A third of women are not getting the recommended amount of exercise in menopause, Menopause Movement looks at the benefits of exercise to improve post-menopause health, and the research from Women In Sport that sheds light on women’s relationship with sport and physical activity during menopause.
Menopause & Exercise – What’s the Story?
Motivating women to be more active during menopause
Although women know the health benefits of being active in midlife, there are many barriers that hold them back from doing any form of exercise during menopause. Women tend to put themselves at the bottom of the priority list when it comes to self-care. Menopause is the time to change!
A third of women are not getting the recommended amount of exercise going into menopause.
NHS guidance recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week. Sport England report 38% of women aged 45 to 54 don’t achieve this. So, what’s the story behind this?
Women’s motivation to move reduces with age: At all stages of life, women face different challenges to being active, starting in their early years and increasing throughout life. This can have a profound impact on women’s attitude to fitness into menopause.
What does the data on women engaging in sport and exercise say?
Primary – Only 43% of girls age 7-11 achieve recommended levels of physical activity (Sport England CYP 2018), they already perceive boys as being stronger.
Teenage – 64% will have quit sport by the time they have finished puberty (P&G July 2016).
Adulthood – 23% inactive, doing less than 30 minutes activity a week (Sport England ALS) and 42% are not active enough for good health.
Midlife – 71% experiencing menopause want to be more active but lack confidence (Women in Sport 2018). Women find activity much harder as they feel less flexible, motivated and confident.
Later life – 49% over age 65 are not active enough (Sport England ALS) Those who are least active stand to benefit the most in terms of their health and happiness by getting active.
With a growing, ageing population and women working later in life and living longer, there’s a huge opportunity to inspire menopausal women to be active.
What do women say about exercising through midlife and beyond?
Women in Sport are passionate as their name suggests, about raising the profile of women and girls in sport to ensure they get the lifelong benefits of taking part in sport and exercise. They’ve carried out two ground-breaking studies on women’s engagement in sport into menopause, capturing women’s voices and experiences for the first time.
A 2018 Women In Sport (WIS) report, Menopause, Me and Physical Activity, looked at inactive and active women, between the ages of 45 to 60, to find out more about women’s relationship with sport and physical activity during menopause. The study looked at the physical, psychological, and motivational barriers to women dropping out of exercise, or taking part, as menopause hit. Although feeling good and looking good were top priorities for women, over a third of them were not exercising at all. Women reported being ambushed by a raft of symptoms, being over-stretched and time-poor, and in some cases, ashamed of how menopause was affecting them.
The report provides fascinating insights and recommendations for health and fitness professionals looking to support women in midlife, to help them maintain and re-engage in physical activities into menopause.
WIS followed up in May 2021 with Inspiring Women to be Active During Midlife and Menopause, focussing on redefining what it means to get older. The report found that societal perceptions of feeling ignored invisible and irrelevant applied particularly to women in sport and exercise.
The takeaway message from their research is that for many women menopause can be a dispiriting experience, sapping self-esteem and self-worth. Conversely, the research points to menopause as the perfect opportunity for women to reappraise their lifestyle and an opportunity to reintroduce exercise.
With the undisputed benefits of exercise, we know it’s never too late, women just need to get started!
The benefits of physical activity in midlife & menopause:
Improved mental & physical wellbeing
Lessen the impact of some menopause symptoms
Improved social experience where women exercise together
Making time for themselves and stepping out of a busy everyday life
Long term benefits for later life:
Protects bone health
Helps fight heart disease
Improves mobility & may prevent health problems
Supports psychological health & protects and invigorates the brain
Women in Sport found that 84% of inactive menopausal women wanted to be more active in this life stage. And a staggering 90% said they would do more exercise if it were recommended by their GP or by a health professional. The will is most definitely there, so how can sports, health and exercise help them to find the way?