I know first hand how difficult it is navigating the way through menopause, Random mood swings, tears, joint stiffness, joint pain, increased risk of injury, hot flushes, tiredness, to name just a few. I have been an advocate of exercise and its benefits both mentally and physically since my early twenties long before I became a Personal Trainer, Pilates and Yoga teacher.
I have noticed the difference it makes to me both physically in keeping me fit as well as a healthy weight and also what a difference it makes to my mental well being. the way in which exercise can lift my mood has been such a help particularly during the early stages if menopause before I really understood what was happening to me and before I had the right HRT medicine. I will add that on the days when my energy was zapped and I could barely run it was very very frustrating because it seemed to happen all of a sudden, However I kept moving and kept going so please don't be discouraged. If I can do it then you can.
Exercise does play a key role in helping to ease symptoms of the menopause which is why it is important to get into a routine before you hit the menopause or even Peri menopause if you can and just keep going. I personally found it stopped me needed to pop for a wee all the time despite having strong pelvic floor muscles. It helps control the bloating in the lower abdomen.
CHANGING BUT NOT STOPPING
You may not have the same energy you used to have, you may find high impact sports or exercise cause you injury as your joints become more susceptible to stiffness and injury. You are not over the hill, past it. Your best days are not behind you. You can adapt. More off road running, hill walking, cycling (indoor and out), spinning, rowing (indoor and out)are all very good ways of adapting your exercise . It can be difficult to find things to feel positive about when you're having one of the days/times when your mood is low or you feel depressed and unmotivated and exercise is the last thing you want to do.
EASIER SAID THAN DONE.
Now I've spoken about the benefits of exercise which you may already have some idea about I want also to talk about how you can physically exercise when you are feeling tired, when you feel weak and how can you motivate yourself when all you can think about is sleeping or watching tv and eating sugary snacks (which by the way are a huge pull and the downside is it does give temporary relief from feeling snappy or low) or perhaps exercise fills you with anxiety. I have and still do from time to time experience all of these I have just mentioned.
MOVE TO FEEL GOOD V FEEL GOOD TO MOVE
Its not always the case that we feel in the right mood for exercise/ You may have set your mind on a long walk, a run, a weight training session but as the day has gone on you may lose motivation or perhaps just feel exhausted. You don't have to give up, you can instead give yourself permission to alter what you had planned. Instead of a run it's a walk, instead of weight training its a power yoga or pilates session. and it's at these times when you move to feel good not wait until you feel good in order to move. Walk, jog, do some gardening even though you may be dragging your feet around after a few minutes your mood will begin to lift and your mind and body will feel alot better for it. Write down on some sticky backed paper MOVE MY BODY TO FEEL GOOD. Stick it in various places around the home to remind you and motivate you.
PAT ON THE BACK
Be sure to congratulate yourself and appreciate yourself for taking time to exercise, Feel good about what you have done give yourself permission to have some inner gloating. Yes I've gone out for a walk, run, bike ride, I didn't give up. Im amazing.
PERIMENOPAUSE MENTAL HEALTH SYMPTOMS
Brain fog (poor concentration)
Mood changes, low mood, anxiety, low self esteem.
Vaginal and bladder problems lubrication and elasticity loss , increase in infection
Changes in sexual function decrease in libido
Decrease in bone density-increased risk of osteoporosis
Tearfulness for not apparent reason
changes in menstrual cycle (heavier or lighter increased or decrease frequency)
changes in metabolism leading to weight gain
weakness in the body/joints
Muscle aches and joint aches pains
Dry itchy flaky skin
Reduced sex drive
BENEFITS OF EXERCISE IN MENOPAUSE
Exercise can help you maintain a regular weight and as well as
Reduce brain Fog
Improve your sleep -regular exercise will not only help you use excess energy and maintain a healthy weight but also help calm your mind
Maintain a healthy weight (with the right food)
Reduced stress and improved physical and mental well being
improved bone density
A healthier heart
MOTIVATION AND GETTING STARTED
The important thing is to find something that you can enjoy, something that makes you feel good afterwards. Something that challenges you but not so much that it is impossible to manage. I find it useful If I am feeling tired or anxious about doing exercise that I am just going to try my best I am going to give it 100% I and its okay if that is not the same as last week or last time. If you are used to competitive exercise and you are struggling give yourself permission to take time out form that and focus on yourself and getting through this tricky time. (no two days are the same especially in the midst of the menopause) Just try telling yourself I am just trying my best whatever that looks like today it will be my best effort and try to accept that your body is changing and it isn't and can't always perform in the same way that it used to. Focus on giving your best effort and not on the outcome. Forgive yourself if you are not at your bes, research has shown that the kinder we are to ourselves if we don't do as well as we would like the more likely it is we pick ourselves up and get back on the wagon.
WHAT EXERCISE SHOULD I DO?
Anything that you like or that makes you feel good.
Running (You may need to try a treadmill or some more off road (softer surfaces to run on)
Walking- Long walks or hill repeats are a great low impact exercise that is short sweet and great for the heart and fat burning.
Hiit (You may find low impact works best or mix it up)
Pilates in fantastic as it keeps joints supple and prevents fusing of the spine which can happen when we don't bend and flex our spine. It Will get you making full use of your lungs and will help ease anxiety and low moods as Pilates practice focuses on breathing and turns your mind to focusing on yourself and also brings a greater awareness of your body.
Yoga, (all Types) Yin Yoga in particular is so different to any other form of Yoga, Its relaxing its restorative both mentally and physically and as the tissues are more prone to injury Yin Yoga is an excellent way to help keep the balance and keep your body injury free. (See my Yoga page on the website for a more detailed description)
Other forms of Yoga are also very good, great for strengthening the entire body for shaping the entire body ,losing fat.
Most people think of weights when they think of resistance training and weights can be used but so can the body. Using your own body as a resistance creates strength and fitness in the way that using weights would but it's kinder to the body and joints. You wont build a ton of muscle and bulk out. If that's what you're looking for then weights would be a better option.
It will help strengthen your joints and support your body and also raise your metabolism at rest. Metabolism slows down during and after menopause making it harder to lose fat. so anything that raises your metabolism at rest is a winner.
Any additional steps will add to your exercise too.
If you are struggling to get started I suggest you plan on walking, start of with 5,000 steps and build it up from there. It can be spread out throughout the day, try to include some steep steps in to elevate the heart rate and get that heart pumping and working.