Do you want to exercise more but lack the energy and motivation?
Are you in your 40s or 50s?
Are you finding it hard to shift those extra pounds which seem to have accumulated around your middle?
Are you feeling emotional or moody?
Has your confidence disappeared?
Welcome to the world of menopause!
Many people think menopause just means hot flushes and it happens to “old” women; think again. The average age of menopause in the UK is 51, but actually it’s the years running up to this – perimenopause - when hormone levels are fluctuating that many women experience symptoms, such as:
- Brain fog
- Low mood
- Loss of confidence
- Weight gain
- Difficulty sleeping
- Aching joints
- Itchy skin
- Hot flushes or night sweats
- Bladder infections
- Vaginal dryness
Many women suffer symptoms in silence, often fearing there must be something wrong with them. Finding out that it’s perfectly normal and there’s plenty of things we can do to help ourselves during this natural life stage, is a huge relief.
It affects all women differently and treatment choices have to be made by each person individually – there is no one-size-fits-all approach. However, there is one ‘treatment’ that can help everyone: exercise. Not only can it help with symptoms here and now, what we do at this stage of life will have a huge impact on our future health.
After we hit 30 our bone density starts to decline. During menopause this decline accelerates, so doing weight-bearing and bone loading exercise is more important than ever before.
Any activity that includes some impact such as jumping, skipping or running will benefit your bones. For those who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, high impact exercises along with extreme forward flexion or twisting should be avoided and replaced with low-impact exercise. Discuss this with your exercise instructor who can adapt exercises to suit you.
We also experience a loss of muscle mass and often tone. Not only does this affect our body confidence, it has serious consequences in the long term. The good news is this is easily resolved by including resistance exercises to strengthen the muscles such as lifting weights, using bands or our own body weight to push, pull or lift. The additional benefit is that improving our muscle to fat ratio will also help to burn off more calories even when we’re not exercising.
The risk of heart disease and stroke increases as our oestrogen declines so it’s never been more important to include aerobic exercise for cardiovascular health. Dancing, swimming, running or anything that gets your heart beating faster and makes you feel hot, will help.
Weight gain is one of the most frustrating and upsetting things about menopause; when once you used to be able to shift a few pounds in the blink of an eye, they remain stubbornly sitting around your waistline. A combination of aerobic, strengthening and high impact exercise will certainly help, along with eating well (and often less).
As our hormones play a vital role in our mood, exercise can offer a drug free treatment to improve our mental health. You can let off steam, lose yourself for a little while and rebalance your mood by releasing those feel good hormones. This is where group exercise comes into its own; exercising together in a social environment offers an extra dimension. Talking, listening, supporting and laughing with others is a tonic in itself and research by Women in Sport shows it’s especially beneficial for women going through menopause.
I know that we can find a hundred excuses not to exercise; we’re too busy, too tired, too embarrassed. Yet if we were offered a drug that could reduce our risk of osteoporosis, diabetes, dementia, stroke, heart disease, depression and some cancers, we’d be queueing up to take it.
If you’re looking for support and specifically tailored exercise for menopause, come and try a MenoClass. It combines the right kind of exercise for our bones, muscles, hearts and minds which can be done at one of three levels, along with time to talk and find out how to take control of menopause.
This is what Glynis from Leeds said about MenoClass: