Navigating the tides of menopause is a journey that presents not only challenges but opportunities to transform ourselves into stronger, more vibrant human beans;). As we step into this new life phase, taking charge of our health by moving our bodies in ways that are right for us as well as eating foods that nourish us can be both empowering and fun.
Today, I’m going to delve deeper into how to integrate a balanced approach to fitness and nutrition to support our bodies and minds during the menopause transition and beyond.
But here’s a little caveat in advance: Yes, movement and nutrition are important, but being gentle with ourselves is the most important thing, especially when we are going through such turbulent changes.
Forging a strong foundation – understanding the importance of strength training
As we age, our bodies naturally begin to lose muscle mass and bone density. This process can be accelerated during the menopause transition as our bodies produce less and less oestrogen, making strength training a key component in maintaining and improving our overall health.
Yes, cardiovascular exercises like walking, jogging, swimming and dancing(!) are still great for heart health. But starting to incorporate strength training exercises into our daily routines can provide essential benefits such as improved muscle mass, enhanced bone density, better balance, and a reduced risk of fractures and osteoporosis.
Strength exercises include squats, lunges, push-ups, planks, bicep curls and tricep dips. That might sound technical and a bit terrifying, but a 20-30-minute dumbbell workout a couple of times a week as well as regular yoga sessions will basically cover them all.
Here’s one of my favourite weights workout channels, by Cheryl Columbe, who’s around our age and has decades of experience: youtube.com/@LiftwithCee
When using dumbells, start with weights that are manageable, and gradually increase the weight as your strength improves. You can get decent dumbbells on Amazon. But before investing, you can also begin by just using water bottles (full ones obviously;)) to see how it feels for you to work with weights and whether you want to stick with it. The aim is to incorporate 20-30-minute sessions 2-3 times per week, allowing for rest days in between to promote muscle recovery. I usually manage 1-2 sessions and that’s fine too;).
If you haven’t done much exercise or worked with weights before, please do some research first or book a few sessions with a trainer. On her channel, Cheryl also has a four-part intro to lifting weights that I found very helpful. Here’s the first one: youtu.be/qemFGrIcFLU.
And then: yoga, yoga, yoga (see above;)). I know it’s a cliché and “yoga evangelism” is a snoozefest but I’ve been exercising and doing sports all my life and yoga is THE one that I keep coming back to as it keeps my body fit and my soul alive and kicking.
Nutrition – fuelling your body with the good stuff
Equally important to staying fit and well throughout our menopause transition is the kind of nutrition we embrace during this time. Here are some of the ways we can nourish our bodies through menopause and into older age:
Calcium and Vitamin D: Essential for bone health, try to include plenty of leafy greens in your diet, alongside appropriate supplements. As a vitamin D deficient northern European, I take the recommended daily dose of vitamin D supplements every morning, with a break during the summer months. And when I get my bloods done, I always ask about my vitamin D levels.
Fiber-Rich Foods: Incorporate whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes into your meals to aid in weight management and support digestive health. It might be necessary to adapt your diet a bit, but hey, change is possible, right? At least our bodies seem to think so… So how about we try to change with them to keep them healthy? And it’s not about eating less, it’s about eating more of what’s good for us at this life stage.
Protein: Increasing protein intake during our menopausal transition is not only vital in counteracting muscle degradation, but it also plays a pivotal role in supporting strong bones and fostering overall vitality. Quality sources of protein, such as legumes, nuts, seeds, tofu, tempeh, fish, dairy products and lean meats can aid in maintaining a healthy body weight, by promoting satiety and encouraging the preservation of lean muscle mass. Protein also works synergistically with strength training exercises, keeping us robust and resilient.
Drink lots of water: Stay hydrated by drinking ample water throughout the day, and limit your intake of caffeinated or alcoholic beverages to avoid exacerbating symptoms like hot flashes. EVERY SINGLE TIME I drink even a small amount of alcohol I get hot flushes that night, which disturb my sleep and make me cranky and exhausted the next day.
Embracing our menopause transition with resilience and grace
Rather than being the end of something, menopause is our transition into a phase where we can rediscover our strengths and vitality. Embarking on a health and fitness journey with a focus on strength training, flexibility, mobility and cardio, coupled with a nourishing diet, can transform this period into a real opportunity for personal growth and good health as we age. That, in combination with a good healthcare provider who is willing to discuss all our options with us when it comes to managing symptoms, should help to ensure that this challenging period in our lives goes as smoothly as possible.
And if you’ve gotten this far and are thinking “bonkers, how could I possibly fit all that into my already super busy life?”, it’s not about immediately adding all of the above to your daily schedule. We can just start with one or two small changes, see how they feel, and work from there.
My “Menopause Meet-ups” are weekly online sessions where we collaborate in a small group to share our experiences and jointly put together a menopause toolkit to move through this transitional phase of life with resilience and awareness.
Feel free to contact me for more information: