By Guest Writer: Elizabeth Carr-Ellis
New Year, new you, so the saying goes. When you’re menopausal, however, it feels as if every day is a new you as your mind and body go through the rollercoaster of hormone changes. But with exercise being one of the best natural methods of helping to lessen the impact of menopause symptoms, the start of 2021 is the perfect time to look at what lifestyle changes you can make.
During the perimenopause phase – the years leading up to menopause – our estrogen levels start to drop and this can have a huge impact on bone strength. While you may not notice this, it could make you more prone to broken bones in older age. You may definitely notice if your posture starts going. Strength training, either with weights or resistance bands, is ideal for helping combat this and building up bone mass. It will also increase your muscles, which in turn not only support your skeleton but burn more calories than fat so can help with the tendency to gain weight during menopause.
If weights aren’t for you, you can also put an impact on your bones through running, climbing the stairs, tennis, aerobics, and jumping so get your childhood skipping rope back out! Cardio can also help with your mental health and wellbeing, too. Studies show that a brisk walk can improve a low mood and feelings of anxiety. Two or three walks of around 40 minutes can also help your heart health. It doesn’t have to be boring, either. Dancing or Zumba will help with your coordination and strength as well as get you to meet new people and having fun.
Mentally and physically, yoga is a wonderful exercise regime for women going through menopause. It’s said to lessen the impact of everything from hot flushes and night sweats to anxiety and depression. Stretching helps your flexibility, using your own bodyweight strengthens your muscle and bone mass and balancing will improve your stability and help prevent falls. In addition, the breathing and mindfulness of yoga can reduce your stress levels, helping with mood swings and feelings of anxiety and depression.
Of course, you can’t exercise yourself out of a bad diet. What we put into our bodies is just as important as what we do with them. Eat heart-healthy food, so plenty of fiber, such as lentils and wholegrain bread, plus oily fish and at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Try to eat the rainbow on each plate – beige food is rarely good for you. Also, don’t forget your calcium to look after those bones. The ideal is two to three portions a day, such as a small yogurt or a matchbox size of cheese. Make sure you’re getting enough Vitamin D, too: take a supplement if needed.
If it’s been a while since you’ve exercised, or you have any underlying health condition, don’t forget to check with your GP first. Start low, with about 10 minutes if you’re doing something vigorous, and then build up. It’s recommended we do around 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week or 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity. Include a couple of strength-bearing sessions, too, and don’t forget the importance of warming up and cooling down to prevent strains and pulls. Finally, be realistic and set goals you can achieve. Don’t aim to run 5k all and then get downhearted when you can’t even make it to the bus stop at the end of the street. Make the bus stop your first goal and then aim for the next one once you’ve achieved that. Or start with a 1kg weight and aim to move onto a 2kg. You’ll be surprised how quickly you improve.
About Elizabeth Carr-Ellis- A UK menopause campaigner and activist who blogs at 50Sense.net