Exercise is essential for menopausal women’s physical and mental health, but what if you’re not sure where to start? Menopause coach and PT Jane Dowling shares the beginner’s fitness plan that anyone can do

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We all want to be the best version of ourselves that we possibly can. For some, when we hit menopause it can be tough. I found it tough. When I was 46 menopause hit me like a freight train. I was not in the best physical shape at the time because I was recovering from shoulder surgery and a car accident - both events were life-changing. I had been in the health and fitness industry for over 20 years, but the magic wand had stopped working!

I suffered with panic attacks, sleepless nights, anxiety, painful joints and severe fatigue, which is why I started writing my blog  to help women and stop them from suffering as I did. I knew that if I took small steps every day then I would start to feel better. My studio is at London Bridge; I would get off at Borough tube station for two reasons. One, it is further away from my studio and two, there are 102 stairs at Borough station.  Each day I would slowly walk up the 102 steps and then take the longer walk to my studio. I was so physically and mentally fatigued, but over time those steps were not my enemy and my slow stroll became faster.

We are at higher risk of heart disease when we reach menopause, so becoming breathless is a must. Guidelines suggest becoming breathless three times per week for 30-40 minutes. This can be broken down into smaller segments, just like my stairs at Borough and my walk to my studio. Exercise will not only give you energy, but confidence, putting you in a much stronger mindset to carry it on.

Once I had been doing my steps over a few weeks, I started to incorporate a few other things that I knew I had to cover for my bone health . Here’s my beginner’s fitness plan that’s perfect to do in menopause.

The menopause fitness plan

Always warm up by walking around first, and do get the OK from your GP before you start.

Do this circuit three times per week, with two or three sets of 8-12 reps.

Use the heaviest band you can find. Do them in a circuit and it won’t take long; these can be done every other day such as Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but walking you can do every day!

1) Jumping up and down – great for not only heart health, but will protect your hips and lower spine from osteoporosis. Start with just a few if you feel your pelvic floors are compromised.

2) Seated row – see photo – this will protect your upper spine from osteoporosis

  • As in the picture, keep the band at the same height as your belly button
  • Pull the hands apart so you are pulling at the band
  • Then pull the hands and the band towards your tummy – keeping your elbows bent as in the photo and the tension on the band
  • You will now want to slide your shoulder blades together, keeping the hands wide and feel this in the upper back
  • Feeling this in your upper back – again count out loud for 6 seconds
  • Pull the tummy in tight as well – remember if you count out loud you will not hold your breath
  • Release the band and hands forward, keeping the elbows bent and repeat.

3) Seated back extension – see photo – the will protect your lower spine from osteoporosis

  • Keep the back straight all the way through this exercise
  • Keep the arms straight – your natural reaction is to bend the elbows, this will work the arms and we want to work the lower back.
  • When you are in the upright position, keep the abs really tight and count out loud to 6 seconds (if you count you will not hold your breath!)
  • When you lower forward make sure you keep the back straight
  • It’s ok if you feel it in the lower spine, that is where we want to strengthen

4) Seated hip abduction – see photo - protect your hips.

  • Take the band under the knees with feet and knees together, so the band is nice and tight
  • Take the feet apart
  • Then press the knees wide so you feel it in the side of the hips
  • Count to 6 seconds

5) Press ups on knees – great for wrist strength

  • Hands wider than your shoulders
  • Back straight and tummy tight
  • Lower your body towards the floor, keeping your head and shoulders around 6 inches away from the floor – no need to lower completely
  • If you find doing 8/12 is too much, do not worry - just  work up to it

Finish off with a lovely upper back stretch – hold no less than 15 seconds. Remember, this will not only help with your bone health -  it will help with weight management. If you have healthier, happier, stronger, toned muscles, it will help feed off fat stores at rest!

How to walk more during menopause

With walking included you now have six things you can do to take control of your menopause. Have a look at your day and see how you can incorporate walking into your everyday routine, such as...

  • Ditch the lift
  • Walk up escalators and stairs as much as you can
  • Walk to a coffee shop that’s further away
  • Walk already? Then walk faster!
  • Arrange to meet a friend for a cuppa – meet first and have a walk – it will be good for both body and mind.

I asked my social media family to let me know if exercise had had a positive impact on their menopause and I had a great response - these small steps will be a big leap forward to be the best version of yourselves that you can.

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