If you’re like most women, your sneakers are probably collecting more dust bunnies than miles. But if you want to find hormone happiness during per-menopause and menopause, it’s due time to dust those babies off!

“All exercise, ranging from housework to running marathons, impacts menopause in a positive way,” In fact, exercise can help prevent the muscle and bone loss from which many postmenopausal women suffer, according to the American Council on Exercise. Also, arecent Penn State study found that menopausal women who exercise experience fewer hot flashes in the 24 hours following their workout. While a recent study from the MsFLASH Research Network found some conflicting information — that aerobic exercise isn’t significantly associated with reduced hot flashes — it did find that exercise does have positive effects on sleep quality, insomnia and depression in both perimenopausal and menopausal women. What’s more, exercise may be effective at treating menopausal depression, according to a recent review published in The Cochrane Library,” says Dr. Diana Bitner, MD, a North American Menopause Society Certified Menopause Practitioner & Physician and board-certified OB/GYN. “My patients who exercise on a regular basis have fewer menopause symptoms as well as improved body chemistry — lower cholesterol, better sugar control, less weight gain, and stronger bones. Women who exercise have better sleep, better mood and better quality of life.”

According to Dr. Bitner, body fat (which, of course, tends to increase after menopause) spurs hot flashes and night sweats, leads to poor sleep, saps energy, brings down moods and can wreck self-image. Put that all together, and that also means a torpedoed libido. “I talk to my patients about belly fat as a furnace that makes them hot and tired. As belly fat increases, energy decreases and hot flashes, night sweats and sleep disturbances increase. As belly fat increases, so does insulin resistance — and this can cause cravings for carbohydrates and more menopausal weight gain,” she says. “If a patient has a high BMI and body fat percentage, her risk of snoring and sleep apnea increases, adding another reason for poor sleep, low energy, and hot flashes.”

Ready to dust off those kicks? Here’s how to boost your body for good.

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