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Navigating Menopause

Menopause is a big transition in our lives as women.

By Ruby McMullen, Personal Trainer at Mona Vale

Menopause is a big transition in our lives as women. For many it can feel like your body is working against you and things just don’t happen as quickly or easily as they used to. This is due to the drop in estrogen levels, reduced sleep quality and a reduction in metabolic levels and muscle mass. The good news is that regular physical activity, adequate recovery and a nutritious diet can provide you with many benefits during this time.

Exercise during and after menopause is highly beneficial and has many benefits. Regular resistance training can slow the loss of bone and muscle mass that occurs during menopause, this will reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis. Resistance training helps to build bone strength and muscle mass which leads to an increase in metabolic rate. A higher metabolic rate will prevent weight gain as it means your body is burning more calories at a resting state. In addition any type of exercise will produce endorphins which boosts your mood therefore decreasing the risk of depression and cognitive decline. It turns out exercise can actually provide relief from hot flushes (if not too high intensity). Studies have shown sedentary women experience worse symptoms than active women.

Prioritising recovery is just as important as scheduling in regular physical activity. During this time it is crucial to listen to your body and ensure you are not overdoing it. At rest is where the muscle growth and recovery actually occurs. If you are not taking adequate rest, progress will not happen. The general symptoms of overtraining are feeling fatigued, unexplained decrease in performance, inability to progress, muscular aches, feeling agitated, loss in sleep quality, loss in appetite and feeling more stressed and depressed then normal. During menopause a woman's body is going through a whole range of changes so prioritising rest is even more important. At Vision, we like our ladies in this phase to focus on resistance sessions and low intensity cardio such as walking, swimming, golf, etc rather then high intensity work such as sprints, circuit classes, etc.

Nutrition is key, the focus here should be on eating for health. Drop the fad diets and restrictive meal plans and focus on nourishing your body and giving it what it needs to thrive. Fad diets are strongly linked to weight regain and metabolism damage which we want to avoid during menopause. The focus should be on long term lifestyle changes that lead to reduced inflammation, encourage healing and boosting energy. To do this the focus should be on natural, whole foods over processed foods. A high quality diet with a balance of carbs, proteins and fats will allow your body to function optimally while keeping energy levels high.

Low fat diets should be avoided as fats are crucial for keeping our hormones balanced, optimal brain functioning and blood sugar regulation. Getting a range of unsaturated fats in your diet reduces inflammation and risk of heart disease. These fat sources include olive oil, salmon, avocado, nuts and seeds, etc. Saturated fats should be kept to a minimum as they increase risk of heart disease. Saturated fats include many animal products such as butter, cheese and fatty meats as well as coconut and palm oil.

Protein is an extremely important part of our diet, especially as we age. Protein helps with maintaining muscle mass, overall recovery and is good for heart health. Protein deficiency can lead to shrinkage of muscle tissue, oedema and anaemia. Adequate protein intake can help to work against the muscle loss that can occur during menopause. Protein sources that should be included in our diet are lean meat such as chicken and fish, lean beef, Greek yoghurt, tofu, eggs and beans.

Menopause can be a tricky time for many women and it is more important then ever to prioritise your health. Our team at Vision will support, guide and educate you throughout this journey.

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