Anxiety | Exercise | Fitness | Food | Menopause | Osteoporosis

Exercise is so important for mental health & physical health during menopause

I would like to share a secret with you from both my personal and clinical experience. Cardiovascular and weight bearing exercise will not only help your body but also your mind.
When you hit menopause not only do you have the physical changes to deal with, but also the psychological changes. These symptoms vary from woman to woman, some suffer more than others with each symptom, and of course I was one of the unlucky ones as I suffered with all of them!
Brain fog, forgetfulness, low mood, anxiety and just generally not thinking straight can have a very big impact on some women.
I like to call this phase, not in a clinical term but in referring to myself as Bonkers.
Any normality you thought you may have in your forward-thinking brain seems to disappear and in creeps self-doubt which can contribute to our anxiety.
However, do not fear my lovely ladies as with every problem there is a solution.
Depression and anxiety
The unfortunate thing is that most GPs do not understand that depression and anxiety are a common symptom of menopause, and prescribe anti-depressants to women. However this is treating the symptom not the cause, which is the drop-in oestrogen levels due to menopause. HRT can help with the feelings of depression and anxiety as it will put back the oestrogen lost. Some women, through personal choice or medical reasons, will not go down the HRT route. However, whichever path you take, exercise is a must at this point in your life, to keep your mind happy and clear and to fight off depression.
Forgetfulness and memory loss
Many women, think they have the early onset of dementia so my top tip is to write everything down or record things. When I am meetings I ask if I can voice record it because of my memory, I obviously ask first and explain why, luckily most of my meetings are menopause related so sympathy is there. Asking this question in itself can set off anxiety which can start a vicious cycle. I joke about it now, however, I have not always been this confident in my management on menopause symptoms. Managing it this way takes away my anxiety and that is my coping mechanism.
We all know that exercise helps, but why?
Good mental health can benefit self-confidence
Our mood is directly affected during menopause. Research proves that having a fitter body will directly link to positive mental health therefore helping with our self-confidence, mood, self-esteem and a sharper thinking brain.
Anxiety and stress
Working out is a natural and perfect anti-anxiety and anti-stress treatment. It reduces tension and stress, boosts mental energy and has a positive effect on your physical and mental health. Exercising releases our feel good hormones, endorphin’s. These are our happy chemicals that make us feel happier and these off-set the stress hormone cortisol, which is higher during menopause. Therefore, doing exercise that increases the heart rate will boost mental energy and physical health, leaving you feeling not only happier but more confident and a lot less stressed.
Promotes better sleep

Exercising during the day will fatigue your body and will promote better sleep and regulate your sleep pattern in a positive way. It is hard when you are tired to think about doing any form of exercise. It’s like “what comes first – the chicken or the egg” scenario. My tip is to start slowly, do something that you enjoy and slowly increase the intensity. If you are in the throws of menopause then you know sleep is a luxury so anything you can do to improve this is a must.
Here are some easy tips to get you started on a more positive healthy you*
There are 100’s of ways to increase your heart rate but I have concentrated on a few that will be great for your mental health.
Walking – You can, of course, get on a treadmill in a gym. However exercising outside will boost your feel-good receptors. Studies show that exercising outside compared to inside will help lift your mood – obviously this is weather dependent!
Try going for a walk with a friend, this way you can perhaps grab a cuppa afterwards which is always good for the soul. It is also good way to motivate each other when the other one is feeling low and less likely to actually get out and do it.
Dancing – Try a dance class or just put on your favourite music and have a bop. On our closed Facebook group recently, while working late at my studio, I put on some music and pranced around and encouraged members to join me. My choice of music was Donna Summer’s ‘No more tears”. We all smiled and had a laugh and exercised – so job done!
Water based exercise – I love swimming and it is a great workout that will help you get toned all over (however remember this is not bone loading so you should do something else alongside this). Aqua aerobics is also a great form of exercise. It’s performed to music and is instructor led and kinder to your body if you have any injuries. It is also usually “age appropriate” i.e. other menopausal women in the class, therefore you will not be surrounded by young, Lycra clad women!
Racket sports – As with walking this is great to do with a friend and as well as helping to prevent osteoporosis in your dominant batting side (sorry osteoporosis prevention is a passion of mine!) Also, working out with another person will have a positive effect on your mental health. If you cannot persuade a fried to join you, many leisure centres hold badminton and racquet clubs where you can just turn up and find a partner, so not only will you improve your fitness you will make new friends!
Restorative yoga – This type of yoga is wonderful for calming anxiety as it helps with relaxation and since starting this a few months ago I can now downward dog as good as the next person! More dynamic forms of yoga are great for strength and heart rate elevation but if you can find a good restorative class you will defiantly feel calmer and better able to sleep.

Joining a gym – This can be costly however there are so many “budget” gyms now ranging from £17 – £30 per month. These gyms do have a place in the fitness arena, however the help or support that you receive isn’t like having a personal trainer. If you join a gym make sure you are confident with what you are doing. If you can, like with walking or a racket sport go with a friend to help with motivation. Remember even though these gyms are budget if you don’t use your membership it is money down the drain!
My advice is to ask for a couple of days free trial, try going at different times of the day and check out the classes. Ask if a fitness advisor will devise a programme for you, as you need to feel confident and happy, remember everyone needs to start somewhere. Try going in the quieter times; mid afternoon and after 7.30pm to get your confidence, it will help you sleep as well!
GP referral Another way to start with your gym journey is through a programme that your GP can refer you to a local gym, it is cheap as chips and you will be going at less busy times, be training with like minded people and have an understanding instructor. So if you are suffering with anxiety, weight gain or any other problem then this programme is for you.
Good luck with your new fitness regime. Your new mantra is “strong body, strong mind”.
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*When taking part in any new activity that will challenge your body, please make sure you get the ok from your GP or physician.