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Menopause and Exercise Intolerance: How to Improve Physical Strength and Endurance

July 26, 2021
Health + Wellness, Menopause
Menopause and Exercise Intolerance Small Progressive Steps to Build Physical Strength and Endurance

During the menopause transition, the estrogen decline can cause metabolic changes resulting in central weight gain that may lead to a decrease in exercise tolerance.  It’s an important phenomenon to be aware of, because, for someone with exercise intolerance, getting enough physical activity feels impossible. 

Exercise intolerance is being unable to perform physical exercise at the typical level or duration for people of your age.  The inability to perform isn’t just because you’re tired or lazy. It’s due to a larger problem, like being significantly de-conditioned, or some other health condition.  

But, the good news is, there are things you can do to build up your strength and endurance, even if you’ve been sedentary for a while.

Menopause And Exercise Intolerance

Many menopausal women feel fatigued and exercise is the last thing they want to do. Weight gain, brain fog, and anxiety—which are fairly common symptoms during the menopause transition—can make it harder to find the motivation to hit the gym.

Menopausal women are generally advised to get 150/min/week of moderate-intense physical activity, such as walking, jogging, cycling, or swimming, along with daily household activities. That’s around 20 minutes every day, or 30 minutes, 5 times per week.



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Aim For Progressive Physical Activity

Physical activity, such as walking, jogging, or cycling, coupled with household activities,  helps to burn calories and improves menopause symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats. 

To build your exercise tolerance and see results, your physical activity routine has to be personalized to your needs and progressive, meaning you start slowly and add a little bit to your program every week or so until you have reached your target level. For example, you might start by walking 5 minutes every day at a slow pace. You can slowly pick up the pace every few days and add more minutes every week until you are able to regularly walk briskly, 30 minutes or more per day.

Eventually, aim to add in resistance training 2–3 times/week to help maintain bone and muscle mass. 

Recommended Routine For  Menopausal Women To Build Exercise Tolerance

Stretching

Our bodies become less flexible with age. Begin any exercise program with warm-up exercises including full body stretches and/or a 10 min walk on the treadmill.  Warming up helps prepare your body for exercise.

Resistance And Strength Training

As you’re feeling stronger, add in short bouts of resistance exercise and strength training, every other day, using resistance bands or weights. These exercises help to maintain and build muscle mass and bone density in menopausal women.

Balance Exercises

Balance exercises help maintain good posture and help prevent falls in menopausal women. Good exercises for balance include; standing up from a seated position without using your hands and walking in a line, heel to toe, for a short distance. You can also try pilates or tai chi which have been shown to improve balance and core strength and reduce the incidence of falls.

Cool Down

Finish each exercise session with cooling down exercises such as slow walking for a few minutes and muscle relaxing stretches..

Menopause And Exercise Intolerance Faqs

What Are Symptoms of Exercise Intolerance?

Symptoms of exercise intolerance include severe post-workout pain and soreness, fatigue, nausea and/or vomiting. These symptoms are due to the condition causing the reduced exercise tolerance, not the workout itself. 

Does Menopause Affect Athletic Performance?

Women can lose up to 20% of their bone density in the first five to seven years after menopause.  Weight-bearing exercise puts stress on bones, which spurs the body to strengthen them. Because women athletes perform regular intense weight-bearing activities (running, walking, tennis, etc.), they start out with denser bones and stronger muscles. Menopause and aging still have an effect, but to a lesser degree, as long as they keep up regular exercise.

Menopause And Exercise Intolerance: Final Thoughts

For menopausal women who experience exercise intolerance, establishing a regular exercise routine that includes stretching, aerobic exercise, resistance, and strength training, with progressive challenges, will build strength and endurance.

Dr. Ellen Johnson

I have been listening to women’s health concerns for over two decades and noticed one recurring theme; that it’s hard to get questions answered about the changes we notice in our bodies as we approach midlife, and even more difficult to understand the ever-changing guidelines about how to manage symptoms. My mission is to bring you the most up-to-date, proven medical information so you can make educated decisions about your health. It’s women’s health, simplified.



menopause checklist

Instantly Access The Ultimate
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Join the movement of women who are learning to reinvent and reimagine menopause with my comprehensive menopause checklist.

Plus, get health and wellness advice in your inbox weekly.



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