Find Your Tribe: Loneliness and exercise in midlife

We all know and understand the importance of exercise to our physical and mental health, especially in menopause. But recent studies have highlighted another factor that can have just as big an impact on our health- loneliness.

The harming effect of loneliness on our health

More than just a case of being physically alone, loneliness is now being understood more as a state of mind, and one that can have a devastating impact on our health. On top of the more obvious associations with depression and anxiety, loneliness has been linked to heart problems, increased stress, memory and cognitive issues, higher risk of drug and alcohol misuse, and can even cause physical changes to the brain.

Everyone is at risk of feeling lonely at some point in their lives, whether they’re physically alone, or have a busy family or social life. It is the sense that the innate need for social connection is not being met, which runs deeper than physically being in the same room as another person. Being understood, and feeling like we’re on the same wavelength as the people we’re spending time with is what matters.

Group Exercise

We’ve shared a lot of content in the past about exercise, and extolled the virtues of physical activity, whether it’s walking, running, pilates, or hitting the gym. But something we haven’t talked about much is exercising with a group- and especially a group of like-minded people. 


I recently realised that running up the stairs in my house was making me breathless. No weird underlying health conditions- I’m just crazy unfit and needed to do something. Running doesn’t appeal to me- I get too bored. And I don’t have the proper motivation to hit the gym. Frankly the mental exertion needed to just get myself there has exhausted me before I even start working out.

Finding my Tribe

But my best friend is a professional dancer, choreographer, and now a dance teacher to inexperienced adults. By joining her class, I’ve found a fantastic group of women, who all, like me, are struggling to juggle work, kids, partners, housework, responsibilities to their wider family, and well, exercising! While we wait to start the class, we chat, gossip, offload, and share updates about our lives. Then we spend an hour dancing, learning new steps, laughing, sweating and working our muscles until we can barely stand up. By the end I have a lovely endorphin glow, feeling like my brain has had a workout in trying to pick up the steps, and a real sense of belonging. I love every second. I think I’ve found my Tribe.

The benefits of group exercise

Lack of exercise and loneliness can be real problems for many midlife women. By combining the two and finding an activity that can help increase physical activity, but also provide a sense of community and connection, we can make a really big impact on both our mental and physical health. And there are loads of things to do. Classes for yoga, dance, pilates are all great, but if walking or running is more your thing then join a local group, or start one yourself with friends. Our lovely MD Nicky joined a wild swimming club, and hits the river at 6am with her group. Whatever it is, there’s something in the shared experience that brings people closer and makes us feel less alone, and heart health, mental health, muscle and bone health is all improved too. Win win!

Prefer to exercise alone? No problem. Join a choir, start a book club, or a local sewing group. Whatever you do, just find your tribe.

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