Men, Muscles and Menopause

Copyright 2006 Ainsley Laing

A few weeks back, a Body for Mind reader wrote a letter that really started me thinking about the topic of staying fit after menopause. She is someone who adopted a fitness and healthy eating lifestyle and really transformed herself over a period of time. Now, she is starting to feel like she might be having the beginnings of menopause. Her question was whether she would lose her “new body” because of menopause.

In short, my answer to her was NO! She would not gain body fat or lose muscle JUST because of menopause.

After years of seeing fitness clients go through menopause, I feel that we as women are focusing on menopause as an isolated event and not as a transient life phase. The medical community prepares us for the changes we will have during the menopause years and rightly so. It’s pretty freaky to have your body not behave the way you are accustomed to it behaving!

So, I would like to present to you a different way of viewing this life stage from the fitness angle:

I like to think of menopause as being like puberty. The body goes a bit whacky for a time, but it is temporary – your body adjusts to the changes. Hot flashes, vaginal dryness, etc are directly related to menopause. Most are symptoms, not permanent conditions – things that happen to women specifically during menopause as opposed to those things that happen to both men and women as they age , such as weight gain, tiredness, wrinkles etc.

The other bits people talk about related to menopause seem to really be more about age and lifestyle rather than diminishing female hormones.

Think about this, estrogen protects women against heart disease. After menopause, women’s risk of heart disease becomes similar to a men’s of the same age. In men, the risk of heart disease is predominantly due to lifestyle choices, aging and heredity. So, the risk of heart disease for men and postmenopausal women is the same and depends on lifestyle with a bit of heredity thrown in.

See where I am going with this?

It’s been my observation that friends and clients who were not making healthy lifestyle choices before menopause, after menopause continue to look and feel pretty much as they did before.

Those friends and clients who were fit and ate well before menopause, after menopause continue to look and feel….. pretty much as they did before.

AND…some even see it as a wake up call and improve their lifestyle considerably.

I have one client and friend who had early menopause at age 40. Now, eleven years later she is fitter and more beautiful than ever, and she has run 3 marathons since age 48! She also started lifting weights at 46 and has a very much more toned body than she had at 40. She eats well, doesn’t smoke and wears her sunscreen. At 51, she looks and acts much younger than she did at 40.

The bottom line: ladies, it takes a lot more than just menopause to cause your body to lose muscle and gain fat. Aging, lack of exercise, years of poor eating and other habits that contribute to ill health are the major contributors.

After all, if loss of female hormones were the only cause of increased body fat – men wouldn’t have any!