Musings on Menopause and Fitness
What the heck is happening to me??? I’m not sure if I’m happy or sad, freezing or on fire, coming or going, want to be healthy or eat an XL Papa Murphy pizza… Hormotional…Menopause… Like Mother Nature wasn’t cruel enough with menstruation, pregnancy, labor, delivery and stretch marks! Anyone else want to rant along with me?
Navigating this life transition is a very challenging trip, and I’m already pathetic with directions. There is no true starting or ending point, there are some strange diversions and I just wish there was a Google Maps App. The great news is that resources are growing as more research is done and more of us are able to find tangible and user- friendly relief tools.
As a fitness professional I have friends and clients that constantly approach me for ‘fixes’. “My waist has disappeared”, “this stubborn belly fat is killing me”, “healthy food makes me gassy and bloated”, “what exercises can I do to tighten up my bat wings?” The list is extensive and the battle is real, my sisters.
According to the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), “Exercise is good for everybody, but it can do even more for you as a woman at menopause. For one, aerobic exercise can ease your hot flashes. You might think that physical activity, which raises your body temperature, would bring hot flashes on, but that’s not the case, shows research published in the NAMS journal Menopause.” On average, the midlife women in this study had fewer hot flash symptoms in the 24 hours after a moderate-intensity, 30-minute exercise session. Women with lower fitness levels, however, didn’t get as much benefit. Also, this stage of life brings increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis, but regular exercise can cut those risks dramatically. Bone mass loss can be beaten back and studies show that just 2 hours of exercise a week knocks down levels of a hormone that promotes bone loss and pumps up a growth factor that builds bone. Wonderful. Fantastic news. Science is good. But what does that mean for me specifically? How do I implement a plan or lifestyle change that I can truly follow and feel successful?
For me, exercise is a ‘want-based’, not ‘should-based’ occurrence. Yes, based on bad- things- that- can- happen –if- I -don’t exercise, I SHOULD be physically active, but that doesn’t get me moving for very long. I need a positive motivation. Exercise makes me feel good, reduces my stress and gives me energy. It’s sustainable for me because I choose to do it and it enhances my well-being… even when I’m in a psycho downward spiral of self-pity based on my 3rd hot flash of the day, I make time because I value me and I desire the self-care… that is time well spent. I also have adapted a different view of how much time is required. Amanda Pack offered the ingenious idea of a ‘Better Than Nothing’ workout mentality. She explained that if she can’t get in her regular 30 or 60 minute workout, she makes the most of 5, 10 or 15 minutes and counts it a win. I love this, and it works for me!
The types of fitness routines that are most effective in my ‘wise woman’ stage of life are variations of interval, circuit and speed training combined with strength and resistance training. I try different intensities and different combinations and change my plans up about every 4-6 weeks. Every woman is unique, however. What works for me may not be the best for someone else....though chocolate always seems to work. 😉
I'd like to credit my latest experimentation with my workout regimen incorporates some really cool and interesting findings that were presented at the latest American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Regional conference in February in Greenville, SC. According to recent studies on the 45-65 year old female population, we do continue to maintain or increase muscle mass and bone density as we mature. Finding our niche of physical activity is a great way to improve quality of life! So, what are you waiting for? It's time to try exercise for relief!