The human body has always fascinated me. It fascinates me how you can train bodies to run faster or jump higher. It fascinates me how bodies respond to the food it’s fed. It fascinates me how women grow an entire human inside their body. It fascinates me how our body ages.
And LEARNING about the body has always inspired me, to want to empower others to fall in love with health and fitness, like I have.
And I have to say…. It was pretty damn sensational.
Here’s just 5 things I learnt about Menopause from Dr Wendy.
1. Women transition into menopause earlier than people might think
The average age of menopause is around 51 years but the years preceding menopause encompass a transition from normal menstruation to cessation. This is termed the peri-menopausal years and are generally characterised by irregular periods.
On average, in non-surgical menopause, peri-menopause begins around the late forties and may last up to four years.
With this transition comes a whole heap of symptoms…. and because women are possibly a little unaware of this ‘transition phase’, these symptoms can be met with much confusion and frustration. Which leads me onto point 2.
2. Women can develop all sorts of symptoms
Women can develop all sorts of symptoms that they don’t necessarily think are to do with menopause:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Putting on weight (especially belly fat)
- Aching muscles and joints
- Palpitations (heart beating quickly and out of control)
- Feeling tired when wake up (lacking energy)
- Feeling anxious or nervous
- Afraid to exercise because urine leaks
- Skin dryness (changes in texture, appearance and tone)
- Putting on weight
- Frozen shoulder
- Night sweats
Then there is ‘invisible symptoms’ that appear in bloodwork. Symptoms like:
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- High blood fats (high triglycerides)
- High low-density cholesterol (LDL-C)
- High Inflammatory Markers (C-Reactive Protein)
- Low Ferritin (stored iron)
- Low Vitamin-D
- Altered Thyroid and Adrenal hormones.
Symptoms are different for different women. For example, some women put on belly fat, and some women don’t! For those that do, it can mean they are ‘oestrogen dominant’, and despite exercise and healthy eating, belly fat can continue to increase.
Why do all these sorts of symptoms happen? Because all of the hormonal signals in the body are connected. Which leads me onto point 3.
3. There’s more to it than a decrease in oestrogen
Our body chemistry is really sensitive to any hormones that are changing. When we go into peri-menopause and menopause other hormones kick-in to try to stabilise and re-address the imbalance. I won’t delve into the nitty gritty science of hormones here – they key point here is that when one hormone is low (e.g. oestrogen), this impacts on other hormones too. Which leads me to point 4.
4. Aspects of our lifestyle can impact on symptom severity, and in turn, our health!
Our bodies are built for survival. So when our hormones go through changes, our body naturally tries to balance out those changes (ie. our body attempts to maintain ‘homeostasis’). This means that during peri-menopause and menopause our body is working pretty hard to maintain a balance. Changing aspects of our lifestyle can help bring balance back into our hormones.
If we don’t change our lifestyle to accommodate our changing hormonal environment we can experience symptom chaos. If we can work with our changing mid-life hormones, then symptoms can improve (and health can improve for the better).
What lifestyle choices do we need to consider?
- Improving sleep
- Reducing stress
- Nutrition for an ageing body (up the anti-inflammatory foods)
- Exercise for an ageing body… which leads me to point 5.
5. Menopause can dramatically alter a woman’s response to exercise
Peri-menopause and menopause can dramatically alter a woman’s response to exercise. Women who have been active their whole life, can hit peri-menopause and no longer have energy for exercise, or the exercise they do, doesn’t give them the results they want – especially when it comes to weight loss.
Again, without delving too much into the nitty gritty hormone and natural ageing science, heres five exercise strategies that can make a difference to how menopausal women feel and how they stay healthy during this phase of life:
- Moderate intensity cardio rather than Hiit (until you are sleeping well)
- Functional strength exercises (ie. specific strength activities that increase nervous stimulation into muscles, rather than rely on growing extra muscle size)
- Balance activities
- Gait activities
- Daily incidental movement (over the course of a day or a week, when you use the stairs, walk or cycle to work, do the housework or sweep the yard, these all contribute to exercise benefits).
To put this into BUF context:
- Chose classes with functional strength exercises, balance exercises and moderate intensity cardio options, (ie. Fearless, Beautiful, Signature and Circuit)
- Avoid Hiit classes (ie. Unstoppable) until you are sleeping well