Exercise during perimenopause is one of the best things you can do for your mind and body to help alleviate or reduce some of the more tedious symptoms of this natural, biological shift in the female body.
What is Perimenopause?
Not to be confused with menopause, perimenopause can begin as early as your mid-30s and refers to the period of time in which your body begins making the natural transition toward menopause. Menopause has officially been reached when you go 12 months without a period, but perimenopause can last anywhere from a few months to a decade, with the average duration being four years.
Symptoms of Menopause
During perimenopause, your ovaries start to produce less estrogen in general, but also rises and falls unpredictably. As a result of this hormonal flux, your period may become longer or shorter and some months, your ovaries may not release an egg.
You may also experience fatigue, depression, anxiety, heightened PMS as well as some symptoms that are commonly recognized (but not confined to) menopause, including:
- hot flashes
- sleep problems
- vaginal dryness
- decreased sex drive
- mood swings
- breast tenderness
- muscle weakness/muscle loss
- urinary urgency
- urinary leaking when sneezing or coughing
- vaginal itchiness
- itchy skin
- weight gain
- achy joints
Thankfully, exercise has been shown to help lessen these symptoms. However, the best exercise for perimenopause is not necessarily any type of exercise.
The Best Exercise for Perimenopause
Anxiety is one of the most prevalent symptoms of perimenopause and while exercise can definitely reduce anxiety, too much high-intensity exercise can actually make the anxiety worse.
High-intensity training increases cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and, if you're chronically stressed out and anxious, then smashing out a killer high-intensity workout can make you feel even more strung out.
This isn't to say that you should never do high-intensity workouts — high-intensity interval training (HIIT) in particular is immensely beneficial to combat perimenopausal depression and weight gain — but you should only do them one or two times a week — and not on days you're already feeling extremely anxious.
When you do train at a high intensity, keep it to 30 minutes or less for best, most relaxing results. This will give you the opportunity to work up a great sweat and not a foul mood.
We recommend our new 5 AM Club with Sabrina for an incredible 30-minute workout that's incredible for all fitness levels. If you're at a more advanced fitness level, try Fast & Furiously Fit 24-minute workouts with Sean Light.
Check out our online fitness library BR+ for thousands of workouts (including short, sweet, and sweaty HIIT workouts). Start today and get a free trial for a month.
Some of the other best types of exercise for perimenopause include:
Stretching and mobility training. You can't go wrong with stretching and mobility training every day. Even five minutes will help reduce stress, improve mood, and nurture a more functionally strong body that's also less prone to injury.
Join Michael Levine for Stretch and Mobility on BR+. You can also do one of our many yoga classes.
Steady-state cardio. As we age, we're at a heightened risk of cardiovascular disease. Aim to do 30 minutes of cardio two times a week, and a longer session of 45 minutes to an hour once a week for best results. Walk at a brisk pace, do a moderate jog, swim, or cycle — the point is to get your heart rate up and keep it at a steady state for a prolonged period. This activity will improve your mood without peaking your cortisol levels.
Weight training. You may be incorporating weights into your high-intensity training, and if so, amazing. Experts recommend training your whole body with resistance at least two days a week. However, you don't need to do high-intensity training to lift weights.
You can also do more classic, rep-based lifting. Aim for 10-12 most muscle groups except calves, which you can do for 25-30 reps.
Resistance training will not only help you burn more fat and combat weight gain, but it can also help reduce bone and muscle loss which accelerate as we move toward menopause.
We recommend BR20 with Jess Shaw. These 20-minute strength workouts are great for any fitness level will help you improve muscle strength and mass. You don’t need a lot of equipment: a pair of dumbbells, core bands, and a stability ball are a great start — and we have great prices on them in store for a limited time. Shop now.
Walking. Walking for relaxation is a wonderful way to lower anxiety and improve mood. You don't need to get your heart rate up, as you do during your cardio sessions; the simple act of moving — particularly if you can move outside and soak in mood and immune-boosting vitamin D — will help you feel better.
We’ll be talking more about perimenopause and menopause in the weeks to come, but for now, try these workouts and remember: you’re body is undergoing a natural, biological process. It may be difficult, but there is nothing wrong with you. Stay strong.
You got this!
Sign up for a 30-day free trial of BR+ now and try our perimenopause playlist. These workouts include HIIT as well as strength training and stretching and mobility to help nurture your mind and body through perimenopause and beyond.
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