Recognising and working around barriers to exercise in menopause

For health and fitness professionals to understand the major barriers for women to exercise during menopause they first need learn how to remove to enable them to help women become more active in menopause.

Recognising and working around barriers to exercise in menopause

Exercise for women during menopause is non-negotiable!

Every woman’s experience of menopause is unique to them and so too is their relationship to exercise during menopause.

Most women are well aware that they should be more physically active, however, research and data tell a rather different story. For many women, as symptoms of menopause creep up on them, exercise drops by the wayside, whereas for others it hasn’t ever got off the ground. This means that these women miss out, not only on the benefits to their health and wellbeing but the boost it brings in menopause.

So, just what are the barriers for women being active in menopause, And how can we remove them?

What are the barriers for women being active in midlife?

  • Midlife all too often brings conflicting pressures for women - juggling jobs, relationships, and caring responsibilities for their offspring, or ageing parents.
  • Women are time poor - 68% of the so called ‘sandwich generation’ are female carers. 84% of them spend 35+ hours a week caring for their family and 47% have less than 35 minutes to themselves per day!

A perfect storm awaits women entering perimenopause when psychological and physical symptoms of declining hormones creep up on them, affecting those who exercise and those who don’t – women feel less active, less motivated and all too often more anxious.

  • Some menopause symptoms can impact on women’s desire to be active – mood changes, muscles and joint aches, hot flushes, fatigue and more, can all a toll. Women may withdraw from exercise for quite some time, with symptoms persisting for up to four years.
  • For some women, the stigma and lack of awareness around menopause can leave them feeling isolated, either through shame, or lack of confidence, to talk to someone, or do something about it. So, they withdraw from social activities, engagement and exercise.
  • Negative experiences of sport at school may mean exercise is just not what some women do! Those who have been inactive and sedentary are less likely to feel comfortable and confident in a fitness space. This sense of not fitting in can be compounded by unrelatable imagery of women and fitness.
  • And some women just don’t know where to start!

How to overcome the barriers?

Women need sense of possibility and relevance to give them the confidence to take the first step and kick-start their journey. How do we generate this?

Communication is key, messaging helps:

1. Change mindsets – So that even the most exercise-avoidant can recognise it’s never too late to get active. Having exercise presented as something that’s relevant, possible, and offers fun opportunities to enjoy movement, can make a huge difference.

2. ‘Exercise’ perception – Broadening the idea of what sport, exercise and being active looks like, can help a woman to move on from the self-imposed limitations of exercise that they’ve tried before and hated.

3. Awareness – Making it easier for women to find relevant exercise activities removes one less hurdle to finding a like-minded community and the physical
training that will help them. Word of mouth, social media and publicity should speak to this group to encourage and motivate them to take action.

4. Make connections – Between movement, mood & mental health!

5. Inform & empower – Clear guidance on what is safe, what will help and why will support women to move in a way that will motivate and empower them to come back for more.

6. Collaboration – Health, sport and exercise sectors working together can spread the message, educating and empowering women to take control of their health and wellbeing into menopause.

Inclusive & open zones

“I get up at 4.00am to go for a run because I’m so embarrassed to be seen in public because of my weight.”

With the shame and embarrassment associated with the symptoms of menopause, especially the extra weight some women can carry, self-esteem can take a hit.
Creating inclusive zones for inactive and inexperienced women, regardless of age, skill or physique is fundamental to bringing them on board with the movement

“I feel like I have to get fit before I can go into a gym.”

A welcoming ethos

How can sport and fitness professionals communicate a welcoming, inclusive ethos so that women are in the know before they even show up at a session?

Creating a support network, whether virtual or in a physical space, can enhance the experience and increase enjoyment. Social support may make women more
likely to feel they belong and to be inspired to continue their chosen activity, as they feel connected.

Referencing benefits other than fitness for meeting different needs – the need for ‘me-time’ away from demands of daily life, engaging with new people, learning new
skills that’s so effective are met and that women are inspired to be active, such as the social side and new friendships.

Be flexible and responsive to the needs of this women in menopause. Make the physical environment as welcoming as possible, with easy access to water, toilets
and changing rooms, and windows that open. Build in some flexibility to allow clients to miss the occasional session when they’re not feeling it because of their menopause symptoms or personal life commitments.

Now is the time!

Going into menopause can be pivotal turning point and is absolutely the time for women to invest in their health and well-being.

In terms of exercise, menopause brings an opportunity for women to re-evaluate, to re-engage or perhaps become active for the first time?
Whatever her history, exercise and movement will help a woman to counteract the impact of running low on the hormones that have previously kept her healthy and well.

Menopause is time of change and can be a force for good. Women are open to ideas and support. Knowing the big picture around menopause can help sport, health and
fitness pros to re-engage women

Join our Menopause Movement mothership to find out more!


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