Learn Resources OutdoorHer | Navigating Menopause

OutdoorHer | Navigating Menopause

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Menopause is a significant and transformative phase in a woman’s life. It is a natural biological process during which ovulation stops and periods end. The experience of menopause can be different for each individual and often comes with a wave of physical and emotional changes.

When climbing and hill walking, an essential aspect that is often overlooked for women is the profound impact of menopause on their physical and mental well-being. Acknowledging and understanding menopause is paramount for female adventurers, as hormonal changes during this life stage can significantly influence energy levels, thermoregulation, and overall health.

Being attuned to these physiological shifts allows women to make informed choices about their gear, hydration, and pacing, optimizing their outdoor experience. By fostering awareness about menopause, the outdoor community can create a supportive environment that empowers women to continue pursuing their passion for climbing and hill walking with confidence and adaptability. In this guide, we will explore the different phases of menopause, common symptoms, and the power of regular movement and exercise to manage symptoms and support good health.

The Phases of Menopause

Menopause is not a singular event but a transition that occurs over several phases:

Perimenopause is the stage leading up to menopause. It typically begins in your 40s but can start earlier for some. During this phase, hormonal fluctuations can lead to irregular periods, shorter cycles, and a variety of symptoms. Perimenopause can last up to 10 years, making it the longest phase of the menopausal journey.

Menopause itself is the briefest phase and is diagnosed when a female has missed their period for 12 consecutive months.

Post menopause is the phase following menopause. This is the time when a person transitions into the next stage of their life without a menstrual cycle.

Common menopause symptoms:

Menopause symptoms can vary widely. While some may go through menopause without experiencing any significant symptoms, others may find it extremely challenging. Some common symptoms include:

  • Hot flushes
  • Night sweats
  • Irregular periods (shorter or longer between bleeds)
  • Changes in bleeding (heavier or lighter)
  • Sleeping problems
  • Brain fog
  • Increased irritability
  • Low mood, depression or anxiety
  • Joint pains
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Less tolerance of stimulants such as sugar, alcohol and caffeine
  • Headaches
  • Sore, lumpy, swollen breasts
  • Fatigue
  • Reduced confidence

READ: Accessible menopause resources aimed at people who are LGBTQIA+

Managing symptoms during your adventures

It may be helpful for both individuals and leaders to consider whether their symptoms may have an effect during their trip in the outdoors. Consider what symptoms you or others are likely to experience and how you might manage these throughout your day. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Opt for a layering system rather than one or two thicker layers. This might help you regulate temperature more easily. Staying hydrated is also important for managing hot flushes. If the temperature is warmer, consider using a cooling towel. Be prepared for irregular periods by carrying period products in your backpack.
  • Explain to a friend or group leader that you experience changes in your mood or feel anxious, helping others to understand and support you.
  • Use walking poles and other supports to help reduce pressure on your joints.
  • Maintain a balanced diet to support your training and overall health. Focus on consuming nutrient-rich foods including fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and wholegrains. Carbohydrates are important as fuel, just because there is a decreased reliance on carbohydrates does not mean go low carb. This will affect energy, focus and mood.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day (6-8 glasses – 1.5 l).
  • Factors such as self-care and a focus on mental wellbeing can help to manage symptoms. Engage in activities that reduce stress (meditation, breathing exercises, spending time with friends/family, reading a book).

If you are struggling with symptoms talk to your GP. It may be worth discussing the activities you enjoy, such as outdoor recreation, and getting their advice on how to manage your symptoms in outdoor settings. There are medication options such as HRT which come in different forms.

The Power of Movement in Managing Menopause

Why move during menopause?

Symptom management: Regular movement and exercise can help manage many menopausal symptoms. From hot flushes to mood swings, staying active can make these experiences more manageable.

Long-term health: The advantages of staying active go far beyond symptom relief. Regular exercise and movement can protect females against chronic conditions that tend to affect them later in life. These include heart disease, osteoporosis, dementia and back pain.

Well-being: Physical activity has the remarkable ability to boost mood, improve sleep, and provide an overall sense of well-being. It's an excellent way to combat the fatigue and stress that can accompany menopause.

Read: MCI Vicky Owen's blog post: 'A tale of perimenopause and impending doom'

Tips for staying active

  1. Self care: Rest, manage stress and maintain a balanced diet. Listen to your body! Share your experiences and help promote this across your community. Ask for help from your community.
  2. Strength training: Menopause can lead to a decline in muscle mass and bone density. Incorporate strength training exercises into your routine to maintain muscle mass, improve bone health and prevent injuries. Focus on exercises that target major muscle groups such as squats, lunges, deadlifts and upper body exercises. Swap a couple of long walks/runs for HITT and lift some weights!
  3. Balance: Balance exercises can reduce risk of falling and injuries. For example, practice single leg balances (balance on one leg whilst brushing your teeth or making a cup of tea). Yoga can help combine strength, balance and relaxation for self-care and ensures restorative time.
  4. Cardiovascular training: This is important for heart health. Exercise at an intensity that you can just hold a conversation. For example, walking up hill, running, cycling, swimming. Consider swimming outdoors to give another opportunity to get outside.
  5. Warm up: You may need a bit longer or different exercises to start moving. Make sure to include mobility into your warm up to reduce aches and pains in your joints.
  6. Manage heat and hot flushes: Stay hydrated and think about lightweight and breathable clothing. Also layering! If necessary, think about using a cooling towel or taking breaks in the shade to manage your body temperature.
  7. Nutrition: Maintain a balanced diet to support your training and overall health. Focus on consuming nutrient-rich including fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and wholegrains. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day (6-8 glasses or 1.5 litres). Carbohydrates are important as fuel, just because you may have decreased reliance on carbohydrate does not mean your diet should be low-carb. This will affect energy, focus and mood. Protein is key to avoid loss of lean mass. Consider supplementing your Vitamin D levels over winter.
  8. Monitor recovery: Listen to your body and incorporate rest days and activities such as yoga, stretching and massages to help.
  9. Mental wellbeing: Engage in activities that reduce stress. For example. meditation, breathing exercises, spending time with friends and family and reading books. Maintain a positive mindset of the enjoyment!
  10. Sleep disturbance: Sleep hygiene can help. Regular sleep pattern routines and good sleep environment such as cool, dark, quiet room. Think about how you can adapt your bedding and clothing to help with hot flushes.

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