Best exercises for women during and after menopause

Women's Health

by Tovë Goldson, MD, PhD

Apr 19, 2024

If you’re approaching or have already entered menopause, you know this phase of life comes with many changes. One change you may not know much about is how menopause impacts your heart health.

The bad news? After menopause, the risk of heart disease in women increases. The good news? There’s a lot you can do to lower your risk—starting with moving your body.

From improving your bone density to lowering blood pressure regular exercise has many powerful benefits for women during and after menopause. Here’s what to know and what exercises you can start trying today.

Benefits of exercise during and after menopause

Exercise has so many positive impacts—for people of all ages. But for women experiencing menopause, exercise is especially powerful. Exercise is a great way to mitigate potential health declines as you age and enhance your well-being by improving heart health, bone density, mood, sleep quality and more.

For women going through the many changes that menopause brings, exercising your body is key. Let’s dive into a few of the most important health benefits of exercising during menopause.

Heart health

After menopause, your risk of developing heart disease rises. This can manifest as high blood pressure or increases in cholesterol, two conditions that are already very common among both men and women.

High blood pressure and high cholesterol also place you at an increased risk of events like a stroke or heart attack.

Fortunately, healthy habits like regular exercisecan help prevent both conditions so your heart stays healthy through menopause and beyond. If you’ve already been diagnosed with high blood pressure or high cholesterol, these healthy habits (and other lifestyle changes) are effective treatments for many people.

Stress management

Many women find themselves facing new types of stress related to menopause. For some, menopausal hot flashes lead to lack of sleep. Others may experience mood changes, grief or changes in sexual function.

All of these stressors can impact your decision-making, leading to unhealthy choices and for many women, weight gain. Exercise is a simple, yet effective way to support your mental health by providing a way to relieve stress. For weight gain, maintaining healthy eating habits will have the most impact.

Bone density

As we age, both men and women experience a loss of cortical bone. Cortical bone is the tough, outer layer of bones that makes them strong and durable. Women also experience a loss of trabecular bone due to menopausal hormonal changes. Trabecular bone is the inner, less dense portion of bone tissue. It is found at the ends of long bones and within the interior of flat bones, such as the vertebrae and hip bones. This is why bone density is something every woman should pay attention to.

For women who do not have additional risk factors for osteoporosis, such as long-term prednisone or steroid therapy, bone density should be checked at age 65 with a DEXA scan.

If you think you’re at increased risk for osteoporosis, talk to your primary care physician. You may qualify for a DEXA scan at a younger age. Your primary care physician will also be able to counsel you on medications that can help reduce your fracture risk if you do have osteoporosis.

So, where does exercise come in? Fortunately, both strength training and aerobic exercise can help women maintain their bone density while going through menopause.

Best exercises for women during or after menopause

So, where should you start? What exercises are most effective for women during or after menopause?

While your personal exercise routine should be based on your lifestyle and preferences, the goal is to get 150 minutes per week of moderate to strenuous aerobic activity (also called “cardio”) with some modest weight training.

It’s key to incorporate a good balance of strength training and cardio in your routine. Strength training and cardio have both been shown to benefit bone mineral density measurements, and aerobic exercise is especially important for heart health.

If you’re new to exercise or haven’t been working out regularly, it’s important to start these exercises at a safe level. People who have difficulty with balance can increase their risk of falling by starting exercise routines.

Strength training exercises

Some research has shown that in early postmenopausal women, bone mineral density in the lumbar spine and hip can be improved with specific resistance training. If you’re new to the idea of strength training, don’t worry—you don’t have to hit the gym for hours at a time or lift heavy weights.

Below are a few simple strength training exercises that can help improve your muscle strength, bone density and balance. If you’re a regular exerciser or you’re up for more of a challenge, try Pilates or a full body strength workout. 

Single leg balance:


Step downs:


Intermediate Pilates (for those who can get onto the floor to exercise) :


Full body strength workout with dumbbells :


Aerobic exercise

A variety of aerobic exercises can help protect your heart from heart disease, so try different types until you find an activity you enjoy and will be able to stick to. Here are a few simple options that you can try either on a machine at the gym or around your house or neighborhood:

  • Jogging
  • Walking
  • Stair climbing

Living well during menopause and beyond

Exercise is just one component of a healthy life. Make sure you’re also enjoying a nutrient-dense diet and getting quality sleep at night. All of these healthy habits will help you feel good as you manage the changes that menopause brings.

If you have questions about how menopause is impacting your health, talk to your primary care physician or OBGYN. Find a doctor near you.

About the Author

Tovë Goldson, MD, PhD, is a family medicine physician on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Clinic – Santa Fe.

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