Erik Revills Photography
Menopause left Renate Bell, 53, moody and run-down. Then, she found the free at-home solution that has her feeling sunnier and more energetic than ever.
How am I going to get all of this done? thought Renate, as she stared at the stack of blueprints on her desk and her mile-long to-do list, feeling anxious and angry. “I hate disappointing people, so I would take on a lot of work,” admits Renate.
“But menopause was making me moody and stressed, and I just couldn’t take it anymore. My architectural estimating job was already draining, and dealing with all the changes happening in my body just exacerbated the problem. I was miserable."
Cranky, Tired, And Achy
“I experienced menopause as feeling tired, moody, and irritable, in addition to the migraines I was getting regularly. And the aches and pains I associated with working at a desk all day got worse, too — intense cramps in my feet and calves woke me up during the night, making it impossible to get a good night’s sleep. I knew moving more throughout the day would help, and I always planned to exercise after work. But by the time I got home, I was too exhausted to do anything but collapse on the couch.
“Work had always taken precedence in my life, but these symptoms made it difficult to enjoy my personal time outside of work. I was even less inclined to go out, and I turned down invitations because I just didn’t have the energy to socialize. I did see some doctors — especially about my migraines. They told me to ride it out. They said that because the issues were related to menopause, there was nothing they could do. I felt misunderstood, alone, and increasingly frustrated.
A So-Easy Solution
“One day at work, I heard about a company-wide step-tracking competition, and I wanted to participate — I thought this might finally be the challenge I needed to get me moving again. The only problem was that I didn’t want to walk outside — I try to avoid the sun after a skin cancer scare five years ago. So, I decided to walk in place behind my couch while I was watching TV. To my surprise, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. It was actually easy to keep up with the challenge.
“After the competition was over, I realized I liked walking in my living room. I found it convenient, and it helped me wind down mentally. Walking became my outlet to release all the stress of my workday. Plus, I was having fun, and I was starting to feel so much better!
“Wanting to keep my momentum going, I went on YouTube and searched for walking videos. Tons came up, but only one caught my eye: Lucy Wyndham-Read’s 12-minute walk through London. I’ve always wanted to go to London, so I put the video on… and I loved it from the beginning!
“I would march in place while Lucy walked through the city. And when she’d walk up stairs, I’d bring my knees up high to match her motions. Walking with Lucy is like walking with a friend; her personality is so authentic, genuine, and motivational. Plus, I got to sightsee all over London without ever leaving my living room!
“I was less achy and had more energy, so I had no problem doing the videos after work. Soon I started trying more of Lucy’s videos. She has a 45-minute walking tour through France that I would save for the weekends, and some other shorter ones that incorporate different exercises and intervals into the walk. In these videos, she added arm movements and a few leg exercises throughout her walk, so I was getting a whole-body workout!
“I loved putting on a new video, unsure of what it was going to be — I was in my living room without an audience, so I felt totally comfortable trying new things. And Lucy’s videos always have two levels, so if I was feeling tired, I could do the beginner’s level for a bit and join back in on the more advanced workout when I was ready.
“Walking has made my menopause symptoms much more manageable. My mood has improved exponentially, and although I still get a few migraines from time to time, the backaches and foot and calf cramps are completely gone, so I’m sleeping through the night again. In general, I feel happy and in control instead of stressed-out and overburdened. Now, I can focus on my to-do list and have the confidence to happily meet all of the deadlines!”
How Walking Eases Menopause Symptoms
“Exercise improves the menopausal woman’s quality of life,” asserts ob-gyn Laura Corio, MD, an attending physician at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. The decline in estrogen that occurs during menopause can cause weight gain and mood swings, but regularly walking helps fight these changes. One study found that gentle aerobic exercise three times per week improved sleep quality and mood in menopausal women, and a separate study at the University of Pennsylvania reported a 38 percent reduction in stress levels when menopausal women exercised. “The increase in endorphins produced during exercise combats mood swings and decreases insomnia,” says Dr. Corio, who notes that body aches also improve.
To get the perks, follow Renate Bell’s lead and walk for at least 15 minutes three times a week. Find videos by searching for “indoor walking workouts” on YouTube or try incorporating some of the moves at right into a walk while you watch your favorite TV show.
High-Knee Marches with Reach
Marching while reaching your arms up tones the upper body: Lifting your knees engages the lower abs to tuck in a belly bulge; raising your arms uses the deltoids to slim the shoulders. To do: March in place, bringing your knees to hip height. Each time you lift a knee, reach overhead with the opposite arm. Continue for 45 seconds.
Walking Shoulder Fly
Completing these simple arm motions while walking targets the pectoral muscles to perk up the chest and eliminate pit pudge. To do: Hold your arms up to the sides at right angles. While walking, bring your elbows together in front of your chest then open them while continuing to hold your arms at right angles. Do 30 reps.
Standing Side Leg Lifts
This targets the hard-to-reach muscles on the outside of the thighs to shrink saddlebags. To do: Stand tall with legs together and one hand on the back of the couch for balance (if needed). Lift your right leg out to the side as high as you can without lifting your hips, then lower it. Do 20 reps, then switch sides.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.