New Moves Coaching Program

Menopause Mood Booster

Jun 04, 2024
mental health, depression, menopause

One of the sneakiest and scariest symptoms of menopause are mental health-related symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and mood changes because they seem to appear out of nowhere and are often not recognized or expected. These sudden emotional fluctuations can leave us feeling overwhelmed and uncertain about how to manage our mental health during this transitional period. However, there's a powerful and natural way to combat these mood disturbances: exercise. Through regular physical activity, many people can experience significant improvements in their mental well-being. Exercise also serves as a powerful distraction from negative thoughts and rumination. For me, going to the gym to move means taking time to myself and getting a break from thinking about all the things I need to do or that are on my mind. This mental break allows for a temporary reprieve from stressors and provides an opportunity to reset and gain a more positive outlook.

The Science Behind Exercise and Mood

Exercise has long been recognized for its physical health benefits, but its impact on mental health is equally profound. The relationship between exercise and mood is supported by a robust body of scientific evidence, which highlights several physiological and psychological mechanisms through which physical activity enhances emotional well-being. One recent study found that moderate to vigorous physical activity is associated with lower odds of depression. The study particularly highlights that physical activity levels below current general health recommendations still offer significant antidepressant benefits. This suggests that even small amounts of exercise can be beneficial in reducing the risk of depression.

Physiological Mechanisms

One of the primary ways exercise improves mood is through the release of endorphins, often referred to as "feel-good" hormones. Endorphins act as natural painkillers and mood elevators, producing a sense of euphoria commonly known as the "runner's high." Additionally, exercise stimulates the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine, which are crucial for regulating mood and are often targeted by antidepressant medications. These biochemical changes help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety by enhancing brain function and reducing the perception of pain and stress.

Another significant physiological mechanism is the reduction of stress hormones. Regular physical activity helps modulate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which plays a critical role in the body's stress response. By lowering the levels of these stress hormones, exercise fosters a state of relaxation and reduces the physiological impact of stress. This effect is particularly beneficial in mitigating the symptoms of anxiety and improving overall mental resilience.

Psychological Mechanisms

Beyond the biochemical changes, exercise also offers several psychological benefits that contribute to improved mood. One key factor is the enhancement of self-esteem and self-efficacy. Engaging in regular physical activity provides a sense of accomplishment and mastery, which can significantly boost self-confidence and body image. This positive self-perception is crucial for mental health, as it helps counteract feelings of low self-worth and negative self-talk often associated with depression and anxiety.

Social and Environmental Factors

The social aspect of exercise should not be overlooked. Participating in group activities or exercising with friends can provide essential social support, which is a critical component of mental health. One example of the power of social connection is a group I have coached for over 15 years.  We call ourselves the fitness fairies. It all started as a group exercise class that I was offering in the neighborhood, and it grew into a family affair. Although I want to believe that my workouts are so amazing that everyone would come back for them, I know that the reason this group has been going for so long is because of the social bond we have created. We didn’t know each other before, but we are now family– a family that exercises together. Never underestimate the power of social interactions. Social interactions during physical activity can enhance feelings of connectedness and reduce feelings of isolation. Moreover, exercising in natural environments, such as parks or green spaces, has been shown to amplify the mood-boosting effects of physical activity. The combination of physical exertion and exposure to nature can lead to greater improvements in mood and overall well-being.

Empirical Evidence

Numerous studies have demonstrated the efficacy of exercise in improving mood and alleviating symptoms of mental health disorders. For instance, a systematic review and meta-analysis found that physical activity significantly reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety across various populations. Other studies have shown that even low to moderate-intensity exercise, such as walking or yoga, can have substantial benefits for mood and mental health.


Movement is a buffet! Take advantage of all it has to offer!!


1. Cardiovascular Exercise: Cardiovascular activities, such as brisk walking, swimming, and cycling, are highly effective in boosting mood. These exercises increase heart rate and promote the release of endorphins, helping to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. For instance, brisk walking has been shown to improve mental health and can be easily incorporated into daily routines.

First step: Start with a daily 10-minute walk around your neighborhood or local park. Gradually increase the duration by 5 minutes each week until you reach a consistent 30-minute walk daily.

2. Strength Training: Strength training exercises, including resistance training and weightlifting, can also enhance mood. These exercises help build muscle mass, improve bone density, and boost metabolism. The physical strength gained from such activities can lead to increased self-confidence and a better overall sense of well-being​.

First step: Begin with basic bodyweight exercises such as squats, push-ups, and lunges. Aim for 2 sets of 10 repetitions for each exercise, two to three times per week. As you build strength, you can incorporate light dumbbells or resistance bands.

3. Mind-Body Exercises: Practices like yoga, pilates, and tai chi integrate physical movement with mental focus, promoting relaxation and stress relief. These exercises help regulate breathing and improve flexibility, which can be particularly beneficial for managing menopause symptoms like hot flashes and sleep disturbances​.

First Step: Try a beginner's yoga class online or at a local studio. Many classes focus on gentle movements and breathing exercises, ideal for newcomers. Start with one weekly session and gradually increase as you become more comfortable.

4. Social Activities: Group exercises or joining a fitness class can add a social element to physical activity, further enhancing mood by reducing feelings of isolation and promoting social interaction. The social support and camaraderie found in group settings can provide additional motivation and emotional benefits​​.

First Step: Join a local walking group or fitness class that meets regularly. Websites like can help you find groups in your area. Committing to a social exercise routine can make the activity more enjoyable and sustainable.

Exercise is a powerful tool for managing mood and enhancing overall well-being during menopause. By incorporating regular physical activity into your routine, you can harness the benefits of endorphins, improve sleep, reduce stress, and build a stronger, healthier body. Whether through cardiovascular activities, strength training, or mind-body practices, finding the right exercise regimen can transform your menopause experience, turning it into a period of growth and positivity. 

What boosts your mood? I'd love to hear. You can email me at [email protected]