Women, Hormonal Changes and Exercise
If your hormonal cycle is making you feel like you want to avoid exercise and just eat cookies instead, let me share with you how exercise may actually help you to feel better.
As women, we go through so many hormonal changes in our lifetime. As a woman who has experienced the ups and downs of hormonal changes, I have learned that staying positive and living a healthy, active lifestyle can help me to cope with the rollercoaster ride that is being a woman.
The benefits of being physically active go far beyond the physical. Exercising releases endorphins that make you feel good. It also causes you to sweat and improve circulation, which gives your skin a youthful postexercise glow. Although we can’t stop the aging process, building lean muscle mass helps to counteract nature’s plan, allowing you to feel strong and toned as you age. With all of these benefits, why is it that so many women just can’t seem to get motivated to exercise?
I believe it’s because the hormonal shift and lack of energy that comes with the female monthly cycle. It’s very real and we all experience it in different ways. The bloating and general irritable mood, however, seem to be pretty standard for all of us.
My dedication to following a regular exercise routine has been my saving grace. It has helped me to boost my mood, reduce water retention and increase my energy levels. Whether you’re pre-menstrual, dealing with the postpregnancy hormone shift, are premenopausal or in full-blown menopause, make an effort to commit yourself to being active.
Here are some practical tips to help keep you away from the cookie jar and up off the couch.
Consistency is key.
As your body is going through changes, having a set time of day that you focus on yourself is important. Aim to be active for at least 30 minutes doing something that you enjoy. Exercising at the same time each day helps to create a sense of routine, which can mentally give you a boost and make you feel accomplished. Having control of something during a time when physical changes seem so out of your control is essential.
Don’t underestimate the power of walking.
Walking is a fantastic form of cardiovascular exercise for people of all ages. You can add in a challenge by walking up hill or perform some lunges along the way to strengthen your legs. When you are suffering from hot flashes, performing high-intensity workouts may make you feel worse so a low-intensity routine is best. When you have cramps, the last thing you need is to make yourself feel worse, so listen to your body and do only what feels right.
Meet up with a friend.
Consider exercising with a friend, or treat yourself to a personal training session or fitness class each month. As women, we naturally feel better when we have a support system around us. The added sense of accountability that comes from meeting someone for a workout will help you to keep focused.
Keep healthy snacks handy.
I know that you may want to eat a pint of ice cream, indulge in potato chips or worse, visit a fast food restaurant to help improve your mood. However, chances are you will feel way worse afterward and gain excess weight in the process. Eating and binging during your cycle is something that so many women do, and it sometimes feels unavoidable. The professional in me wants to tell you to avoid all unhealthy calorie options and eat only nutrient-dense snacks, but the real woman in me says try to find a balance. I personally try to fill up on healthy fruits, veggies and protein. I also ensure I am well hydrated. Only then, if I am really craving a sweet or salty treat, do I indulge. At that point chances are I will only need a small amount to feel satisfied and won’t totally overdo it.
I have been through a lot, from difficult and unpredictable cycles, infertility struggles, pregnancy, post-pregnancy hormones, and a major surgery that has caused my hormones to be out of sync. But, my stable and consistent approach toward nutrition and exercise has allowed me to keep my body composition and my sanity intact. I hope that you find a way to navigate your way through life’s changes in a healthy and active way.
Regardless of what challenges you are going through in your life, fitness, focus and friendship can pretty much get you through it all, so stay active and help others stay active, too.
Written by Samantha Clayton. AFAA, ISSA – Senior Director, Worldwide Fitness Education at Herbalife.