Talk with girlfriends approaching midlife and inevitably “Midlife Crisis” is mentioned! Many women still think midlife and menopause signals decline; weight gain and loss of fitness but it needn’t be a time of despondency if we understand the ageing process. For those women in their 40’s and 50’s this should be a time to adopt a positive attitude and aim to be fit, to look good and to feel great. We can’t turn back the clock, so let’s begin to focus on working alongside nature to prevent or postpone disease. It’s this that enables a woman in midlife to move forward and enjoy maturity.
Stop and think
Let’s take stock…how is your general health and how do you envisage your future? Many women will find they’ve concentrated their efforts on looking after the health of their partners and children, often to the detriment of themselves. Now is the time to be selfish…..you owe it to yourself, your family and friends to maintain your fitness in order to prevent future health problems, which could affect not only you, but possibly those left to care for you.
Could it be time to talk to your Doctor to arrange a health check, especially if you’re concerned about, but have ignored, a particular problem? Finding out facts could help manage conditions such as blood pressure, blood cholesterol levels or diabetes, all possible to control if diagnosed early.
Certain health problems are caused by the fast pace of modern life and resulting stress. Some women experience powerful emotional upheavals, others minor problems, whilst some have complex stressful situations to cope with. Problems due to unresolved personal relationships or dissatisfaction with lost job opportunities fear of the future or growing older in what they perceive to be an ageist society. Tackle the cause of stress, talk over worries and concerns with someone other than immediate family or friends. A problem shared really can be a problem halved, and talking to a stranger can help shed light on inner feelings held back when talking to loved ones.
Sleep is important but can be impeded by stress and worry, so learn to relax, rest and restore your body. I paint pictures to relax, other friends switch off listening to music and some feel at peace in the garden or through meditation. Give yourself some personal time and space to switch off and find a way to restore some harmony to your body, mind and spirit.
What we eat and drink is important for our health and should consist of a variety of foods from 5 categories.
- Carbohydrates…starchy foods such as pasta, rice, oats, potatoes, cereals, bread, bananas
- Proteins…meat and fish.
- Milk and dairy products.
- Fruits and vegetables
- Fats and sugars
Ensure your diet is varied, nutritious and well balanced. Try to include oily fish, fibrous foods, fresh fruits and vegetables all of which contain essential nutrients and vitamins. Cut down on salt, sugar and saturated fats, excess can cause health problems.
If you are concerned your diet lacks certain vitamins or minerals consider taking supplements, your GP or local pharmacist can advise you. Increasing energy expenditure by keeping active will help you lose weight, and being fit will improve your stamina, suppleness, strength, skill and shape. An increase in years should not be an excuse for an increase in your waistline!
Menopause causes dramatic changes in a woman’s hormonal level increasing the possibility of osteoporosis, a condition that weakens bones making them fragile and at risk of breaking. It develops slowly over years and is often diagnosed when a minor fall or impact causes a bone to fracture. Prevention is better than cure and for many post menopausal women taking a daily supplement of calcium plus Vitamin D helps maintain bone strength. Weight bearing activities, such as simple BRISK walking is essential to encourage strong bones and help eliminate the risk of falling.
Women need to be aware of breast and ovarian cancers and during midlife should take up the offer of NHS screening programmes. Many cancers discovered early can be treated successfully, as I know having been diagnosed with breast cancer in my mid forties. Today I’m fighting fit.
If you’ve already a previously diagnosed health problem take a moment to re-access how you are coping, maybe enquire and ask about more assistance to help you go forward.
Inevitably with an increase in years there will be bodily changes including a natural thinning of bones, plus some discomfort in the joints, with arthritis, rheumatism and backache being painful reminders of the passing years for some. With age muscles become weaker and less able to support us particularly if we don’t keep active. Muscles begin to atrophy, and one’s posture and self-esteem can be adversely effected by poor muscle tone.
During midlife what stronger motivation do we need for taking that daily brisk walk, for at least half an hour, and doing a few simple exercises in order to keep us walking tall!
Aerobic March to improve your cardio-vascular efficiency (heart and lungs)
Clear a space and put on some upbeat music. Simply march on the spot for 1 minute lifting your feet up, rolling through the ball of your foot and keeping your weight over the big and second toe. Now lift your knees higher and pump with your arms. Being a weight bearing exercise this helps maintain strong bones. March on around the room and/or garden for several minutes until you begin to puff.
Pelvic Tilt to strengthen abdominal muscles and increase spinal flexibility
Lie on back, knees bent, feet hip width apart with arms at your sides, palms down. Press neck and back flat into mat. Exhale pull in abdominal muscles and peeling spine up one vertebra at a time lift your bottom upwards towards ceiling. Hold your body still, inhale and raise arms up to your ears and beyond. Now exhale and carefully lower your spine and bottom down to mat. Inhale and return arms to your sides. Repeat 5 times.