Menopause and Exercise*

Tuesday, 26 September 2017, By Holly Campbell

 

Being a woman can be difficult, especially with all of the hormonal changes that happen throughout a women's life and sometimes, not having a clear understanding of how exercise can help with the different stages. Being a woman who suffers from hormonal changes myself, I understand just how hard it can be. I am 22 and I suffer with endometriosis and depleted hormones - my body is going into menopause, already. Since being diagnosed I have done a lot of research. I knew exercise and healthy eating was already powerful but I didn't know it was THIS powerful. So, I'm here to share what I have learnt about how exercise can assist in dealing with the menopausal change.

Before knowing how exercise can assist with menopause, I think it's extremely important to understand menopause to begin with. The average age for menopause to affect a women's life is between 48 - 55 years of age. A simple way to define if you have hit that menopausal stage is when you haven't had your menstrual period for 12 months. Not having your menstrual period may sound fantastic to some women - it sounds great to me - but a lot of other signs/symptoms come with the menopausal change as well. Some of the other signs/symptoms that women may experience include mood swings, weight gain, night sweats, hot flushes, depression, fatigue, and decrease in bone density which can lead to osteoporosis. I deal with a lot of the symptoms and it is not easy. I will admit, there are days where I don't want to get out bed or even talk to anyone. This leads me into what I want to talk about next, keeping motivated.

Keeping motivated was extremely hard for me at the start, sometimes it can still be hard. I did a lot of trial and error before finding something that works for me. Everyone is different so it is important to find something that motivates you. What may work for me, might not work for you. So, how do I keep myself motivated? We are big on goals at Vision Personal Training, which is great for me because I love ticking off goals or crossing off a task on my 'to do list'. When I was setting my goals, I was very motivated at the start, which is great. Then I hit a rough patch with my endometriosis, my motivation couldn't have fallen fast enough. I was in an extreme amount of pain and went back to wanting to stay in bed. Looking at my goals to try to keep me going was daunting. So, I changed this. I still had my long term goal but I start to look and work towards it differently. Every morning, I would have my morning coffee with breakfast and write down 5 things that I was going to do that help me get closer to my goal. I found that this worked for me because now, even on the days where it hurts to move because of my endometriosis, I could now see that I can still work towards my goal even if it was only completing a small task - like complete my food diary or texting all of my clients. Doing this allowed me to feel like I didn't need to give up on my goals. I know that every month I am going to be in excruciating pain and I am too stubborn to let that get to me. I Know I can make my daily goals or 'to do list' to work towards my bigger goal either big task or small tasks depending on how I'm feel that day.

After doing a lot of research, the benefits that I have found between exercise and menopause are also a massive motivation for me and I hope it can be a big part of your motivation too. As we know a lot of people exercise to work towards and health and fitness goal, whether that is fat loss, muscle gain, running or training for an event. I think a lot of people take exercise for granted and don't realise how much it can be a positive change in your life. Some of the massive benefits that I found relating to menopause are:

  1. Strength training, that's right lifting weights help with multiple symptoms that are associated with menopause. Due to the hormonal imbalances your bone mass and strength decreases as you sneak towards that menopausal change. This means that your bones become fragile. With fragile bones, you now become a greater risk of breaking bones from falls. Strength training, believe it or not increase your bone density which makes your bones stronger. Strength training is vital especially with the increased risk of osteoporosis. Now, ask yourself one question would you rather complete a weights session twice a week, minimum or be out of action with a broken leg for multiple weeks or months?
  2. Not only will strength training increase your bone density, it also increases your metabolism. The faster your metabolism is the more you'll be burning at rest which will assist with weight loss/weight maintenance. Now, a lot of women believe that lifting heavy weights will make them look bulky. Women can't bulk up like men do, we don't have high enough testosterone levels to do so. Don't be afraid to lift weights!
  3. Stretching, the one thing most clients look forward to after a weights or cardio session. Flexibility is important to have, especially with age. Being flexible will increase your quality of life. It will help increase and maintain your mobility. Being mobile will make day to day life much easier. Sometimes it the little things that make the difference, such as being able to bend down to pick the clothes off the floor compared to not even making it past your knees.
  4. The biggest motivator for me, is that exercise helps mild to moderate depression and anxiety. Being a person who has unfortunately suffered from a mental illness for a long period of time, knowing that depression is common in women during the menopausal change scared me. I didn't want to go back down that path. It's crazy to think that this is common due to the hormonal imbalance. I knew how difficult depression was and I refuse to let myself get to that stage again. I already struggle to get out of bed on some morning and I wasn't going to let that get worse. Studies have shown that exercise can be just as effective as antidepressant medication, without all the side effects that one can suffer from when taking the medication. When you exercise it promotes multiple changes in the brain and releases a powerful chemical in your brain known as endorphins. This is simply your happy hormone. Think of how good you always feel after you exercise. Now think of how good you'd feel if you completed exercise every day.

Most of the time the hardest thing is starting. Just start somewhere, even if it's having the intention to make the difference. That intention will then turn into an action if you keep at it. Find out what motivates you and include your positive circle of influence. Including your circle of influence is vital. It's hard to go through this change but it's even harder to go through this change alone. Educate the people who are around you about what you are going through so they know how to help with this new chapter of your life. Don't be afraid of menopause. Understand it, create an action plan and embrace this new chapter of your life.




*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.

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