As World Menopause Month kicks off this weekend (October 1), Suzanne Baum speaks to TV presenter, author, life coach and businesswoman Andrea McLean, 52, about the benefits of exercising during menopause…
You have been speaking about the menopause for years, long before it became as such a huge talking point as it has done in recent times. Do you think awareness of menopause is improving?
Andrea McLean: “Oh gosh, absolutely, and I love the fact it is no longer a taboo subject. Now, everyone is talking about the menopause. It is nothing to be ashamed of and because it can make you feel more sensitive about everything – your body, work, and relationships – it’s so important to talk about it so you never feel alone.
“Within 24 hours of announcing on Loose Women that I was having a hysterectomy a few years ago, 10,000 women contacted the show. I couldn’t answer them all, so decided to write a book, Confessions of a Menopausal Woman: Everything you want to now but are too afraid to ask. Menopause is such a complex issue that it can trigger a whole host of physical and mental side effects. Of course, if you Google it there is so much information. But that can prove mind-boggling, so I wanted to offer a help-line to enable women going through menopausal symptoms to know where to look.
“I have gone on to create This Girl Is On Fire, a community for women to help them build up their self-belief and self-love. I help women every single day, and I love it. I know now to be kind to myself. I know to take care of myself. I know that plastering a smile on will never work long term. I know that, to sustain it, it has to come from somewhere within – that is why I care about this project.”
Related: Anti-ageing fitness: benefits of exercising as you age
When did you first start going through the menopause?
Andrea McLean: “I was very young, probably around the age of 39 when I first started to notice a few symptoms. And then after my hysterectomy, when I was 46, the surgical menopause properly kicked in. I’m normally a very bubbly person but I noticed my mood changed, I started to have sweats and anxiety.”
How do you manage your menopause symptoms with exercise?
Andrea McLean: “My fitness is now a lot different to what it used to be. When I was younger I would get up early and run a lot, but my lifestyle has changed as I now work from home and the hours just fly by. I have always enjoyed yoga and now, more than ever, it is beneficial as I like the feeling of having a strong body. It also helps me to stretch my body in the mornings.
“I love to walk our dog Teddy with my husband Nick, and I also have a personal trainer, who is brilliant, visit once a week – something I know I have to stick to.”
Related: Yoga for perimenopause: ease anxiety, pain & insomnia
When it comes to sleep, does fitness help you switch off?
Andrea McLean: “I now spend hours bent over working on my laptop at home. My sleep is affected if I have been too sedentary, sat at my desk all day long. If I have not done any exercise, I either can’t fall asleep or I wake up twitching my legs as I have barely moved them all day. That is when I know it is so important to get moving, for physical and mental benefits.
“I still get low moods but I understand that we’re not made to feel great all the time. That is why it is so important to keep fit as the endorphins can help.”
What’s your key to coping with menopause?
Andrea McLean: “The key is keeping a sense of humour. That is why I agreed to take part in an event with Boots called Menopause Monologues which aimed to highlight the importance of talking openly about our menopause journey. Boots and No7 aim to break continued stigma associated with the menopause and I think what they are doing is amazing.
“If I’m honest, I get asked to talk at so many menopause events because I have been so outspoken about it, through my book and articles I have written, but this one really stood out. I agreed to be a part of it because I believe in the power of humour, and standing alongside strong women telling their stories in an emotive and evocative way is so important.
“Storytelling is such a powerful way of passing tales down the generations – it is a great learning tool and a way in which we learnt long before the web was created. A group of women sharing their experience of the ups and downs of menopause is a great way to learn about such an important stage of our lives. Let’s make it easier for women to talk to people. Let’s make it normal.”
Andrea McLean is opening up about her experiences of the menopause as part of the Boots and No7 Menopause Monologues. Visit the menopause support hub on the Boots website for more products, services and advice.