Tuesday, 9 July 2019
From enduro mountain bikers to cycling commuters, competitive racers to those who pootle round the park: women cycle for fitness, fun, practicality and adventures. But what happens if menopausal symptoms start to disrupt your enjoyment of cycling or hinder your performance? Conversely, can cycling actually help combat those symptoms?
Menopause impacts each woman differently: some barely notice it, while others are floored by it. However around 70% of women will have symptoms that can last for several years, such as joint pain, hot flushes, low mood and anxiety and weight gain.
Some find cycling to be a highly effective way of coping with these symptoms, others find themselves so overwhelmed that it impacts on their ability to ride.
Caroline, aged 49, is a keen mountain biker whose symptoms means she has difficulty sleeping.
“I wake up in the early hours then lie awake for what seems like hours feeling anxious about things that I would have normally take in my stride.
“The knock on effect is that the next morning I have no energy and feel tired all the time. This impacts my whole life, but I especially notice it when I go out on my bike: I just don’t have the energy or drive that I did before”.
Meanwhile road cyclist Abbie, aged 54, turns to cycling to help alleviate her symptoms. “I have hot flushes and moments of feeling a bit panicky which can occur at any time, but neither ever happen whilst I am riding my bike. I don’t know why this is, but cycling certainly gives me a little welcome respite!”
How exercise can help menopausal symptoms
How do the menopause and cycling impact each other? We asked Dr Juliet McGrattan author of Sorted: The Active Woman’s Guide to Health and Dr Renee Hoenerkamp, medical writer and women’s health expert, for advice.
“Every woman is affected differently but exercise can help with the majority of menopausal symptoms” said Dr Juliet McGrattan. “The ‘feel good chemicals’, (the best known being endorphins) that the body releases when you exercise can help to counteract the symptoms of low mood, anxiety and ‘brain fog’ that women commonly struggle with during the menopause.
“Exercise can also help improve sleep, which can be disrupted, either directly or indirectly as a result of night sweats. There’s emerging evidence that exercise will reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flushes with one study in particular showing this effect in women who increased their fitness levels.”
Dr Renee Hoenerkamp said “Joint pain is common in menopause and using exercise to strengthen the muscles around your knees, hips and spine can help support them and ease discomfort.
“We also know that bone density decreases after menopause and exercise can help counteract that loss and maintain a healthy bone density to protect against fractures in the future. Keeping our core strong and focusing on exercise that strengthens the pelvic floor can really make a difference to menopause related issues such as vaginal prolapse and urinary incontinence.”
Cycling is ideal for its cardiovascular and mood enhancing benefits, but the menopause is a time to reap the benefits of other forms of exercise too, as well as thinking about what really works for you.
“If you’re feeling anxious and in need of calming, then it might be a yoga class that works for you but it might also be a high intensity workout on the turbo trainer where you can release your frustrations,” says Juliet.
“Weight gain is often an unwanted and stubborn side effect of the menopause. Your metabolism generally slows down around this time, partly due to a decreasing muscle mass and weight can gradually increase as a result. Strength exercises will help you to build and maintain muscle mass, giving a boost to your metabolism and helping you to control your weight. Strength exercises and weight bearing exercises will also help to maintain bone mass and avoid osteoporosis.
“So mixing it up is the best idea and stepping up a gear from your previous exercise levels will be beneficial.”
But what if your menopausal symptoms are affecting your enjoyment of cycling?
Juliet offers the following advice: “It can be a bit of a roller coaster journey during the menopause, with a huge variation in how you feel day to day or week to week so don’t panic. Look at the bigger picture and see if there are other things in your lifestyle that might be bringing your performance or enjoyment down, sometimes it’s stress at work or eating badly that are the causes.
“Ease up the pressure a bit and enlist the help of friends, often a social ride will bring back the fun. It’s vital to keep active, so don’t be afraid to share your concerns with your doctor; menopause symptoms that affect your hobby are just as important as those that affect your work.
“Remember that there are health issues that are more common around the menopause that can affect your performance and mood too. For example, an underactive thyroid or anaemia due to heavy periods could certainly make you fatigued and slower than usual.”
Cycling though the menopause | Cycling UK
Tuesday, 9 July 2019 From enduro mountain bikers to cycling commuters, competitive racers to those who pootle round the park: women cycle for fitness, fun, practicality and adventures. But what happens if menopausal symptoms start to disrupt your enjoyment of cycling or hinder your performance? Conversely, can cycling actually help combat those symptoms? Menopause impacts… [Read More]