Ask an Exercise Physiologist: Poor sleep patterns and peri-menopause weight gain | HerCanberra

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Ask an Exercise Physiologist: Poor sleep patterns and peri-menopause weight gain

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Intriguing questions this week about sleep hygiene and exercise and the “perimenopause bulge”.

Thank you to the HerCanberra community for being so engaging and asking the tough questions. Addressing your concerns is the first step in finding answers. I’ll get to the other questions on osteoporosis, mountain running & the benefits of exercising with depression over the next month.

New here? Ask an EP is here to help with all your health and wellness questions and challenges—lifestyle, wellness, pain and health.

Do you have a burning health and wellness question? Now is your chance to ask.

Each week we will pick a couple of questions, and help you solve your burning query. If we share our problems, we are more likely to solve them.

Let’s get started.

Can exercise help my terrible sleep patterns? My doctor prescribed sleeping tablets, but it takes me hours to feel normal in the morning if I take them the night before.

I go to bed exhausted, but wake up in the middle of the night, and am awake for hours (if I don’t take the tablets). When should I exercise to help my sleep?

– Margaret, 58

Did you know 1 in 3 adults report significant sleep complaints? So, you’re not alone. Research has proved that physical activity can be as effective as prescription sleep medication and improves sleep quality.

Please do consult your doctor though, as you want to find out WHY your sleep is poor. Do you have a women’s health doctor who specialises in menopause?

Here are four exercise tips to consider if you want to improve your sleep hygiene:

  • Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise everyday day. Consistency is essential.
  • Morning or afternoon workout is best (try to avoid scheduling the workout 1-2 hours before bed).
  • Try to exercise outside—exposure to natural light assists your body’s sleep rhythm and hormones.
  • Exercising in the morning (daylight hours) helps you sleep—as it assists your body to release melatonin earlier in the evening.

Good luck—you have plenty to work on. Let me know your progress

Any Exercise Physiology tips to help the perimenopause bulge? Are different types of exercise better than others?

– Dimi, 51

Ahh, Dimi, at least you know about perimenopause! Many women in their 40/50s don’t even know/understand the symptoms.

Let’s take a step back for a moment. Perimenopause weight gain is usually related to

  • Ageing
  • Lifestyle choices
  • Genetic factors

NOT hormonal changes alone.

Studies demonstrate that the average reduction in activity levels after menopause is around 50%. Therefore, Perimenopause is the perfect opportunity to improve your lifestyle choices!

Women gain weight through a combination of less calories burned a reduction in lean body mass and a failure to adjust calorie intake.

Yes, there are hormonal changes that play a role in weight gain—for example, menopausal women have decreased testosterone levels (which reduces the amount of muscle, thus lowering the body’s metabolic rate). However—these alone DO NOT contribute to why 90% of menopausal women experience varying levels of weight gain.

Here are three forms of activity that will help answer your question:

High-intensity interval training

Which involves an intense burst of exercise, followed by a short recovery period. This type of training keeps your heart rate elevated and has been known to help manage menopause.

For beginners, attempt the rowing machine or assault bike at your local gym (20 seconds at 90% effort, and 30-second active easy recovery; repeat four times if you are a beginner).

Work up to 30-40 second efforts, two sets, two days a week.  If you are a runner, try 6 x 60 metre sprints with a walk back recovery.

Work up to doing two sets, two days a week.

Low-impact cardiovascular/aerobic exercise

Fabulous for your heart and lungs. Walking is one of the best choices because you can do it anywhere, anytime (so there are fewer excuses).

Other examples of aerobic/cardio exercises: deep water running intervals/hydrotherapy/swimming (although this does not build bone density), cycling, aerobics, tennis.

Resistance training

Aim for a minimum of two or three times a week for 30 minutes.

Some common examples of strength training include weight machines, free weights/dumbbells, exercise Thera-bands (plenty of colours to increase your resistance) and gardening (lifting and shifting).

Great questions—I feel like they both deserved their own dedicated article! I’ll answer more next time.

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