Happy Sunday everyone…..sending lots of light, hope and peace on this Remembrance Sunday.
So, here we are again… its my weekly A-Z Menopause blog time and this week we are on E so thought I’d have a little chat about EXERCISE!
Now for me this has never been something that comes naturally, sporting activities never held any interest for me during my school years and as a result I was terrible at all sports. I remember the disappointed looks that soon spread across the faces of the games teachers when they realised that my sporting skills were severely stunted in comparison to my brother who had ran, jumped and kicked his way to holding more than one school sporting record ahead of me.
So, despite numerous (but short lived) bursts of enthusiasm here and there over the years very little on the exercise front has stuck as a permanent feature in my daily routine. All except for Yoga, which I think appealed as although it can hold challenges you might not expect, the fact that its done on a 1.5 x 0.5 metre mat space does limit the exertion……not quite Marathon training but I do work up a sweat.
Now, having said all of this, suddenly, as Menopause struck, I started to think about that next phase of life and what that might hold. Certainly, for me I began to feel a bit anxious that all that lay ahead of me was excess weight, frailty, and disease………well, you know what a positive mindset you have when you start losing those reproductive hormones!! This was another reason for the consideration to the positive mental benefits as well as the physical benefits of adding more exercise to my life.
I realised that due to my lack of motivation for sport I wasn’t going to suddenly become a hyperactive gym bunny and start to achieve amazing fitness goals so what I did need to do was look at what was quickest and easiest route to finding that healthy and manageable balance.
Now,….as you are beginning to hopefully get the vibe of my blogs, you will notice how all of my work links back to how the brain works and you might recognise in that last sentence what the key word for me is ….yep…MOTIVATION.
So, the benefit of exercise in Menopause is that you might find that being more physically active helps with some of your menopause symptoms and it has been recognised that the following can occur;
- reduced hot flushes
- better weight management
- Improved mood
- Improved self-esteem
- helps you to sleep
- reduce anxiety
Now this all sounds amazing, but what are we talking about here…..my question straight away is ‘ok……what do I need to achieve to get these benefits?’ Well, Cardiovascular exercise is one of the first on the list of what you should start to consider. During a week you should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate activity, such as cycling or brisk walking or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity, such as running or playing sport.
Weight-bearing exercise is another exercise that should be introduced at this stage of life as this can help bone strength. Any activity where you support your body weight through your feet and legs (or arms and hands walking, jogging, dancing, or playing tennis.
In addition to these, try to include two sessions of muscle-strengthening exercises on at least 2 days a week. Muscle-strengthening exercises are movements where you move your muscles against some resistance. This includes lifting weights, using resistance bands, or doing body weight exercises like press-up.
Finally, it’s also really important to work on your balance and flexibility as you age and this can include activities such as yoga, dance and tai chi.
Now this sounds like a fair amount on the list, and I think that it’s worth considering it as a target rather than a regimented goal. At the end of the day any movement and activity are better than none and small adjustments and little steps can lead to big gains. As I mentioned before, the key to it all is the motivation behind it and this is where Psychotherapy and Hypnotherapy can play its part.
So, as you know by now, I predominantly work with ladies suffering the symptoms of menopause and, as a result of these symptoms my clients often come to me with displaying some of the 5 main factors that affect Dopamine Levels in the body – depression, poor diet (specifically low protein), drug abuse (not one I have encountered as yet) and obesity.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter – a hormone-like communication or message – that travels through the nervous system. It does multiple things, but it is most commonly associated with providing feelings of pleasure and reward. Dopamine also gives you feelings of vitality and “aliveness.”
Research shows that anticipating any reward increases dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine serves as the driver – or motivational component – of all reward-motivated behaviours.
Now some of the potential symptoms of dopamine deficiency include: anxiety, feelings of sadness or tearfulness, inability to focus, loss of motivation, low energy, low sex drive, muscle aches and pains, muscle stiffness, sudden weight loss or weight gain, trouble sleeping or disturbed sleep, and others. Oh….hang on a minute, aren’t they the symptoms of menopause? So, if I have very little Dopamine being released (because I’m feeling depressed, eating a rubbish diet and have put on weigh because I’m in the middle of menopause) and I have menopause symptoms….I’m going to feel soooo much worse? So the question is ‘what can I do about it?’
Well, initially there are a lot of foods you can eat in order to increase dopamine levels, known as dopaminergic foods, these include bananas, almonds, beets, apples, coffee, chocolate, lima beans, leafy greens, oatmeal, watermelon, sea vegetables, animal products, and watermelon, among others.
Other ways are that you can listen to music, meditate, and engage in some hobbies that are very creative – basically, the activities that release Serotonin – the happy hormone, and that will then keep you out of the primitive brain and push you into your intellectual brain.
However, as you will know from my previous posts, this in itself can be a real challenge, but you also know by now how we can achieve it! That’s right, through the process of working together on pulling out those positive interactions, positive feelings and positive activities, during the Psychotherapy part of the session, we are releasing Serotonin and ultimately releasing Dopamine. Add that to some ‘stress bucket emptying’ through hypnosis and hey presto – you are suddenly feeling motivated, happier and breaking that cycle of impact of meno’ symptoms and the symptoms that arise from a lack of Dopamine. Once you are on that path, exercise feels much more inviting, because guess what….exercise also releases Serotonin and Dopamine as well as bringing all of the other health benefits. Suddenly the challenge and the chore of exercise all become part of the control state you find yourself in.
Breaking that negative cycle and replacing it with a positive is easily achievable!