The “M” Word: FT & The Challenges Of Aging

by Martha Hicks Leta

Ladies, here’s a little experiment you can try the next time you’re in mixed company. Say the word “Menopause” just once and see how long it takes for every guy within earshot to jump out a window. Yes, even in these times where everything TMI goes you can still cause a decent stampede by muttering the ‘M’ word under your breath. Here, try this: click your heels together, twirl around and say it three times: “Menopause! Menopause! Menopause!” Are they gone? Good. Let’s talk.

For men and women alike the signs of aging (much like taxes and colonoscopies) are something we’d rather avoid. But for women, menopause can be more enduring and unpleasant and leave a girl feeling pretty isolated and embarrassed. How so? Let’s just say, if Steven King ever invents an amusement park ride he could call it, “Menopause,” though it wouldn’t be terribly amusing. Among the 34 symptoms women have to look forward to as we age are hot flashes, night sweats, incontinence, weight gain, loss of muscle tone, confusion, hair loss (everywhere but your face, where you’ll actually get more), mood swings, sudden bouts of bloat, changes in body odor and something we’ll just refer to euphemistically as “dryness.” Horrifying, right? It certainly explains the crying jags that can go with all that.

Until about ten years ago the consensus among the medical community was that hormone replacement therapy or HRT, usually in the form of progesterone, was the best way to treat symptoms. But that consensus shifted when clinical trials showed that the treatment posed more risks than benefits and doctors began shying away from its use, particularly for the long term. This left a growing population of women without much support in finding solutions.

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Enter Maureen Sullivan, owner of Fitness Together in North Andover, who has helped rescue many a dame in distress from the jaws of menopause. Maureen first found her way to FT as a client in search of solutions to her own set of issues. She had recently left the corporate world after 28 years was taking time to reassess the next phase of her life when she decided to check out a free session at her local FT. “At the time, I was really struggling with menopause symptoms and weight gain. Everything I thought I knew how to do wasn’t working. After the consultation, the manager understood exactly what I needed to get back into shape and deal with my other symptoms.”

Sullivan signed onto the program and followed her trainer’s advice for a complete lifestyle overhaul, incorporating regular cardio, weight training and a new diet plan. Before long she was feeling and looking like a new woman. “By changing my diet I was able to balance my sugar levels, get a handle on mood swings and reduce cravings. By losing weight, my sleeping improved and my stress level lessened. By removing wine from my diet I was able to reduce the hot flashes significantly. I lost 25 pounds and the training put me back to where I was at 30.”

Sullivan was so thrilled with the positive impact FT was having on her life, she decided she wanted to own her own studio. Within a year she was able to acquire Fitness Together in North Andover and she hasn’t looked back since.

While Sullivan says her extensive marketing and business skills have helped her success enormously, it is her life-changing experience as a former FT client that she values most, particularly when it comes to dealing with women who are feeling overwhelmed by the challenges of aging.

“I’ve had women come to me because they find regular gyms to be too intimidating, but they’ve gotten to a point where they’re embarrassed by the changes in their bodies and need to do something. As some women start sharing their particular menopause challenges and I start sharing mine, they just open up and feel comfortable telling me everything that’s happening. I also share my journey and where I am now and the work it takes. They don’t find this type of support in a typical gym environment.”

Sullivan takes the extensive knowledge she’s acquired from reading and attending lectures and shares it with her clients. She recommends women have their FSH levels tested as well as getting a bone density benchmark to determine the proper amount of dietary calcium needed. “Last but not least, I recommend whenever possible that women manage their systems through nutrition and not hormone replacement therapy because of the link to cancers in women.”

As Sullivan’s research will tell you, various studies on the effects of menopause show strong indications that exercise is the best way to manage symptoms.
Says Michael D. Brown, PhD, a co-author and associate professor of kinesiology at Temple University’s College of Health Professions. “Given the controversy with HRT, postmenopausal women can now use aerobic exercise and weight training to lower chemical stress levels, thus reducing risk factors for chronic disease.”

Ideally, women should get in shape and stay in shape before menopause hits to lessen the dreaded list of symptoms. But if you’re already there, it’s not too late to get with the program.

For more information on exercise and menopause go to Mayoclinic.com

To schedule a consultation with Maureen Sullivan at Fitness Together in North Andover call 978-659-0047 or go to Fitness Together North Andover

To find a Fitness Together near you go to FTGetsResults

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Filed under Aging, Diet, Fitness, Fitness Tips, Health, In Good Health, Menopause, Trainer Tips

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