5 reasons to walk more during the menopause
Walk this way to improved physical and mental health
Walking is the most popular form of exercise for women during the perimenopause and menopause, a survey has revealed.
A poll of nearly 6,000 women for balance founder Dr Louise Newson’s new book, the Definitive Guide to Perimenopause and Menopause, found 79% of respondents opted for walking as their activity of choice.
But while three quarters (77%) of women recognised the physical and mental health benefits to exercising, nearly a third admit they exercise less than once a week or not at all.
So why can exercise feel like a hard slog during the menopause, and what can you do about it?
Plus, we’ll look at five key reasons why it pays to get walking during the menopause.
Why can exercise be a challenge during the menopause
The perimenopause and menopause can account for a host of reasons that make you less likely to exercise on a regular basis. The combination of physical symptoms like aching joints and fatigue with psychological symptoms of low mood and motivation can hinder even the most active of people.
The main barriers to exercise, according to the women who responded to Dr Newson’s survey were a lack of motivation (51%), followed by a lack of time (42%). And nearly a third were unable to exercise more due to their menopausal symptoms.
Most of the women responding to the survey had sought help for their perimenopause or menopause but 60% felt they were not given adequate information about the lifestyle changes that could help their general health and wellbeing.
Many women find that taking HRT makes it easier to exercise as physical symptoms usually improve and their mood and levels of motivation are better.
Top tips for walking regularly
- wear sturdy comfortable shoes or walking boots with good arch support
- plan your course, know the terrain, and check the weather forecast before setting out
- warm up before and cool down before walking or any form of exercise
- set your goals and track your progress, such as using the balance app
- go with a friend or walking group if you prefer company, or try listening to music or your favourite podcast
- be safety conscious: consider when and where you’ll walk, especially if alone, and wear reflective clothing if dark
- vary your routine to keep it interesting and enjoyable.
5 reasons to walk during the menopause
Walking is an attractive exercise option for many as it is free, you can do it from your front door, and it can be done in your own time and at your own pace.
Here are five science-backed benefits of walking:
Walking improves your cardiovascular and bone health
Walking is a great all-over workout. It is an aerobic activity if you walk at a good pace, and it impacts through your joints which is good for you bone health. The longer you walk for and the further you go, the more muscle endurance and stamina improves, and with this an increase in energy levels.
Walking helps you maintain a healthy weight and lose body fat
Any amount of walking will burn calories. If you can manage a brisk 30-minute walk daily, this will use up around 150 calories. But even just 10 minutes a day will bring benefits to your weight and fitness levels.
Walking improves your mood, memory, sleep and reduces stress
It has long been known that regular exercise can help your sleep and lift your mood, but it also directly affects the health of your brain cells [1,2]. Exercise reduces inflammation and stimulates chemicals that affect the health of existing brain cells and the survival of new ones. It also helps the growth of new blood vessels in the brain. These protective processes help reduce stress and anxiety and this can help with brain fog and prevent cognitive impairment in the future.
Walking boosts your immune system
To boost your immunity by walking, don’t do too little or too much; a moderate amount is key and try and make it daily. Over time, your immune and metabolic systems continue to strengthen, building on previous gains. Getting the blood pumping helps circulate your immune cells and this helps your body better prepare for future infection. Walking’s benefits to sleep, mood and stress levels will also have knock on benefits to your immune system .
It helps prevent or manage chronic diseases
Walking regularly is proven to reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, asthma, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Walking for two and a half hours a week can cut your risk of heart disease by 30%, . If you have any of these conditions already, regular walking can help you manage it and prevent your condition from worsening.
1. Kline C.E. (2014), ‘The bidirectional relationship between exercise and sleep: Implications for exercise adherence and sleep improvement’, American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 8(6), pp.375–79. doi.org/10.1177/1559827614544437
2. Miller, J. C., Krizan, Z. (2016), ‘Walking facilitates positive affect (even when expecting the opposite)’, Emotion, 16(5), pp.775–85. doi.org/10.1037/a0040270
3. Nieman D.C., Wentz L.M. (2019), ‘The compelling link between physical activity and the body’s defense system’, Journal of Sport Health Science, 8(3)pp.201-17. doi: 10.1016/j.jshs.2018.09.009
4. Harvard Medical School, ‘Walking for health’