If you find it hard to feel motivated to go to the gym or fit in a run before or after work, exercise snacking in menopause could be for you. It can help you increase your active minutes without even breaking too much of a sweat or leaving your house. It’s perfect if you find self-care time is squashed between the heavy responsibilities of working, caring for your parents or teenage children.
Why do we need to keep moving?
Working from home offers so many benefits but the downside can be a lowered step count due to a lack of commuting and motivation to get active. If your step count is hovering around 1,500 steps or lower, it’s time to really think about getting moving.
Work is not the only problem when it comes to being more sedentary, as our leisure time is often centred around watching TV, computers or our mobiles. We are moving less and that’s having an impact on our health. Research suggests that prolonged sitting might be linked to greater risks of early death. It is also linked to chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease (source).
Menopause is the time to evaluate your activity and think about the impact on your health in later life.
What is exercise snacking?
Exercise snacking is a fancy name for short, intense bursts of exercise that you can slot into your day. Instead of doing one hour of exercise in one go, you can break it into smaller chunks with rest periods in between. The concept comes from high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or sprint interval training (SIT).
Non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT as it is more commonly known, is the energy expended from day-to-day living, such as walking, typing and fidgeting. You can increase it easily without even having to think about it. Read on to find out how to try exercise snacking in menopause.
Does exercise snacking work?
Recent research does show positive effects of exercise snacking on fitness levels.
One study researched whether stair climbing exercise snacking improved cardio fitness. People were asked to race up three flights of stairs, taking 20 seconds to climb 60 steps on average. They did this three times a day, with a 1-4 hour rest period between climbs, three times a week. After six weeks, the participants recorded a 5% increase in aerobic fitness, as well as increased leg power (Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism).
Another study found that breaking sitting down every 30 minutes to go for a two-minute walk or do a set of squats had positive effects on stabilising blood sugar levels (Journal of Applied Physiology).
The upside of exercise snacking is that you do not need special equipment, oodles of spare time or expensive gym subscriptions to increase your exercise snacks. It’s about keeping mindful of your sitting time and breaking it up with bouts of activity. Maybe you can look at your stairs in a new light if you want to try exercise snacking in menopause!
How to get your exercise snacking in while at home
Stella Squad member, Meera Bhogal from Meera’s Made From Scratch shares her ideas on how to keep on moving while working from home or when doing day-to-day activities around the home.
While waiting for your kettle to boil you can do 20 reps of this fantastic muscle building exercise to get your blood flowing”
Get in 10-15 powerful lunges while waiting for your dinner to cook. These will strengthen your legs, glutes and improve flexibility”
Pack away squat and presses
Heaving in the shopping can work your upper body but putting it all in the cupboards can also help keep you mobile. Work your upper and lower body by adding in squats and presses”
Why not give some incline press-ups a go while waiting for your toast to pop – it’s a fab stop clock!”
Increase your balance and core stability by marching while brushing your teeth”
Four stretches to help while working from home
Do you get lost in work and realise you’ve been typing or on a call for 60 minutes without a break or moving position? Looking after yourself while sitting at a desk is important with some 28 million days of work are lost to muscle and bone problems.
Whether you are working from home or in the office it’s important to get up, stand up and move around for a stretch”
Here are Meera’s top stretches when working at a desk.
- Clasp your hands behind your back
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together and keep your chest up
- Bring your left elbow strategy up while bending your arm
- Grab your left elbow with your right hand
- Pull your left elbow towards your head with light pressure
“It can feel so lovely to stretch your triceps,” says Meera.
Wrist and ankle rotations
- Rotate your palms and ankles clockwise and anticlockwise to increase flexibility and improve circulation
- Use the back of the chair in front of you
- Extend your arms straight out while pushing your hips back
- It’s a great way to stretch out your back if you have been sitting for a long time
Dr Lucy Wilkinson, a doctor with special interests in women’s health, health technology and narrative medicine, says: “Exercise snacking in menopause is a great way to increase activity but it’s important to remember that this is just one part of the bigger picture when it comes to your overall health.
“If you are sitting for long periods, you still need to think about your nutrition and maintaining an ideal weight as it is unlikely that exercise snacking alone will be enough to offset a diet which is too high in calories.
“NHS recommendations advise aiming for either 75 or 150 minutes of exercise per week (depending on whether this is vigorous or moderate intensity), which can be difficult to manage if you are relying on exercise snacking as your only form of exertion.
“Strength training on at least two days per week is also recommended, and this is particularly important in women around menopausal age as it becomes more difficult to maintain your muscle mass and bone density due to hormonal changes. A well-rounded programme which works all of the main muscle groups is best, and you will need to be organised to achieve this with exercise snacking alone (although it is possible!).
“It’s also important to think about posture if you spend a lot of time seated or using a computer. This is especially true if you struggle with back, neck or shoulder pain, as all of these can become more troublesome around the time of menopause.
As always, check in with your own doctor before starting a new exercise regime. This is especially important if you have any heart or circulation problems, or if you have any breathlessness, palpitations, chest pain, dizziness or other symptoms.”