The Healing Power of Exercise During Menopause

If you follow me on social media you saw a recent post of me in my swimming pool sporting a purple ala Doris Day swim cap hinting that I am celebrating a milestone. Well, that milestone is I just finished my first year of menopause. Woo hoo! It’s hard to believe after forty-two years of having a period, it just stopped last June. I held my breath the entire next year hoping I wouldn’t have to start the clock over, but it didn’t. So I can say farewell to the tampon industry.

Interesting side effects replaced my periods. I have always heard about them, from older than me, friends and on television. Hot flashes. Actually, I refer to mine as “puffs” of heat. I didn’t turn beet-red or feel drenched from sweat, but I was very aware that I was the hottest gal in the room.  My puffs were more noticeable in the first six months and tapered off once the cold weather moved in last fall.  They’ve returned only slightly this summer. One thing I started as soon as the flashes started affecting me last summer is the over-the-counter multi-symptom Amberen. I didn’t realize Mary Lou Retton was a fan, so that’s good news. I noticed an improvement pretty quickly, and when I mentioned to my OBGYN during my annual visit that I was taking Amberen, she supported my decision and said it works for a lot of her patients.

I’ve been doing some reading from a great resource written by Dr. Christiane Northrup The Wisdom of Menopause.  As Dr. Northrup has championed, the “change” as not a collection of physical symptoms to be “fixed,” but a mind-body revolution that brings the greatest opportunity for growth since adolescence. The choices a woman makes now—from the quality of her relationships to the quality of her diet—have the power to secure vibrant health and well-being for the rest of her life.

I literally jumped into swimming laps after I read her chapter of the Role of the Lymph. I am just going to share what she said:

One of the main reasons why exercise has such healing powers is that it vastly increases the lymph circulation in your body. Lymph is the clear fluid that drains from around your body’s cells into the lymphatic system, a network of thin-walled vessels found throughout every organ and tissue in your body. The function of the lymph nodes is threefold: to filter out and destroy foreign substances, such as bacteria and dust; to produce some of the white cells called lymphocytes that help fight tumors and other invaders; and to produce antibodies that help in the body’s immune surveillance system.  

So the three things every woman must do is:

  1. Don’t sit for long periods of time. Women who sit for long periods of time at sedentary jobs are more likely to get heart disease because the lymphatic flow through their thoracic cavity is limited.
  2. Breathe deeply and regularly. Breathing fully in through your nose and inhaling air down into the lower lobes of your lungs followed by a brisk exhalation massages the thoracic duct and all the lymph vessels and nodes in your chest cavity, which helps HDL get to the places it needs to go to do its work.
  3. Move. Lymph flow depends upon the muscles in the body to move it along. Every time you walk, swim, do yoga, breathe deeply, run or move your muscles briskly, you are helping move the lymph along. The average turnover time for proteins in lymph is once to twice per day. When you exercise regularly, you can increase this figure to three to five times per day. So exercising gives your body three to five times more opportunity to get rid of excess cholesterol deposits in the blood vessels around your heart.

Since I started swimming I feel so good! I am breathing deeply with every stroke, hearing my breath underwater. And my muscles can really feel the resistance against the water. I am already up to 1/2 mile, with a goal of a mile by August 29 – my birthday. What a great birthday present to myself, right?

Healthy matters at any age. I’d love for you to set a goal to do something active with me between now and August 29. What can you do to put yourself first and foremost? I’d love to hear what it is and we can encourage each other along the way!