Never mind beach ready. Let’s get menopause ready ! Let’s look at some numbers. Between 2007 and 2017 the population of age 65+ increased almost 3% to 12 million people. 6 million of those are women. Life expectancy in the UK is 82.9 years for women (79.2 years for men). Women aged 45-55 are the fastest growing demographic in the workforce.
Don’t you feel just a little frisson of pride? Like you want to elbow your way into a chink of limelight?
We are, girls, potentially, a force to be reckoned with. Trouble is, the black cloud of the big M looms and with it a host of unpleasant physical symptoms and a massive drop in self confidence. But I say this….[stands on soapbox]… there is so much we can do, must do….starting right now, whatever our age, to prepare our bodies for what it may bring. Yes, even if you’re in it now! Let’s not wait until the first hot sweat cometh. Gird thy loins, stuff this article in front of your daughters’ faces and let’s all get cracking.
Let’s embrace the words muscle and strong. We’re talking…[cue, little cough]….mental empowerment and physical survival.
As we age (that’s men and women) we lose muscle, anything from 1-5% a year. Muscle is our friend and ally for so many reasons and we need to nurture it. How do we do that? By resistance training.
Resistance training is using your muscles to work against a resistant force provided either by your own body or by bands, dumb-bells and barbells. Placing a demand on muscles means they’ll adapt, become stronger, firmer and eventually throw egg in the face of ‘age related muscle loss’.
Firm muscle and strength gives us ammunition, too, against the dreaded osteoporosis, a silent menopausal threat to so many mid-life women. Strong muscles provide an essential support network for bones, joints, tendons and ligaments, which may have been weakened from the inevitable drop in oestrogen.
Resistance training will not make you ‘muscle-y’’. You will not look like an Olympic weightlifter after three weeks at the gym. You are simply building a defence to what is round the corner. In the process, you are improving your physical health, your mental and emotional well-being and putting a little sassiness back into your spirit. The sense of fulfilment, I promise you will feel, from becoming stronger, will surprise you.
I’m sensing you’re nodding off. How about this…? Muscle needs more energy (calories) to maintain its new dense state so your metabolism will rise. With that you’ll notice your body shape tightening up and gradually your testosterone levels will also improve – the fairy dust we need to sprinkle on a flagging libido.
Start with your own home programme of squats, press-ups and core movements to gain confidence (google beginner strength workouts online or visit my YouTube channel Annie Deadman Training, which has a whole range of options. Seek help from a reputable trainer (get a small group together to keep costs down) or join a local strength-training class. Two sessions a week is a great start.
Muscle needs feeding so include plenty of protein in your diet. Replace any high sugar carb-y snacks (which, let’s face it, we know are devoid of any nutritional brownie points) with more fish, eggs, tofu, yogurt, meat and pulses.
None of this means a life consigned to the gym. Walking, running and other weight-bearing activities are vital for bone density and important mood enhancers. The value you will gain from a little puffing will show in your cardiovascular fitness, your sleep and your confidence, plus you are lowering your risk of heart disease, type II diabetes and various cancers.
Everyone’s experience of the menopause will be different. One woman’s thinning hair and dry vagina may be overshadowed by another’s sore joints and murderous mood. Let’s use our bodies, be ready for it and give ourselves the best possible chance.
Originally written for Woman&Home magazine April 2020