Menopause: a natural part of life, yet often surrounded by stigma and silence.

Posted: Thu, 26 Oct 2023 15:39

Menopause: a natural part of life, yet often surrounded by stigma and silence.

We know that engaging in regular aerobic and weight-bearing activity during menopause can help women to manage symptoms such as hot flushes, mood swings, and weight gain. Organisations like Active Partnerships can help to provide the resources and assurance needed to spread this message and support women through this phase in life.

At Active Together, we wanted to share some of the practical ways we are supporting women across Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland (LLR) to develop physical activity habits during menopause.

First, women told us two things they needed to build their confidence around getting more active during menopause. The first including more guidance on how to be active, and the benefits for their symptoms.

In response, we collaborated with Women's Health Registrar Natalie Shur to launch our Active Menopause webpage. The page seeks to provide a hub of clear, evidence-informed information focused on physical activity recommendations for perimenopausal and menopausal women, and how physical activity can help to manage symptoms of the menopause. Our page also covers important FAQs, discussions around diet, prescribed treatments and non-prescribed treatments, and links to further support.

Moreover, we have also added to our bank of Physical Activity Guidelines, with the addition of 'Physical Activity for Perimenopausal and Menopausal Women'. The flyer serves as our local version of the Chief Medical Officer's Physical Activity Guidelines. It includes the specific benefits of physical activity for menopausal women, top tips, and different activity suggestions for managing common symptoms. We then link readers to further local activity opportunities hosted on the Active Together webpage.

However, with symptoms ranging from hot flushes to anxiety, we recognise that for a lot of women, it can be hard to know where to start with physical activity. We have therefore added to the webpage a free downloadable resource - 'Your Guide to an Active Menopause.'

The guide serves as an introduction to physical activity during menopause. It focuses on 6 areas: aerobic, strength and resistance, impact, desk-based, functional and flexibility/balance activities. It clearly explains the benefits of each, types of activities, guidelines, and top tips. There are multiple pictorial 'how-to' guides, with step-by-step instructions covering the fundamental movements, serving as a useful active at home offer. Importantly, all information is linked to how the activity can support and manage symptoms of menopause. It also covers pelvic health, including information around the pelvic floor, how it changes during childbirth and menopause, symptoms of dysfunction and pelvic floor exercises.

We now have a bank of practical resources to inform and support women to engage in safe physical activity during menopause.

The second thing women told us they needed was practical, face-to-face activity sessions - a safe space to talk about their experiences of menopause and learn about physical activity.

Active Together, in collaboration with our Social Prescribers and Local Area Coordination team, piloted our first 'My Active Menopause' event. The event included 2 sessions across 2 weeks, aimed at perimenopausal / menopausal women, to introduce them to physical activity for the management of their symptoms.

Week 1 focused on aerobic activity, with a menopause yoga session delivered, focused around breathing, relaxation and restoration. Week 2 focused on strength and resistance, with ladies participating in a functional circuit. We invited colleagues from a range of services including Age UK, Mind, local physical activity and health teams and local leisure centres, to provide a holistic model that paved the way for person-centred, sustainable and meaningful exit routes.

The ladies will now be supported to access a 12-week 'In2Gym Menopause Programme', delivered by Active Hinckley and Bosworth.

It was genuinely inspiring to be in a room of ladies whose confidence visibly grew, and who engaged in open and honest conversations, for which we are grateful. We will be hosting 3 more My Active Menopause events in 2023, keep an eye on our Events page for the latest sessions.

So, what have we learnt?

  • The basis of our Active Menopause offer was in developing practical resources to inform and support women to engage in safe physical activity during menopause, particularly through reassurance of the type and intensity of activity they can do – 'every movement counts'
  • Our message is that menopause can be a significant opportunity to re-engage with physical activity
  • All opportunities must reflect what is meaningful and important to women during this life phase (flexible, fun, low-commitment, social support), and show how physical activity can help to manage symptoms (through evidence-informed data and insight)
  • Champion an open, positive dialogue about menopause in sport and physical activity settings, organisations and within the workforce
  • Develop partnerships with health services and local physical activity providers to provide tailored offers
  • Provide a safe space for women to talk about their experiences of menopause
  • We all have a responsibility to educate ourselves on menopause and how we can support women, including friends, family, partners and colleagues.

But what next?

We will continue to consult with local women to ensure we are meeting their physical, mental, social and emotional needs. This may include adapting our My Active Menopause offer to the feedback we receive. As an Active Partnership, we will be exploring more ways to collaborate with local health services and colleagues, to reduce drop off in physical activity during menopause, reduce health inequalities, and improve women's' access, experience and outcomes of physical activity.

Overall, our Active Menopause offer is about empowering all women to find something they enjoy, remain active, and feel healthier and happier. This work therefore naturally falls within our LLR Girls Can pathway, our local version of the This Girl Can campaign. Our #LLRGirlsCan community is rapidly growing, and Active Together are continuously inspired by our local women and girls, as well as the efforts of our volunteers who devote their time to create safe, social, self-affirming and suitable opportunities for women.

Together, in whatever capacity, we all have a unique position to spark conversation, educate and empower, and support women to take control of their menopause and health by reaping the myriad benefits of sport and physical activity.

Menopause: a natural part of life, yet often surrounded by stigma and silence.

Tags: Menopause, Mental Health, Public