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Exercise – Why less may be better in your 40s and beyond

Exercise – Why less may be better in your 40s and beyond

 

Exercise is a bit like Marmite – you either love it or hate it.  We all know the many benefits of exercise and how good it is for us on so many levels.  However, there is an aside which nudged me to write this Blog.Exercise

I am a woman let’s say well beyond the age of 40.  In fact, I am now 54 years young.  No shame in that either. I am not precious or self-conscious in telling people my age.  Nothing to hide, yet so much to be proud of in these wise years.  A lifetime of experiences and learning from mistakes made along the way.

Weight Issues

In my work with women in their 40s and beyond and in fact younger in some cases. Issues of weight always pop up in the sessions. Weight issues are also something I have struggled with myself, particularly in the younger years.  Interestingly the past year issues of weight popped up again and in a sense accidentally.

Obese?

Exercise

People describe me as a “curvy” woman.  I have hips, and I’m short.  A weight gain of 2kg looks like 7kg on me.  Last year at this time I was called “obese” by the GP, which was to say, the numbers on the chart were not in my favour. Of course, I already knew this as I was doing a fair amount of comfort eating after moving home from England to Scotland.  I know my own eating patterns better than anyone.  Coupled with the fact that I also work from home in Scotland and mostly online creating Journals over at www.theinsightfulway.com, and conducting Skype sessions for www.flourishbeyond40.com and www.isobelmcarthur.com. This involves a lot of sitting on my backside.

At the time I was living in a Farmhouse in rural Scotland with not another soul or houses nearby and life felt a little lonely.  So I found myself sedentary and eating too much.  Calories in and calories out were way out of balance and weight began to creep on slowly.

Another move a few months later into town and feeling much less isolated brought positive change.  I became more active and let go of a little weight, enjoyed the feeling of getting into my clothes and feeling at home in my body again.

Fast forward to joining the local gym, and getting up at 5 am and following a routine of HIIT class, lifting heavy weights in the gym, and swimming each day.  Weight literally began to fall off. I wasn’t feeling hungry and my calorie deficit went the opposite way. I felt truly fit, healthy, energized, toned but I noticed I was “losing” my face and tried to ignore this fact as I was enjoying all the exercise and associated benefits.

On one of my monthly work visits to Yorkshire, people kept asking me if I was ill, some were very honest and said I looked gaunt (another word for haggard), and generally looked unhealthy.  My husband felt the same way and said so on many occasions.

A Choice

So I took a long hard look in the mirror and yes it was true.  My body looked a lot better, but my face had suffered and had lost its fullness.  This prompted a memory of being told years ago “when a woman reaches a certain age, she has to choose between her butt or her face”.  This isn’t necessarily true for all women, but perhaps women who have a certain shaped face – like mine.

The past two months there has been a major turnaround, as the focus has now been on cutting back the daily workouts to four a week.  My food intake has increased significantly and I am eating what I should be and slowly regaining a few kilos.  My curves are coming back. Yes, I chose my face over my butt.  Lifting heavier weights and gaining some great fat burning muscle and increasing tone feels good.  Although my weight is creeping up, my body fat percentage is going down.

Exercise Factors

There are certain factors to consider when you exercise in midlife and beyond.  Firstly, recovery time in between workouts.  Young people tend to recover in around 18 hours.  A person in their 40s and beyond can take up to 36 hours.

exercise

Not giving yourself adequate recovery time can actually age you according to John Higgins, MD, associate professor of medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Centre at Houston and director of exercise physiology at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Centre.  He pointed out that if we use the same muscles too soon after a workout can trigger inflammation.

Classes such as HIIT can be incredibly fun, and people love it for the calorie burn too.  Dr. Higgins has found that these workouts have led to rhabdomyolysis – which can be very dangerous particularly if you become dehydrated.  He recommends 48 hours between classes to give adequate recovery time.

Many women fall into the cardio only trap, with no weight training.  In midlife and beyond we are losing muscle at a high rate. Muscle is a great thing to have on our body as muscle burns calories constantly, even at rest.  As a result, a body with no muscle burns fewer calories, plus there is no tone.

Building Lean Body Mass

Weight training two to three days a week will help you maintain and build lean body mass.  You are not going to look like a weightlifter, we are not made that way. Yes, you may see a little increase on the scales. This is because your body fat percentage is changing in your favour.  Why not invest in body fat monitor scales to see this for yourself.

If you are using machines, start to include weights as they help to stabilize your core.  Mixing up both adds variety and interest.

Free Radicals

Prolonged exercise causes the body to change its metabolism and as result, there are more free radicals released that damages cells and may speed up ageing. We are already overexposed to free radicals in pollution and an unhealthy lifestyle; we really don’t need any more to be flooding our system.  There are many plastic surgeons who believe that running is not good for facial tissues.  Skin flopping up and down will eventually loosen. Not a great youthful look.  As we move into midlife and beyond osteoporosis becomes a factor.  Our body needs a little impact on bone health.

The bottom line is that we cannot do the same thing we did at 20 without there being a consequence.  It is easy to fall into overtraining mode, and as a result, move towards burnout due to chronic fatigue.

exercise

Balance is key.  Yes, exercise, and eating healthily is vital, but it is necessary to take a different approach than you did in your younger years.  Your body will thank you and so will your face.

 If you enjoyed this blog, then you may enjoy our other blogs on the site too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sexuality and Relationships in Midlife and Beyond

Sexuality and relationships in mid-life, menopause and beyond brings many changes on all levels, physically, mentally, and emotionally.  Sex and sexuality can be a subject that tends to be avoided during this phase for many reasons. One of those  is “programming”.  In many cases society and media portray menopause as being the beginning of the end, especially in terms of an active sex life. This is not true.  I know many women of advanced years who are enjoying an incredibly satisfying sex life.

Sexuality

It would be ignorant to believe that our body and hormones do not change during the third phase of life.  After all, we are ending our time as potential mothers and, effectively, our egg supply is running out.  Hormones are declining and our bodies are changing.  Does this mean the end of our orgasms and pleasure? Absolutely not!

“I think the quality of sexiness comes from within.  It is something that is in you or it isn’t and it really doesn’t have much to do with breasts or thighs or the pout of your lips” – Sophia Loren

Many would agree that night sweats, hot flushes and insomnia do play a role in sexual appetite – or lack of it as may be the case.  For many women suffering from these symptoms there may be sleep deprivation which is no fun for anyone.

So what can you do in mid-life in terms of your sex life?  A great place to start is by building open and honest communication between you and your partner.  Make sure they are listening and understanding what you are experiencing.  They may have no knowledge whatsoever of how to keep a sex life alive during the third phase of your life.  Some partners feel they need to “back off,” and resentment and lack of intimacy becomes an issue.  These emotions create feelings of rejection, guilt and sadness. It is interesting to note that Oprah.com states that nearly 50 per cent of menopausal women confess to experiencing these emotional aspects of the menopause in addition to the physical ones.

There are so many myths regarding menopause that we can only scratch the surface here.

These are some of the myths that I have heard from my personal clients:

  • My vagina will shrivel up and sex will be excruciatingly painful
  • I am no longer attractive to my partner
  • It’s the beginning of the end
  • I have peaked, it is all downhill from here
  • There is no point in trying any more, my body is going to rack and ruin

Sexuality and Satisfaction

It is interesting to note that when a woman, no matter what age, enters into a new relationship, in many cases sex is very satisfying.  I have heard this even from women in their 60s and 70s!  According to research published in the American Journal of Medicine, women’s sexual satisfaction tends to increase with age.

Sexy at 40

Mid-life women tend to know what they want and what they don’t want, and are quite happy to ask for it. Hilda Hutcherson, M.D. Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Columbia University Medical Centre and author of Pleasure: A woman’s Guide to Getting the Sex You Want, Need and Deserve, states, “In our 50s we are more likely to focus on our pleasure than in our 20s, when we tend to focus almost exclusively on his experience”.

Your sexuality does not need to diminish or end because you are getting older.  It may be that you need to make a few changes to your health, attitude and lifestyle, but the benefits are worth it, I am sure you agree.

Your health impacts the way you feel about yourself.  If you do not like your own body, then your partner will pick up on that too.  Feeling sexy and being sexy is an attitude whatever age you are.  If you are following an unhealthy lifestyle and eating a nutrient deficient diet, your libido and sex life is likely to suffer as a result.

Your Orgasm is Important

Your orgasm is important!! Your pleasure is as important as theirs. Sexuality is erotic. If your partner is not gifted in bringing you to orgasm, then teach them how.  Faking your orgasms is not helpful for either of you.

Incorporating exercise into your day is important for many reasons.  If you work at building and maintaining muscle tone you may enjoy your body more in terms of fitness flexibility, movement, look and feel and may even enhance your sexuality and the way you feel about yourself.

Giving up smoking, and stopping or reducing alcohol intake is also very helpful in promoting good health.  At this time of your life you need to be on top of your health.  Make sure you are checked for diabetes, high blood pressure or any other existing medical conditions.  Taking responsibility for your health and wellness is paramount and quite often enhances your libido.

Yes, you may find that you may need a little extra help in terms of lubrication.  There is less blood flow to those areas due to less oestrogen.  There are many excellent lubricants you can try, and have fun doing so.  Your Doctor may also be very helpful in prescribing a vaginal cream for you.

If you are feeling fatigued and tired, then communicate this to your partner so they do not feel rejected.  It is possible to maintain intimacy and affection without intercourse.  Why not allow your imagination to create loving scenarios.  An erotic massage with no expectations may lead to something else…

You may want to have your hormones checked, as these affect your potential for arousal (estradiol E2 declining).  Some women report improvements in libido by using a little progesterone cream.  There is so much help out there for you during this time in your life, please do not feel alone or isolated.  There are many women going through exactly the same as you.  Seek out the information, help and support you need.

It is also worthy of mention that if both you and your partner have no issues whatsoever about not having a sex life, yet every other aspect of your relationship is good, there is nothing wrong with that either.  Like many things, it is all about personal choices and preferences.

If you have enjoyed this Blog on Sexuality, please feel free to browse at the Sexuality & Relationships Module and Programmes available in our shop.

Have an orgasmic day!

 

Isobel McArthur

Founder of Flourish Beyond 40

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