high plank, where you hold a push up position with your hands under your shoulders and your body creating one long line from your heels to the top of your head.
4. One-arm rows with a chair
Primarily targeting your largest back muscles - your lats - the one-arm row will improve back, core, and bicep strength.
How to do it: With one arm, lean forward against a sturdy chair or arm of your sofa for stability. Keep both legs slightly bent with one in front of the other.
Hold a weight in the arm on the opposite side to your front leg. Keep the arm fully extended and the palm facing in. Keeping the rest of your body still and stable, raise the weight up towards your body, making sure your elbow remains tight against your body. Your arm should be the only thing moving.
Lower the weight back down to the starting position. Remember to exhale as you lift the weight and don’t go too fast - 2 seconds up, 2 seconds down. Repeat the action for the work time specified. Swap arms/sides and then repeat the exercise again on the other arm.
Tips: Keep your back straight throughout the exercise by engaging your core, draw your belly button towards your spine. To maximise the effectiveness of this exercise, squeeze your shoulder blades together when you lift the weight up to the side of your chest.
5. Calf raises with a chair
Calf raises are a great way to isolate the calf muscle and can be performed with or without extra weights.
How to do it: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Rest your fingers on the back of a sturdy chair or table if you need to stabilise yourself while doing the exercise. Push yourself up onto the balls of your feet, trying to keep your body as straight as possible.
Hold briefly, squeezing your calves, then lower yourself back down so your feet are flat on the floor. Exhale as you raise yourself up and remember not to go too fast - 2 seconds up, 2 seconds down. Repeat the exercise for the work time specified.
Davina McCall, a renowned TV presenter and fitness advocate, has been an inspiration for many women navigating menopause. She continually shares her journey, emphasising the importance of staying active and embracing a healthy lifestyle during this phase.
Davina incorporated a mix of high-intensity workouts, strength training, and mindful practices, showcasing that menopause doesn't have to hinder your fitness journey, but can be a catalyst for positive change.
As you navigate the many levels of menopause, remember that staying strong and healthy is not just a possibility; it's a triumph waiting to happen. By understanding the impact of hormonal shifts, tailoring your exercise and nutrition strategies, and drawing inspiration from real-life success stories, you can emerge from this phase stronger, fitter, and more resilient than ever before. Celebrate the power of your body, and let fitness be the compass guiding you through the waves of change.
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 Villareal, D. T., Binder, E. F., Yarasheski, K. E., Williams, D. B., Brown, M., & Sinacore, D. R. (2003). Effects of Exercise Training Added to Ongoing Hormone Replacement Therapy on Bone Mineral Density in Frail Elderly Women. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 51(7), 985–990.
 North American Menopause Society. (2018). Menopause Practice: A Clinician’s Guide (5th ed.).
 American Council on Exercise. (2019). Menopause and Exercise.
 The Guardian. (2019). Davina McCall: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Menopause.