Regular physical activity is crucial for women facing menopause. Consider what physical activity can do for you — and how to apply fitness tips for menopause to your daily routine. By Mayo Clinic Staff

Menopause is an important transition in a woman's life. Use it as a reminder to take good care of yourself. Start by considering these fitness tips for menopause.

Whether you've exercised faithfully for years or you haven't been active, physical activity during and after menopause offers many benefits. For example, regular physical activity can:

  • Prevent weight gain. Women tend to lose muscle mass and gain abdominal fat around menopause. Even slight increases in physical activity can help prevent weight gain.
  • Reduce the risk of breast cancer. Physical activity during and after menopause can help you lose excess weight or maintain a healthy weight, which might offer protection from breast cancer.
  • Strengthen your bones. Physical activity can slow bone loss after menopause, which lowers the risk of fractures and osteoporosis.
  • Reduce the risk of other diseases. Menopause weight gain can have serious implications for your health. Excess weight increases the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Regular physical activity can counter these risks.
  • Boost your mood. Physical activity can improve your psychological health at any stage of life.

Physical activity isn't a proven way to reduce menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and sleep disturbances. For some women, however, regular physical activity during and after menopause seems to relieve stress and improve quality of life.

For most healthy women, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends both aerobic activity and strength training. Strive for:

  • At least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week — preferably spread throughout the week
  • Strength training exercises at least twice a week

For motivation, set realistic, achievable goals. Rather than vowing to exercise more, for example, commit to a daily 30-minute walk after dinner. Frequently update your goals. Teaming up with someone — such as a partner, friend or neighbor — can make a difference, too.

When you're ready to get started, you have many choices. Consider:

  • Aerobic activity. Aerobic activity is the cornerstone of most fitness programs. Try brisk walking, jogging, biking, swimming or water aerobics. Any physical activity that uses large muscle groups and increases your heart rate counts. If you're a beginner, start with 10 minutes of light activity a day and gradually increase both the intensity and duration of your activity.
  • Strength training. Regular strength training can help you reduce body fat, strengthen your muscles and more efficiently burn calories. Try weight machines, hand-held weights or resistance tubing. Choose a weight or resistance level heavy enough to tire your muscles after about 12 repetitions. Gradually increase the resistance level as you get stronger.
  • Stretching. Stretching can help improve flexibility. Set aside time to stretch after each workout, when your muscles are warm and receptive to stretching.
  • Stability and balance. Balance exercises improve stability and can help prevent falls. Try simple exercises, such as sideways walking. Activities such as tai chi also can be helpful.

Remember, you don't have to go to the gym to exercise. Many activities, such as dancing, gardening and other yardwork, also can improve your health. Whatever physical activities you choose, take time to warm up and cool down safely.

June 12, 2013