Helen Seymour is in Peri-Menopause, or at least she thinks she is. In her new weekly column we will follow her on her journey towards the menopause, learning as she does all about the big M.
“Excellent news” Ian announced as he breezed into the office. “Erica has found ‘HER’ exercise.” Eight sets of eyes looked at him from behind computer screens. "Apparently,” he said, taking off his jacket “we all have one exercise that is specifically right for us. One activity, that speaks directly to you. And last night, in a small church hall, after thirty-five years of trial and error, Erica found hers.”
He was positively beaming. Not a hint or a sniff of sarcasm. This, I thought to myself, is what a happy marriage is about. His delight in her joy. Give me that. I want THAT to be my exercise. Flexing and bending on the impact of love. That right there is Advanced Level Love. Surely that counts as exercise? The heart gets a workout, the endorphins are flowing, the brain is stimulated, there’s adrenaline pumping. I could justify a Marks & Spencer Chocolate Éclair if I had some of that.
Anyway … Exercise and the Menopause. Kind of a no-brainer isn’t it? And yet …
Here’s the deal-iyo. Menopause happens at a stage in our lives where our bodies naturally begin to slow down, so exercising more is not something we instinctively lean into.
On top of this natural slowing down, menopause hits us with a tidal wave of hormonal changes, which means we become fatigued, and our nervous systems get put under a ridiculous amount of stress.
So we are tired, we are stressed and our energy levels are at their lowest ebb. Why on earth would we want to exercise? Really, all we want to do is lie down, and take some sort of magic pill that will make it all go away. A pill that will give us a good night’s sleep, take away the headaches and the joint pains, restore our fresh skin tone, and somehow manages to shift any excess weight gained during the day, or from over the recent years.
Sadly this pill does not exist. Or is it sad? Because when you get your groove on, exercise gives you such a high. And it really does help deal with a lot of the issues encountered around menopause. Here’s a little checklist:
- Exercise produces endorphins which lift your mood and reduce stress
- Exercise produces natural pain-killing chemicals in the brain. Muscle and joint aches are a common symptom of Menopause, so this natural painkiller helps a lot
- It improves circulation, which helps brain fog, and skin tone
- It keeps your immune system strong and healthy
- It keeps your bones strong
- It improves digestion & elimination
- It keeps the heart healthy
- It improves muscle mass
The only problem with exercise is, that you have to do it. We really (and I hate to lay this on you) at our age, have to be exercising every day. You don’t have to run a Marathon, you don’t have to do a two-hour workout in the gym, but you have to do something. Anything. And here’s another reason why:
When oestrogen levels begin to drop, some not so fun stuff starts happening to your body. Oestrogen helps keep your metabolism humming and your body curvy; when it fades you’ll begin to add pounds. The average woman gains 5-7 pounds during menopause (safe to say I’m above average then, with well over a stone), and as discussed in a previous column, the body very efficiently stores whatever oestrogen it can find, around your middle. It specifically tacks those extra pounds on your tummy, like a hormonal version of “Pin The Tail On The Donkey”. Cheers menopause. Between that and the beard we may potentially grow, you literally have us covered. In fat and hair that we don’t want.
So what to do? Well first off, be like Erica. Find an exercise you actually enjoy doing and do that. Even if it’s just a gentle stroll at the end of the day. Do that. And commit to doing that regularly. Because here’s the magic of exercise. Once you bring it in, even in the tiniest way, you are creating a base, from which you can build. Slow shifts for gradual change.