How fitness can help you through menopause

Sometimes your body notices things before your mind does: you may think that you are so far from menopause that you can only fake a hot flash to get out of a boring situation, but your diaphragm knows better.

Lucinda Meade, 57, is a physiotherapist and personal trainer. She has trained many clients during menopause and says that it tends to start with a stealthy weight gain in the middle that they can no longer postpone.

It can be accompanied by pain in smaller joints and an unsavory hodgepodge of “mood changes, sleep changes, annoying visits to the general practitioner for the administration of antidepressants”.

All of this makes sense from a hormonal point of view, as another trainer, Sarah Overall, 51, describes: “Estrogen controls so many of your body processes and is involved in water regulation, among other things. It’s much easier for tendons, ligaments, and joints to become dehydrated. And that can also lead to a resurgence of old injuries. ”

Also, “As your female hormones decrease, you move from a gynoid form that has fat on your hips and thighs to android obesity, belly fat, which is a masculine form.”

But what should you do in terms of fitness?

Should you get over the pain and lethargy, or just give up on being fit until you’re out on the other side? Are there any adjustments you can make to your exercise and diet? Can you do better by working on it beforehand?

After all, are there any benefits of menopause or is it just a pesky creep towards death only improved by the fact that it happens to everyone (halfway)?

Arj Thiruchelvam, a personal trainer who trains top athletes, says of this power-through or take-a-break dilemma: “Always make the decision at the macro and not the micro level.”

From a macro point of view, it would be a catastrophe not to exercise during menopause, as your muscle mass decreases “by about 1% per year” with age. It is much more important for women going through menopause. ”

You need muscle mass to protect your bones, not to mention the fact that, as Meade says, “it decreases cell death, increases stem cells, and decreases fat cells that secrete markers of inflammation. Aging is all about low-level chronic inflammation. “

Lorraine Keane with Catherine O’Keeffe and Tom Coleman at the opening of the first Menopause Success Summit on September 25th. Photo: Mark Stedman

At the micro level, however, Thiruchelvam says, “If you’ve had hot flashes all night and haven’t slept, it is probably worth listening to your body and getting some rest.”

Overall, there is a 10-minute rule. “If I wake up and don’t feel like exercising, I think I’ll do 10 minutes and if I still feel bad I’ll stop. This is the biggest piece of advice I can give to anyone – 95% of the time you will feel good after 10 minutes. ”

It’s also important to have weekly rather than daily goals and be flexible (both mentally and physically). Use your energy when you have it instead of beating yourself up when you don’t. This means that you have to prioritize yourself and let go of other commitments, but that’s fine – your estrogen drops, so hopefully you’re less popular too.

Now all you have to do is change your perception of what kind of exercise you need and enjoy. Meade explains, “A lot of women have done a lot of yoga and running and really need to be persuaded to exercise.”

This will likely be different when Millennials are through menopause, as they have a great Ironwoman culture and are very much into calisthenics (building strength with your own body weight). But women in their late 40s and 50s today have their formative years in the 1980s, when exercise was all about looking thin and weight training was unpopular.

Younger readers might not believe it, but magazines were utterly full of the dangers of building muscle, and once you had huge, strong shoulders, there was no going back.

But there is more than one way to skin this cat. “Dancing, climbing, climbing trees, everything: find the one that’s right for you,” says Meade. “But there has to be a force element.”

Jenny Stoute, Olympian, 1988/1992 and former TV gladiator, Rebel Picture: instagram.com/gorgeousfiftiesJenny Stoute, Olympian, 1988/1992 and former TV gladiator, Rebel Picture: instagram.com/gorgeousfifties

Top athletes who are so physically competent often notice earlier than the rest of us that something has to change. Jenny Stoute, 56, represented Great Britain at the Olympics in Seoul and Barcelona and won bronze in the 4 x 400 meter relay before becoming Rebel, the Gladiator in 1996. Her menopause started two years ago and now she says she can’t even jog.

“If I went out on the street and jumped up and down, my hamstrings would be history. I know my lower back doesn’t like too much impact. So I do weights and body weight, go on the rower, go on the cross trainer. To be fair, I don’t really want to run 100 meters. I had my time. All I want to do is take care of my body as well as possible. ”

It’s a really good idea to go ahead when possible.

“People go through menopause like a ghastly blind date where you know it’s going to happen but you hope it’ll be fine,” says Meade. “Anyone over 40 should think about getting themselves in tip-top shape so that when it happens, it will be as good as possible. Don’t treat it like a lottery or wait until you feel like shit and then try to make decisions while in that state. “

What does it look like next to strength training?

High Protein Foods Avocado and Macadamia Nuts;  Tuna salad with cherry tomatoes and spinachHigh Protein Foods Avocado and Macadamia Nuts; Tuna salad with cherry tomatoes and spinach

Work on your diet so your blood sugar doesn’t fluctuate too much

This can ward off the worst of hot flashes and also helps with mood swings. Instead of trying a ketogenic diet, use a protein calculator as high protein meals can help maintain muscle mass.

You may want to adjust your serving size to match your reduced basal metabolic rate (this is the amount of energy you spend resting, doing basic tasks like breathing and keeping warm) – or you may be thinking one thing at a time.

Take vitamin D and calcium supplements and omega-3 fatty acids – the first two for bone health as the loss of estrogen often causes osteoporosis, the third for mood.

Work on dehydration.

Not just by swallowing water when you remember, but by learning to recognize your personal signs of dehydration and when it is the worst of the day.

Many menopausal women say that they suddenly have no tolerance for alcohol and especially see wine as a type of kryptonite. But it’s essentially just that the levels of alcohol in your blood are higher. I’m not saying you have to drink – just that, if you stay really well hydrated, you might be able to.

If you don’t have a personable GP, see a pelvic health physiotherapist.

“Your pelvic floor muscles become weaker, regardless of whether you have children or not, so that bladder control becomes a problem,” says Overall. Trampoline jumping is a famous no-go for menopause, but running can also highlight problems with bladder control. Personally, I wouldn’t sweat it. You’ll probably have a shower anyway when you get home. “

“A lot of women have had untreated problems since birth and then menopause, in addition to a possibly small prolapse … Vaginal atrophy is a nightmare,” says Meade. Pilates in general and Kegels in particular will help.

Additionally, finding out your family history, especially if you have osteoporosis, is a good idea. The more likely you get it, the more important it is that you build the strength that will protect your bones.

Everyone I speak to agrees on HRT

If it works for you, do it and start as soon as you notice symptoms – don’t wait until they are unbearable. There is a certain reluctance to start HRT, an inappropriate stoicism, the feeling that you only need it because you are weak.

Most of the perceived risks of HRT are historical and have been significantly reduced with the development of drug therapy; the risk of breast cancer increases negligibly with pure estrogen HRT, for example.

Menopausal symptoms interact in unhelpful ways: sleep deprivation because you’re too hot doesn’t help with mood swings, and a depressed mood makes things look worse than they are.

So many menopausal people, including fitness professionals, see their changing bodies harshly. “The gas is terrible,” says Overall. “People look at me for my fitness and I look like a Michelin man.” Stoute says that her own athletic past has made her more of a wreck.

“Anyone who used to be at the top of the sports world thinks, ‘My whole body feels like it’s falling apart.’ It’s almost as if the other end gets worse the fitter you are at your peak. ”

I search her on Instagram (@gorgeousfifties) and I find that she still looks amazing. “Be nice to yourself” sounds like a cliché, but it’s still worth it.

Finally, is there anything good to say about the experience? Meade delivers this stirring statement: “It’s a wake-up call. You will likely live until you are nearly 90 years old. How should it be? How do you want to feel? Make a plan for it. It’s a reminder that you can make choices and change your life for the better. Don’t be a victim; You can fix it. I’m much fitter than before. “

Overall Agrees, “I’m not there yet, but friends who came out on the other side say it’s absolutely brilliant. You no longer have to worry about your period, you have no hormonal fluctuations, you feel great. Nobody ever said to me, ‘This is bullshit. I miss my period ‘. “

– Guardian

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