Taking part in regular exercise has been shown to boost the dopamine levels in your brain, which helps to reduce stress and even combat depression. Exercise also helps to raise the testosterone levels in your bloodstream. This helps to improve your strength and stamina when you are actually exercising. If all of this wasn’t enough, physical activity can also lead to a better insulin response. This means your body will be able to use the glucose found in the foods you eat more effectively.

Despite knowing the benefits of staying active, for many of us, getting on top of a regular exercise regime can be challenging. Our busy lives, limited resources and precious ‘free’ time mean that making time to exercise isn’t always a priority. Hormonally is here to remind you that staying active brings great benefits beyond the physical and is therefore worth prioritizing.

Although getting on the treadmill is probably the last thing you want to do when you’re on your period, or experiencing symptoms of menopause, it can really help. To find out more about how moving matters, and to get some hormone boosting tips and tricks, keep scrolling.

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A lot of people will tell you there are certain types of physical training or activity that are more beneficial when it comes to improving your overall health and wellbeing. The truth is, it doesn’t really matter what the activity you are doing is, as long as it gets your heart rate up, blood pumping, and you do it safely and regularly.

While sessions in the gym or taking classes are great, incorporating more physical activity into your normal weekly routine is also a helpful way to stay on top of your physical health. Walking a bit further or faster than normal, taking the stairs when you can, and just sweeping, shoveling, vacuuming or gardening with gusto!

Let’s walk (or run!) you through some of the health benefits of exercise at each stage of life and highlight some great types of activity as we go.

Aims for activity

One of the most important things for our heart health is to reduce long periods of time spent sitting down or lying down. If you regularly take long drives, have a desk-based job, or enjoy marathon movie binges in bed, try to break up these long spells with walking around for at least a few minutes of every hour spent static. Smartwatches can be helpful to give you a nudge to do this, or set a timer on your phone.

In terms of doing exercise and getting the blood pumping, here are the current recommendations from the Office on Women’s Health. And this applies for all adult women, whatever age:

  • Aim for 2 and a half hours a week (or around 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week).
  • Aim for the activity to be of moderate-intensity and aerobic like a brisk walk.  This gets your heart and breathing rate up but you can still talk while doing it.
  • You can equally try 1 hour and 15 minutes a week (15 mins per day, 5 days a week) of more vigorous aerobic activity, such as jogging, hiking, or a workout class.
  • As well as this, you’ll benefit from muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week. These are exercises where your muscles are pushing/pulling against weight or resistance.  For example, lifting weights, using exercise bands, or using your own body weight like doing push-ups and sit-ups.
  • Try to spread all your exercise evenly over 4 to 5 days a week, rather than one very long session once a week.

Using weights can be unfamiliar for some, but this type of exercise is so important for maintaining your bone health. If you are unsure of how to use weights safely, talk to someone that can walk you through some activities to try. Watching some explainer videos on training with weights safely is also a good idea. Remember, start with a manageable weight and work up. Increasing the weight you are lifting slowly over time is the best option, as opposed to hurting yourself over hauling something too heavy!

Staying active on your period

You may notice your energy levels change during different times of the month. Energy is tied to your estrogen levels, so it’s common to feel more like exercising during the follicular phase of your cycle when your estrogen is higher, as opposed to during the luteal phase when your estrogen drops.

Often, people find when they get their period, energy levels slowly return and their ‘get up and go’ gets greater again. It’s important to listen to your body and exercise in a way that feels sustainable. If a heavy gym session seems too much in the lead up to getting your period, think about planning other movement activities that are less strenuous. A hike, going out dancing with friends, or a bike ride are all fun options that may feel more manageable when our hormones aren’t so high.

There’s no concrete evidence that your menstrual cycle affects your exercise performance, but many women report feeling like they’re not hitting the mark in the same way, just before, or during the first few days of their period.

There are no risks that come with exercising during your period and in fact, some research has shown that women have fewer cramps if they exercise regularly.

So, although you may not feel like it, if you can muster up the energy to go for that walk or attend your fitness class/team sport when you’re on your period, your body will thank you for it.

A note of caution:  If you’re someone who likes to train hard and exercise a lot, you may miss periods or notice they’re irregular. If you suddenly start an intense fitness regime, your periods may stop altogether, make an appointment to see your healthcare provider, as a lack of periods over time can lead to some health problems such as fertility issues and bone weakening.


Exercise that increases your heart rate has actually been shown to help improve your chances of becoming pregnant if you’re trying for a baby – and we’re not just talking about sex as the activity! Regular exercise that gets your blood pumping boosts your mental wellbeing, reduces stress, helps your periods to stay regular (ensuring frequent ovulation) and it benefits your sex drive too.


Once you become pregnant, try to keep up with exercising and if you are active, don’t change these patterns. Recommendations for the amount of exercise you should do does not change when you become pregnant. It continues to be around 2.5 hours a week of moderate intensity aerobic exercise as well as 2 days a week of some muscle strengthening activity.

Exercising when pregnant can:

  • help you cope with the physical demands of pregnancy
  • ease and prevent aches and pains
  • help with constipation and varicose veins
  • lower high blood pressure (and preeclampsia)
  • reduce your chance of getting gestational diabetes
  • improve your sleep
  • help you to maintain a healthy weight
  • improve your experience of labor
  • reduce the chance of preterm (early) delivery
  • quicken the physical recovery process after birth
    help you return to your pre-pregnancy weight more easily
  • help to maintain your emotional wellbeing and lessen the risk of depression and anxiety

If you usually do vigorous amounts of activity, you can often keep up your activity level as long as your health doesn’t change. Make sure to talk to your healthcare provider about your exercise regimes throughout your pregnancy.

  • Contact sports (soccer, hockey, basketball, martial arts)
  • Activities with risk of falling (skiing, climbing, horse-riding, cycling)
  • High altitude pursuits (of more than 2500m)
  • Scuba diving
  • Hot environments (like Bikram yoga)


If your birth is straightforward, you can start gentle exercise as soon as you feel up to it. This could include:

It’s usually a good idea to wait 6 weeks before you start any higher impact exercise, such as HIIT sessions or running.

If you had a more complicated delivery or a caesarean section, your recovery time will most likely be longer. Talk to your healthcare provider at your post-partum check to discuss the best way to return to your usual activities.

Some cautions:

After pregnancy, there’s a small increased risk of injury because:

  • your lower back and core abdominal muscles may be weaker than they were before
  • your ligaments and joints are more supple for a few months after birth

If you’re still having postpartum bleeding and it gets heavier, thicker or changes color after activity, you could be overdoing it.

Listen to your body, pace yourself and make sure you get plenty of rest too.

Regular exercise is a key component when it comes to maintaining a happy healthy body as we age. After menopause, our hormone levels are lower than they once were. While many use Hormone Therapy (HT) to address this, these treatments can only do so much. Keeping on top of exercise is an important part of ensuring your muscles and bones stay healthy, and that you are able to keep doing the things you love, long into later life.

The benefits of exercising as we age are:

  • it lowers risk of heart disease
  • it lowers risk of type 2 diabetes
  • it lowers risk of having a stroke
  • it lowers risk of many types of cancer
  • it reduces the risk of depression
  • it reduces the risk of dementia
  • it reduces joint swelling and pain from arthritis
  • it reduces muscle loss and weakness
  • it reduces the bone tissue loss that speeds up after menopause and makes bones more likely to break (osteoporosis)
  • it reduces risk of injury (women are more likely to get ‘runner’s knee’ or an ACL tear)
  • it boosts your self esteem
  • it boosts your mood
  • it improves your sleep quality
  • it improves your energy levels
  • it helps you maintain a healthy weight
  • it helps you remain independent for longer

Activity involving balance becomes really important at this time as it reduces the risk of having a trip or fall. Pursuits like yoga, pilates and tai chi are great for this, but you can also carry out some balance exercises at home like walking backwards, doing a few sit-to-stands, reaching up high on tiptoes, or standing on one leg to improve your balance too.

As well as balance activities, make sure you include a mix of:

Aerobic exercise

Anything to raise your heart and breathing rate (walking, swimming, dancing, climbing the stairs).

Weight-bearing exercise

Where you’re holding your own weight and it impacts through your joints. Try to include changing the direction of movement and having bursts of more intense movement in between lighter spells (racquet sports, brisk walking/jogging, star jumps and squats)

Muscle strengthening exercise

Work your muscles harder than usual against resistance or your own body weight (resistance bands, press ups, sit ups, lift weights are great for this).

The weight-bearing and strengthening exercises are crucial for your bone health as bone is living tissue that gets stronger as you use it and move it. When your muscles pull on your bones it helps them renew and get stronger, making them less likely to break.

Some studies have shown that regular physical activity can also reduce the number of hot flashes experienced by menopausal women. This is because it directly affects the internal ‘thermostat’ and improves control of the body’s core temperature.


For lots of people, attending classes or going to the gym can be overwhelming and far from fun. An expensive gym membership may be something that you are not able to afford. If things like cost, or anxiety of exercising in front of others, are stopping you from getting active, take some time to think about what feels OK for you, when it comes to creating a sustainable exercise regime.

Hearing advice like ‘try to exercise everyday’ can make the goal seem impossible, but we can all start somewhere. Even if it’s just one walk a week, start here and see how that feels.

Take notice of how your body reacts after exercise. While the ‘doing’ may not be the most comfortable thing, think about how your mind feels in the hours following your walk and try to hold onto that.

The most important takeaway to hold on to, is that any exercise and movement, no matter the type, is a step in the right direction to improving your current and future health.