Around and beyond the menopause many women feel they’re generally getting stiffer and less flexible. Joints and muscles can ache more too.  Maybe you could do the splits in your youth but stepping over a stile is now a challenge. Perhaps being able to touch your toes is a distant memory!  

Is stretching part of your fitness routine? Do you regularly stretch before and after you run? Is it actually beneficial anyway? When your exercise window is small, it’s good to know whether it’s worth spending time stretching or not. And if you’re a runner chomping at the bit to just get going, to know whether you need to make the effort to add in a stretch or not.  

Here’s what you need to know about stretching when it comes to menopause.  

Getting older and stiffer? 

Getting less flexible with age is not unexpected. Although some studies show women are found to be more flexible than men at all ages, others don’t confirm this. Flexibility does however reduce with increasing age. Between the ages of 55 and 86, women’s shoulder flexibility is said to decrease 6 degrees every ten years. And hip flexibility reduces by 7 degrees every ten years too.  

Oestrogen decreases stiffness of tendons and ligaments, so when oestrogen levels fall during and after the menopause, stiffness increases.  

If you’re finding that putting on your shoes, reaching above your head or getting into downward dog just keeps getting harder, then you’re not alone. There is some good news though! We can definitely work against that natural decline and improve our flexibility through physical activity at any age.  

Make time to stretch 

If we want to maintain our flexibility as we get older, we should make some time to stretch. You need to find a way to do this that fits with your life and routine so that it’s sustainable and easy for you.  

Being too flexible isn’t a good thing either as it can make you more unstable and prone to injury. How flexible you need to be depends on what your job, hobbies and everyday life demand of you. That’s different for every person but we should at least be able to carry out basic self-care and activities of daily living as we get older. We don’t all need to be able t do the splits so don’t feel bad if you can’t.  

We want to be flexible for daily life but will stretching help our running? Will it make us faster, less likely to be injured or give us a quicker recovery? 

How not to stretch 

It’s now known that static stretches immediately before you exercise will not help your performance and may in fact be detrimental as it can reduce maximum strength. Don’t be the runner posing in a static stretch before a race.  

Similarly, research has now shown that doing static stretches immediately after an intense work out isn’t a good idea either. When you hold a muscle in a tight, static stretch you are restricting blood flow to it. Straight after exercise, your muscles need maximum blood flow to remove the waste products of exercise and to bring fresh new blood with all its healing properties to the area. Reducing this blood flow by static stretching hinders recovery.  

Here’s what NOT to do: 

  • Stretch cold muscles 
  • Bounce hard on stretches  
  • Force your muscle in a stretch  
  • Do static stretches before you run  
  • Do static stretches immediately after an intense workout 
  • Never do any stretches. 

Tips for stretching well 

When you know what not to do, it’s easier to understand what will work better for you:  

  • Have a warm bath, shower or a brisk walk to warm up before you stretch.  
  • Do a specific stretching session away from your other exercise. Yoga is perfect for this and improves strength and mobility too (mobility is a combination of flexibility and strength).  
  • Use dynamic stretches before your run. These are stretches that take your joint through a whole range of movement such as hip circles, squats, arm and leg swings.  
  • Finish your run, cool down well and ideally wait and do your static stretches later, after your post run shower.  
  • 15 seconds is the ideal time to hold a static stretch to gain flexibility without reducing strength.  
  • Stretching can feel nice and done correctly can help to improve flexibility but strength training is as effective and as menopausal women in a state of muscle mass decline, we should prioritise strength work over stretching if we have to choose between the two.  
  • Remember that not everyone needs to be able to do the splits but being able to put on your running shoes is something we should all strive to keep doing.  

If you’ve enjoyed this blog then sign up to my weekly newsletter for more tips, advice, evidence and occasional laughs for menopausal runners  

Featured image: Ben Kerckx a Pixabay 

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *