How much were you taught about what your body needs?

We’re taught a general understanding that some things are better for our bodies than others. Good nutrition, regular exercise, and getting enough sleep makes us feel good. Dehydration, all-nighters, and watching tv all day probably won’t. But while we might have a general idea of what’s good for us and what’s not, we also might not know exactly what’s right for our bodies. 

What your body needs might not be the same as what your friends or family’s bodies need. What your body needs today might not even be the same as what it needs tomorrow or in a week or a month. All this is made more complicated by the lack of proper research and education on our individual health. 

Our society has implemented measurement systems that aren’t accurate indicators of our health, such as BMI.  Moreover, the research being doing has been inequitable. For example, medical research has historically focused on men. So when you’re considering how best to care for your body, you may want to consider what you think you know about good health and then take a deeper look and where there may be gaps or inaccuracies in your knowledge. 

Menopause is one of these areas where you may want to question what, if anything, you’ve been taught. So as you continue forwards in your health and well-being journey, why not take some time to learn about menopause and how it affects you and your workout routine? 

What is menopause?

If you haven’t gone through menopause or thought much about what it entails, you might correlate the word with getting hot flashes or the time when a person who had a period stops getting it. But if this is all you know about menopause, you might be left underprepared when you or your loved ones go through menopause. Menopause can affect you in more ways than you may know.

Menopause is “a natural phenomenon consisting in follicles atresia and decrease in ovarian hormonal secretions” according to Sophie Ouzounian and Sophie Chistin-Maitre from the reproductive endocrinology service at hôpital Saint-Antoine. But let’s break down what that means. 

For people with periods, ovulation is a part of the menstrual cycle where an egg is released from your ovary and travels down your fallopian tube, where it could then be fertilized by sperm. Follicles atresia relates to when a body which once ovulated and released eggs no longer does. 

In addition to producing eggs, ovaries produce the hormones estrogen, progesterone, and androgens. The production of these hormones decreases during menopause

All of this does affect your period and your ability to get pregnant. But these aren’t the only things that can be affected during menopause. The transition towards menopause can affect your energy, your bone and heart health, and your body shape and function.

National menopause practitioner and chief medical officer of Alloy Women’s Health Sharon Malone and women and democracy fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice Jennifer Weiss-Wolf explain some of the “most debilitating” parts of menopause as “hot flashes, painful sex, urinary tract infections, and the taxing combination of brain fog, anxiety, depression and insomnia”.

To summarize, menopause can affect your physical health, your mental health, your sex life, your hormones, your thinking, your body, and your mind. So if you hadn’t considered menopause to be something that would affect your life, that might be an assumption you want to reconsider. 

What is perimenopause?

Key to understanding what menopause is and how it affects you is also understanding the time frame we’re talking about when we talk about menopause. Menopause itself is twelve months after one’s last period, according to the National Institute on Aging. But when we think about menopause and menopausal symptoms, what you’re thinking of likely isn’t only that point, but also perimenopause.  

The North American Menopause Society lists 51 as the average age of menopause. But menopause isn’t something that happens overnight. Perimenopause, or the time when the ovaries start to stop working, lasts on average seven years and up to fourteen years. When we’re thinking about menopause, we’re thinking not so much about a blip in our lives as a pretty major percentage of our life. Learning about menopause and how to care for ourselves during menopause can have an impact on our health and well-being for years.

Why are we talking about this now?

Given how long-lasting and impactful menopause and perimenopause can be, you’d like to think we’d be well informed and educated on the subject. But unfortunately, for many people, there’s been gaps left in our knowledge. Many aspects of menopausal research haven’t been thoroughly investigated. Overall, women’s health concerns are often overlooked or ignored. And the lack of research and education on menopause and women’s health can have a real effect on many people. Malone and Weiss-Wolf posit that the National Institutes of Health terminating research on hormone therapy on postmenopausal women has “resulted in a cascade of harm to millions” when a lack of proper research on the effects of hormone therapy left many without access to treatment options for menopause. 

While it’s not possible to reverse time and learn more about menopause earlier, the second best time to educate ourselves and ask our medical community to provide the necessary research is now. 

We are starting to see more awareness and progress toward education on menopause. Oprah, Drew Barrymore, and Maria Shriver shared a conversation about menopause earlier this year. Fiorellia Valdescolo’s 2022 Vogue article claimed menopause was “(Finally) Having Its Wellness Moment”. As we gain more understanding of what menopause is, and as more research is conducted on the topic, we’ll then be able to more fully understand what our bodies need during these times. Here at Oxygen Yoga & Fitness, that means considering how menopause impacts our fitness and workouts. When you get a chance, take some time to delve deeper into how menopause may affect you or those around you, and stay tuned for more information about how menopause and your yoga practice can interact.

**While this article is researched, we do not claim to be making medical advice. Please always consult a medical professional for medical advice. **