Menopause is usually a natural process defined as the permanent end of menstruation. The definition is made 12 months after the final menstrual period. Menopause can also be the result of surgery such as a hysterectomy, or as a side effect from cancer treatment as the ovaries stop producing oestrogen.

Perimenopause is the initial stage of menopause and sees fluctuations in oestrogen and progesterone levels. Perimenopause can last anywhere between 1 and 10 years but has an average duration of 4 to 6 years. During perimenopause your menstrual bleed may become irregular, either less frequent or more frequent, or have a continually changing pattern. Bleeds may also become heavier or lighter and symptoms of hot flushes, disrupted sleep and mood disturbances often begin.

Early onset menopause is when a woman experiences her final menstrual cycle before the age of 45 years, and premature menopause is prior to the age of 40. Premature or early onset menopause can be as a result of pharmacotherapies, surgery, or can occur naturally.

How does exercise help menopause?

Exercise can help with optimising long-term health after menopause – including maintaining bone mineral density and reducing the risk of osteoporosis or osteopenia, reducing cardiovascular risk factors, maintaining a healthy weight range, pelvic floor health & improving balance.

Exercise can also help with:

  • Hot flushes and night sweats
  • Psychological symptoms often seen such as depression, anxiety and impaired memory and concentration
  • Joint pain, headaches and dizziness
  • Incontinence
  • Maintenance of bone mineral density
  • Reduced risk of developing cardiovascular disease

  • Improved endothelial function (reducing risk of atherosclerotic changes and high blood pressure)
  • Improved insulin sensitivity (reducing risk of diabetes and issues with blood sugars)
  • Improved quality of sleep
  • Improved mental health and wellbeing
  • Increased quality of life

What type of exercise is best for patients with menopause?

In line with Australian physical activity recommendations, Exercise Right recommends 150 to 300 minutes (2 ½ to 5 hours) of moderate activity or 75 to 150 minutes (1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours) of vigorous intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week.

Exercise prescription should be individualised and prescribed by an Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) and include resistance training, pelvic floor muscle training, balance training, aerobic activity and power training. Research has shown that exercise that is completed in a social setting, in a small group class or with a friend, also has associated improvements in mental health, quality of life and program adherence.

Exercise prescription should take into account:

  • Exercise history
  • Individual goals

  • Chronic health conditions or injuries
  • Exercise that is enjoyable

Things to remember

Before beginning an exercise program all postmenopausal women should have their pelvic floor strength assessed by a women’s health AEP, regardless of if you have had previous pregnancies, vaginal deliveries or a hysterectomy.

If pelvic floor dysfunction is suspected, exercise prescription should aim to minimise increases in intra-abdominal pressure and avoid strain being placed upon the pelvic floor organs and muscles to reduce the risk of pelvic organ prolapse or incontinence.

Last updated February 2022.