Less is more
Wait a minute’, I hear you cry. ‘She was just telling us the other week how important exercise is in the menopause and now she’s saying it’s bad. I wish she would make up her mind!’
Ok, firstly, regular, sensible exercise is vital for many things in the menopause, as I mentioned in my previous exercise blog. However, there is a big difference between sensible exercise and over-doing it. I get so many women who are really fit and healthy and who, up to the menopause, would think nothing of running marathons, cycling for miles, doing hour long sessions at the gym every day and major stuff at the weekend, but who now are totally fatigued and wonder where their hard-earned fitness has gone.
Let me explain:
Points to remember
1. The hormonal changes that occur as you travel towards the menopause and in the menopause use up a huge amount of body energy.
2. Your nutritional needs go sky high at this time.
3. Your body needs lots of rest and relaxation to help it cope with all the major changes going on.
4. Stress/anxiety will affect your nervous system (adrenals), ‘eating up’ your reserves of magnesium (remember, magnesium is needed for mood, relaxation, sleep and muscle function – vital if you are exercising!)
5. The hormonal changes also really stress the adrenals themselves and if you then force yourself to exercise you can eventually push the adrenals to a state of exhaustion. This in turn will lead to adrenal fatigue, at which point your body will be running on empty. If your car ran out of petrol, how far could it go? It is just the same for your body. When you get to this stage it will literally grind to a halt and you will find it so difficult to get the energy to do anything.
So, if you are still doing lots and lots of exercise but not providing it with the support it needs, it will just go into fatigue mode – this will also make any other symptoms you have seem worse.
What can you do?
1. Look after yourself with lots of rest and relaxation to help the body adapt to all the changes. If your children are older, you will remember that when they were going through the hormonal changes of puberty, they seemed to sleep forever and often as not, were not particularly active. Well, they were actually being sensible and listening to their body’s need for rest whilst these changes were going on! So take a leaf out of their book – the menopause is just a bit like puberty in reverse!
2. If you get to this stage, it is important to stand back and take a good look at how you are managing your life and make changes if needed. Adrenal fatigue won’t just disappear overnight and can be very difficult to address without help.
3. I know fit ladies don’t want to give up their sport but in the menopause it may be necessary to wind down for a while in order to survive!
4. Look at different forms of exercise – ones that are seemingly more gentle can be really good for the menopause, e.g. yoga, swimming, even walking 20 minutes a day can be really beneficial, and these will keep your body going until your energy levels increase.
5. If you still want to exercise a little harder, make sure that you add in a good protein powder shake every day to keep your nutritional needs met, especially if you are vegetarian or vegan – but make sure it is not full of sugar or artificial sweeteners.
6. For those of you getting to the menopause and suddenly deciding it is time to get fit and are throwing yourselves into pounding away in the gym or any other exercise, this is not a good idea and can give your poor body a shock. Take things slowly at first, pace yourself well and build up to a good fitness level gradually.
7. Don’t exercise every day – if you do, this can affect your recovery time and your metabolism can slow right down. It is very common in the menopause for women to find that, even though they are exercising every day, they are putting weight on! Exercising every day also stops the adrenals from recharging and this can contribute to adrenal fatigue. Have at least two rest days a week – think of all the other lovely things you can do for yourself.
8. The good news is that many women who have had an energy crisis in the menopause will come through it and be just as fit as before; but you do need to plan your menopause wisely.
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So just to recap simply:
Menopause + stress + too much exercise – good nutrition – daily relaxation = NO ENERGY!