As women navigate menopause and the changes that it brings, you may turn to running as your preferred form of exercise.  With nearly half of female recreational runners being menopausal age, it is clear why running, with its straightforward nature, anywhere-anytime approach, and effective calorie-burning capability, stands out as a popular choice. But is running the best option during menopause?

Of course, it has its benefits. However, it shouldn’t be the only form of exercise in your routine. In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of running during menopause, give you tips on how to run effectively during this life stage and suggest activities to complement your running routine. Ensuring you have a well-rounded approach to fitness during menopause.

 

The role of exercise during menopause

Exercise is a key player when navigating menopause. Think of it as your secret weapon for easing menopause symptoms and safeguarding your future health and happiness. 

You might be thinking: “Exercise? I’m already worn out and not feeling great with menopause as it is!”. It might seem like another chore to pile on your already full plate.

But here’s the thing. Finding the right kind of exercise can truly transform your menopause experience. If running is it, that’s great!

Regular physical activity that you actually enjoy can be a HUGE help. 

Regular exercise like running will works with your changing metabolism, ease those tough menopause symptoms, and support graceful aging. It is crucial for maintaining heart health, keeping your bones strong, and lowering the risk of osteoporosis…a must-consider for your well-being post-menopause.

 

How running helps menopause and perimenopause symptoms

  • Helps regulate hormones and reduces the severity of symptoms
  • Manages stress by lowering cortisol level
  • Mood regulation and long-term mental health management with the boost of post-exercise endorphins
  • Aids in managing menopause belly, or the middle-aged spread (to read more about this, click here)
  • Can reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes
  • Enhances sleep quality, alleviating menopause symptoms
  • Running strengthens lower body bones, reducing osteoporosis risk which is underlying as you go through menopause

 

What to watch out for when running during menopause

  • Your pelvic floor. Your pelvic floor has supported you (quite literally!) through many phases and occasions during your life. To name a few: jumping at that concert, pushing your baby out, and keeping the waste product in until you finally reached that toilet. Your pelvic floor can take a battering when running, especially during menopause. So you need to monitor how your pelvic floor functions when running. 
  • Your injury risk. You can get injured at any point in time, However, a link has been identified between a decline in estrogen and tendon and ligament injuries. The research on the effect of declining estrogen levels and injury is not completely understood, but we know that as we progress through menopause, our bones and ligaments can also be susceptible to sprains or worse injuries if we don’t do anything about it. So keep injuries on your radar.
  • Don’t overdo it. Running, running and more running isn’t going to solve your menopause. It isn’t a secret antidote to mid-life. Run, and fuel yourself properly to do so but don’t take it to the extreme.
    If you aren’t having a pre-workout snack, you need to! Read about how to create the perfect pre-workout snack here
  • Running alone isn’t going to cut it. Similar to spinning, running is a fantastic cardio exercise, which will work wonders for your heart and lungs. This is important. But, alone, it isn’t good enough. You need to add some resistance training to your menopause exercise. We explain this a little later.

 

How to run better during menopause

Other than your training plan or running schedule, here are three things that will help you to run better during menopause:

Your running kit

We’re specifically referencing your workout clothes. Your training top, shorts, running jacket, windbreaker etc…the lot! 

Pay more attention to your workout kit, and don’t let labels put you off. You have to have a kit that fits you properly – and don’t be distracted by the sizing!

Women’s sizing is about as consistent as British weather, so if your normal size feels strange and the next size up or two fits better, get that one!

The number or letter on the label doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are comfortable during your run and your kit doesn’t hinder that. 

Manage your body temperature with your clothing choice

Ever had a hot flush whilst running? …not a fun experience!

Staying cool and wearing clothing that will help you to avoid overheating when running  (including when those hot flushes attack), is a game changer. You’ll feel better, less sticky, less frantic, and run better. 

Opt for clothing that has mesh panels which will allow hot hair to pass through and escape, or clothing that has been designed with areas that are strategically uncovered. 

Moisture-wicking cotton is a good idea for shorter runs and DriFit technology is a good option for the longer runs.

Get the right sports bra

This is, quite frankly, a game changer. 

In the run up to the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in 2021, 112 British athletes were provided with ‘prescribed’ sports bras. Four weeks later, 87% of the athletes reported having benefited from the perfectly-fit sports bras, and 17% said it had improved their sports performance

Consider the underband, straps, cups, support, compression and comfort

The right sports bra that suits you and your boobs will pay dividends with your running and your well-being whilst doing so!

Listen to your body, regardless of what your training plan says

We don’t need to tell you, you know this already; menopause is a rollercoaster. 

Every single day is different, but it is important to not allow yourself to be dictated by your training schedule rather than by how you feel. Yes, there are times when you need to push through, but nothing good ever comes from a hard run on a day when you feel low on energy and slept terribly the night before. 

Perhaps you used to be an early morning runner, and now you wake up exhausted at that time. That’s okay! Switch your runs to the evening.

Your body will give you signs, you need to listen to them.

 

What to add to your running program during menopause

Running alone isn’t going to give you the menopause management that you want, or deserve. 

You need to add some kind of resistance training.

Resistance training is a form of exercise that involves the use of resistance to challenge your muscles

As estrogen declines during and after menopause, so does your muscle mass, muscular strength and bone density. 

Actually, they decline quicker than ever before.

It is thought that without including any resistance training in your weekly routine, you lose 8% of your muscle mass and strength every few years. 

The sooner you make the adjustment the better!

Whilst running is a very good form of exercise and has many benefits, to have the best menopause experience, do resistance training alongside it. 

In fact, there are MANY reasons why you should add resistance training alongside other types of cardiovascular training, but we’ll save that for another time.

Our expert opinion

“Running is a wonderful form of exercise, and can provide many benefits during the perimenopause and menopause stage; as well as general health benefits too. As we have established, running on it’s own is like putting one shoe on and forgetting the other when heading out. Running will do a great job, but it is missing something vital…the other shoe! AKA resistance training.”

References

Where we get some of our information from

References
Daley, A. J., Stokes-Lampard, H. J., & MacArthur, C. (2009). Exercise to reduce vasomotor and other menopausal symptoms: a review. Maturitas, 63(3), 176-180.

Ko J, Park YM. Menopause and the Loss of Skeletal Muscle Mass in Women. Iran J Public Health. 2021 Feb;50(2):413-414. doi: 10.18502/ijph.v50i2.5362. PMID: 33748008; PMCID: PMC7956097.

Mannella, P., Palla, G., Bellini, M., & Simoncini, T. (2013). The female pelvic floor through midlife and aging. Maturitas, 76(3), 230-234.

Nedergaard, A., Henriksen, K., Karsdal, M. A., & Christiansen, C. (2013). Menopause, estrogens and frailty. Gynecological Endocrinology, 29(5), 418–423. https://doi.org/10.3109/09513590.2012.754879

Stacy Sims and Selene Yeager. Next Level: Your Guide to Kicking Ass, Feeling Great, and Crushing Goals Through Menopause and Beyond.

Sternfeld B, Dugan S. Physical activity and health during the menopausal transition. Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am. 2011 Sep;38(3):537-66. doi: 10.1016/j.ogc.2011.05.008. PMID: 21961719; PMCID: PMC3270074.

Wakefield-Scurr J, Sanchez A, Jones M, Hockley L, Biswas A, Johnson F, Roberts E. A multi-phase intervention study of sports bra prescription for elite UK female athletes preparing for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. Res Sports Med. 2024 Jan-Jun;32(1):186-200. doi: 10.1080/15438627.2022.2090254. Epub 2022 Jun 16. PMID: 35711113.
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/menopause/

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