My day with the MenoHealth team, who are driving a social movement.
What a fantastic mission, “changing the change”. I heard this today at my first MenoHealth class, the MenoClass. I don’t consider myself to be in menopause as yet but through conversation with clinicians and friends even before today, I suspect that at 47, the changes I am starting to experience in my body is an indication of perimenopause.
I have close friends who have had a really hard time going through menopause, not only through the symptoms they are experiencing but the utter confusion when it comes to what support is available. I am keen to be better informed to help them and myself in future months.
Some of the myths and misunderstandings around menopause include whether to have HRT or not and its associated risk of breast cancer and the nonsense that its just one of those things that women just need to put up with. How many of us could function effectively with the lack of sleep, night sweats, hot flushes, brain fog and so on?!
Given the opportunity to participate in a MenoHealth class I was keen to go and meet women in menopause and see what I could learn.
MenoHealth was founded by Julie Robinson and is run along with Co-Director Beth Rees and their MenoLeaders. The MenoClass they have developed is attracting menopausal women to join their community all across the UK.
From their website :
“MenoClass is the first of its kind in the UK to offer support, education and exercise to help you to take control of menopause. Each session includes 15 minutes discussion on topics such as weight gain, HRT, lost libido, confidence crisis and busting menopause myths. Talking, sharing and supporting each other helps everyone to realise - it’s not just me then!”
I went to the class with an open mind and it was a special opportunity as it was an extended session to enable some publicity material to be filmed. This gave me a unique opportunity to not just experience the standard length class but to spend time speaking to postmenopausal women and we had a guest discussion with Dr Catriona Anderson, a portfolio general practitioner who specialises in women’s health and chronic UTI in particular.
What did I get from attending the class?
I considered myself someone who was reasonably well informed, through my previous conversation with people like Cat and Julie as I have supported their businesses for some time. But through the conversation with other women today I realised I had only just touched the surface with my curiosity. Menopause affects women in many ways and there is so much ignorance and misunderstanding in the general public, employers and even in the medical profession, menopause is made harder than it should be.
In addition to the information I received, participating in the exercise elements was great fun. The exercises can be adapted for low or higher impact, Julie referred to these as the 3 flames (1.2 or 3 flames). It really does suit all abilities. What I noticed, given how tailored the class was for aerobic fitness, strength and balance is how, despite the fact I exercise regularly, participating in something designed for my demographic was very valuable. I became aware of my weak points through the balance aspects in particular that I need to further strengthen.
Why is it important for women to join a MenoClass?
Many women feel very isolated going through the menopause, they become confused and frustrated by the symptoms they are experiencing. Being able to not only speak to other women in the same boat but importantly to receive well-curated information is so key. We can all have a moan to friends but receiving actionable information is empowering. The exercise element can also be confidence building, not all women, given the changes in their bodies, want to go to a typical gym or attend classes that are not tailored. They not only have the opportunity to get fit but to grow in confidence should they want to participate in other activities or even rebuild their self-esteem to pre-menopause levels. I also think it is ideal for people like me, people yet to reach menopause, but we can educate ourselves now.
Today was evidence that Julie, Beth and their community have started a social movement. Participants travelled from all around the UK. The positivity I heard in the room from women who are already influencing attitudes around them through an open conversation about the menopause was phenomenal. Women openly talked about the issues of reduced libido, the debilitating aspects of urinary tract infections, the body changes like disappearing waistlines but growing breasts. I heard about the lack of sleep and unrelenting tiredness, the feeling of being out of their mind and out of control. I heard how brain fog meant that an actress was no longer able to learn her lines efficiently which influenced what roles she agreed to. Another woman shared how joint pain stopped her running, others shared the horror stories of unsympathetic line managers or family members and being told to ‘pull yourself together’.
Mental illness is such a huge topic currently and I feel we have a responsibility to ensure menopause triggered mental health issues are part of that discussion, particularly when it comes to workplace wellbeing.
We must support women to speak out about the menopause, it is the one thing, if we are lucky enough to reach that age, that we will all go through. Our symptoms will vary but our bodies will still change and we have a number of choices available to us to make the transition more bearable and protective for the long term.