Last week, you’ve met Itchy, Bitchy, Sweaty, Sleepy, Bloated, Forgetful & Psycho! Now, let’s see what we can do to keep those little demons under control.
Regular weight-bearing exercise is super duper important on so many levels but particularly when it comes to our muscles and bones. At child-bearing age (20s and 30s) our muscles and bones are at their strongest when we are doing the heavy lifting of our offspring whilst running, jumping and climbing trees with them. Naturally they get bigger and well, more cumbersome to hoik over one’s shoulder so we shove them out into the world and tell them to get on with it. We then retreat with a well-earned cuppa and a book for many, many years. All of a sudden we’re 62, stand up, promptly trip over the cat and break our wrist/knee/hip…..
To avoid that unpleasant experience, here are some top tips to save your pride and unnecessary trips to hospital:
– take some regular weight-bearing exercise, e.g. walking, running, lawn bowls & swimming (although floating, the body is working against the resistance of the water)
– do regular resistance training – you don’t necessarily need to join a gym & grunt with the meatheads until your biceps burn & your pecs pop. Bodyweight exercises can be done anywhere, anyhow.
– jump puddles.
– adopt a cat at your peril!
There is no scientific research to back up the common misconception that menopause brings weight gain particularly around the stomach. This is, at best, annoying as it would at least bring some comfort to know that the half inflated rubber ring that has seemingly attached itself whilst stubbornly refusing to let go could be blamed on something out of our control.
In fact it comes down to physiology. When young we move more, our metabolism is higher, our muscle mass greater and therefore we use more energy in daily life. Couple this with the fact that, as we start out in the adult world, we have limited funds so we are more likely to use public transport, a bicycle or our feet for getting around. The jobs we do tend to be more physically demanding such as working in retail or a pub or café. Our dietary requirements are greater and we burn off the energy we consume.
Fast forward 30 years and our bodies have changed as we generally now have less muscle mass resulting in a slower metabolism. We are likely better off and can afford a decent car, washing machine, tumble dryer and all the mod cons to make life easier. In so doing we have lost much of the incidental exercise that was helping keep us agile and at a maintainable weight.
If we continue to consume the same amount of energy as we did at 20 or 30 we will inevitably gain weight. Contrary to popular belief, weight gain doesn’t happen overnight. You don’t rock up at the all you can eat buffet, hoover up 3rds and 4ths of the seafood platter and pavlova and wake up 5kg heavier. Rather it is the consistent consumption of a bit more than you need plus no change to your daily movement that will, after 3, 6, 9 months “suddenly” have caused a significant weight increase.
Being overweight puts additional pressure on the joints, which is never a good thing. Moving, particularly at speed, becomes more uncomfortable so we do it less. And less. Until the muscles have atrophied, the joints stiffened and the cat is still lurking underfoot.
So, although weight gain is not a direct result of menopause it can certainly exacerbate some of the symptoms such as muscle soreness and possibly anxiety and depression.
For these reasons exercise can be a powerful antidote for both mind and body. Find something you enjoy, anything, and do it consistently. If it is weight-bearing then you get a gold star but finding something you enjoy and will therefore stick at is more important.
There are some key dietary changes that can be made to give your body it’s best possible chance to continue to thrive and defy the odds.
Given the scary stats regarding bone density, key areas to focus on would be calcium and also vitamin D. The latter is vital in order to enable the best possible absorption of calcium. Low levels of vitamin D are very, very common even in Australia so I would suggest a visit to your GP to get yourself tested with a simple blood test. You can have the best diet in the world and believe you are doing everything right for your body but it bears considering that stress and poor sleep can affect our body’s ability to absorb the nutrients we consume. You can be chowing down on all the curly kale, eggs and sardines you can get your grubby mitts on but if you are, for example, highly stressed there is no guarantee your body is actually absorbing all their vitamin goodness.
Excess sugar, caffeine and alcohol can have an adverse affect not only on our energy levels but also on our bone density as they leech calcium from the bones.
So, here are a bunch of foods to consider adding to your diet to boost your bone and muscle health:
- Oily fish, preferably with bones (sardines, whitebait)
- Lean protein
- Green leafy vegetables (permission to go nuts on the kale (boom, boom), although it is no better than spinach, chard, watercress etc and I feel sure a backlash is imminent. King Kale may lose his crown yet….)
- Hard cheese
- Dark chocolate (ok, now I have your attention)
- Custard (de na na naa, de na na naa, de na na na ne ne naaaaaa)
This article goes out to all the women who may be struggling through the sludge of random sweat attacks and mood swings. Permission to fly off the handle at seemingly no provocation – at least it prepares you for being a grumpy, intolerant older lady, not suffering fools which is something I believe we should all aspire to.
Please, please share your thoughts, tips, experiences. Let’s keep this conversation going!
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Photo credits: Steve Pb, Aleksandra85, Klaus Hausmann, Alexas_Fotos, Holeysockart, Makamuki0, Pichenettes, Tamy Stika, Jackmac34, Tamy Stika