Running and the MenopauseSep 18, 2023
Many women of a certain age – we’re talking 45-55 generally are put off by running as they are experiencing symptoms of menopause. They feel that they’re not able to run due to these ‘women’s problems’ as they feel running surely won’t help the situation.
It’s all natural – that’s easy for us to say!
Even though this is a natural phase that women pass through, for many years it has been quite a taboo subject, although slowly the tide is turning and menopause well-being is being talked about so much more.
The average age of menopause in the UK is 51, with most women experiencing their menopause between the age of 45 and 55. Symptoms can start up to 10 years before, known as ‘perimenopause’ (a term used as women make the transition towards menopause) and continue after periods have stopped.
The effects of menopause can last from a few months to several years. Up to 80% of women will experience menopausal symptoms that interfere with their quality of life, with 25% describing symptoms as severe. The most common being hot flushes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, low mood and/or anxiety, fatigue, joint and muscle pain and loss of libido. Some less common symptoms are headaches and weight gain.
Can running really help with all these changes associated with menopause?
Signs and symptoms…
Them bones, them bones!
First off, women can lose up to 20% of their bone density in the first five years after menopause due to oestrogen levels dropping. You can help with this by performing regular strengthening, weight-bearing, and impact exercises which can help maintain bone density.
In addition to this, performing strength and power-building moves will help to improve your performance and help keep you injury-free! That’s why we are so behind including strength and conditioning in our running programmes. Strong muscles keep your form intact and will help you to absorb the impact of running.
Women in the postmenopausal part of their life also need to be aware of their heart health as heart disease is the leading cause of death in postmenopausal women. Regular cardiovascular exercise to keep your heart healthy can reduce the risk.
Diet and weight gain
Many women notice weight gain during menopause. This is due to the negative impact on metabolism and many women experience surplus fat disposal around the middle of their body.
Be mindful that lower estrogen levels can leave you more sensitive to carbohydrates, so keep an eye on those running gels and sports drinks during long runs.
Running can help to keep this at bay as it will help with a calorie deficit. If following a healthy balanced diet and taking part in regular exercise it can help manage your weight and support metabolism.
What about those moods and sweats?
Mood changes and sleep disruption are common as hormones fluctuate. Sleep is often disturbed due to lower levels of estrogen and progesterone which in turn decrease the production of melatonin – the hormone that helps you to fall asleep. Not helpful when you’re trying to recover from a run!
Add to this the night sweats, so if you do get to sleep, you’re then awoken in a pool of sweat! The good news is that since running helps to improve sleep overall, you will be at an advantage. Morning runs may suit you better so that your core temperate is close to normal near bedtime which could help with the overheating.
Regular exercise and mindfulness can help to improve mood and regulate hormones. Running is a fantastic mood booster and can help to blow out all those negative emotions.
If only night sweats did count as a workout!
Menopause should not hold you back from your running aspirations, and we are here to help you that there.
While this may all seem a little doom and gloom, it’s important to remember this is a normal process. All the positive benefits that running has on your physical and mental well-being will still apply. Maintaining regular exercise is ever more important in this phase of your life as it will help to combat the effects of hormonal and age-related changes.
Just starting with walking will start to add endurance to your feet and legs and help to prepare you for your transition to running. Build yourself a consistent routine of walking for 30 minutes at least three times a week.
If you feel like you’re ready to start to walk and run, then maybe starting a 5K programme is the way to go. Take a look at our blog… ‘Can Anyone Run a 5K?’. You only need to run three times a week - it is important to have days of rest to allow for recovery - that’s where the magic is.
Running is hard… don’t underestimate the undertaking you are about to embark upon. But you can do it. Whether it’s with an app, a running club or with our own coaches as part of one of our 5K My Way cohorts.
If you need some motivation to move, then our free Facebook Community is the place to be! We can’t wait to see you there and give you virtual high-fives for your awesome runs.