World Menopause Day 2020 - how did that come round so fast! The basics don’t change though do they…
The benefits of exercising throughout life are well known…heart health…bone health…mental health…general overall wellbeing.
As you move into those perimenopausal years it can become even more important to find something you enjoy doing exercise wise, whether that’s the classic running, swimming & cycling or maybe you prefer pilates, yoga and tai chi. For some it’s trampeting, for others it’s skipping or hoola hooping. Whatever floats your boat, getting a good mix of weight bearing, resistance and non-weight bearing exercise incorporated into your life has huge benefits.
It helps to diffuse the intensity and frequency of hot flushes, helps to counteract low moods, painful joints…whatever your symptoms there are benefits. You might however not be suffering from any of the many debilitating symptoms associated with the menopause but your body will still thank you in the long run for taking care of it!
That can be one of the most powerful simple messages to get across can’t it…this is your body, you’ve only got one…and it’s up to you to look after it!
Some of us can become a tad complacent about our health until something happens which jolts us into action…well we can, can’t we! A much better idea being to try and prevent ill health happening in the first place rather than waiting for it to happen. The same goes when trying to cope with menopausal symptoms - having a really good look at your lifestyle choices, looking at what you eat, being well hydrated, keeping an eye on those alcohol & caffeine levels and making sure you get regular exercise can make such a difference - trust me - it does!
So when a friend asks you to come and chat menopause to a group of open water perimenopausal swimmers what do you do…of course…the only thing you can do…go and join them!
I have to be honest and admit that my plunge, tumble in the waves (local beach renowned for its surfing) in no way resembled any form of swimming, more a rather good dunking … will take body board next time! Top tip if you ever go and try this just run in - absolutely no point faffing about in the shallows! Agree must be bonkers going into the North Sea in October…but boy was it exhilarating.
Would I do it again - absolutely! Was it fun - most definitely - plus there was the wonderful bonus of delicious home baking and flasks of coffee being produced once dried off and wrapped up in multiple layers, whilst chatting about the menopause…and yes of course vaginas!
Wee note - alas not much photographic evidence as, said friend who asked me, arrived with flask and baking but without swimsuit as one of her dogs was on the verge of going into labour (fear not left with husband) but on realising that I was actually going to go in she duly just stripped down to her underwear to join us - hence I didn’t feel it appropriate to share in the public domain her choice of underwear for the event! I have to add that this lady is a true inspiration to many at 63 years old she just gets on with whatever life throws at her and lives life to the full…she managed to return home in time for the safe delivery of 5 wonderful Labrador puppies!
Just in case any of you fancy it here are a few of the well known benefits of open water swimming - or dunking in my case!
Circulation: the impact of the cold water boosts circulation by pumping blood through those arteries, capillaries and veins which results in blood rushing to our organs so…makes our hearts work a little bit harder
Mood swings: releasing endorphins throughout your swim or dunk helps to reduce stress and anxiety so contributes to a sense of wellbeing and contributes to feelings of happiness and positivity.
Boost that immune system: by plunging into cold water it - for want of a more refined medical term - shocks the body into producing more white blood cells and antioxidants (remember the benefits of those) which can help to boost your immune system.
Helps with your metabolism : by swimming in cold water your body is having to work harder to keep warm, to keep you core temperature stable so - no brainer - this in turn increases the number of calories you burn.
Helps with Sleep: cold water stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for repairing the body - stimulate that and it can give a feeling of calm & contentment which can help with relaxation that then contributes to a better night’s sleep.
Can help with skin conditions: the cold water helps to exfoliate the skin and flush out impurities - after my tumble in the waves I definitely found sand in places where it shouldn’t have been so yep definitely got exfoliated!
And…don’t forget the social aspect of meeting up with others helps to lift moods, just being outside in the fresh air has an instant benefit and being amongst nature has well known benefits.
Result - feeling more energised, having that sense of achievement and you never know you might enjoy it and have fun!
One of the hardest things can be to get it across to some of the younger generations how important exercise is, that it’s not all about body image, dieting and getting bikini fit…is that still a term nowadays…but to ditch, if you can, the worries of what you look like and to think more about all those areas of your body you don't and can’t see on a daily basis…your bones…your arteries….your heart pumping away and to remember that you’re going to be in a much healthier state when you reach those perimenopausal years if you get active from as young an age as possible. Plus, if you find something you enjoy doing when those oestrogen levels do start to decline it can really help to counteract some of those symptoms, helping to reduce stress levels and rebalance those hormones.
On that note I was delighted when This Girl Can contacted me about their campaign for World Menopause Day - absolutely fabulous the work they do - here’s what they are up to in their own words…highly recommend anyone having a look at the inspiring women on their website.
“Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign (TGC) are shining a light on the menopause this World Menopause Day and showing how exercise (alongside other treatments) can help women with menopause symptoms. The This Girl Can campaign endeavours to inspire women with ideas on how they can stay active in an enjoyable way that suits them and their lifestyle. For ideas on how to keep active go to : https://www.thisgirlcan.co.uk/activity-finder/”
Just remember it doesn’t matter what you look like…how fast or slow you are…what you wear…or what shape you are, just go out, find something you enjoy, get active and have fun!
A wee note re safety…always check tides, know where you are swimming is safe, thinking in particular about currents of rivers … and always either go with someone or let someone know where you are going.