‘It was my husband who suggested I get myself down to the lido this summer. He’d read an article about how swimming outdoors was supposed to be good for you. I’ve always hated the thought of going to a public swimming pool, it’s okay when you’re on holiday, got a bit of a tan, or your villa’s a private one. But stripping off in front of all those strangers? No thanks. And aren’t they a bit cold?’
This patient had been struggling with body shape issues ever since having children, so found it incredibly hard to find the motivation to take regular exercise. As she entered her 40s, the diets she’d tried to follow stopped working too and the only exercise she felt at all comfortable with was walking the dog twice a day round their local park. The lack of exercise, combined with the onset of the menopause just tipped her over the edge in terms of self-confidence, weight control, mood swings and general enjoyment of life. For her 50th birthday her husband had bought her a beautiful, bright red swimsuit that promised to pull her in, push her up and flatter her curves. On one of her first visits to the clinic she explained how she had felt the first time she’d plucked up the courage to wear it.
‘Standing in front of the full-length mirror I hardly recognised myself and this was enough to make me get myself to the nearest lido. It was a warm summer’s day, but then I got a hot flush too, so by the time I reached the lido I was literally melting and couldn’t wait to get into the water. That first time of having to take my towel off and expose my swimsuit-wrapped body nearly killed me inside, but I did it and every time after that has been so much easier. No one cares, no one looks and now I don’t care. I remember getting another hot flush as I climbed down the metal ladder into the cool water, but feeling almost immediate relief. I started swimming, an awkward, heads up breaststroke. The other end of the pool seemed miles away, but I could feel my body relaxing for the first time in ages and I just wanted to immerse myself completely. I felt a weird sort of childlike happiness as I put my head under the water and opened my eyes. All I could see was a watery, dancing light on the extraordinary zinc bottom of the pool.
‘Then I rolled onto my back and floated, gazing up at the clouds drifting across the blue sky. That’s when I understood how this gentle, but whole body exercise can be so therapeutic, especially out here where you can breath in fresh air, listen to normal, everyday sounds and just let the water wash away stress and cool you down’.
Swimming is a low impact exercise that can give you a whole body workout for relatively little effort or outlay in equipment. It is so important during the perimenopause & menopause for women to find an exercise that works for them, which fits in with their lifestyle, gives them good social interaction and helps to maintain body weight, flexibility, muscle tone, good circulation and a strong heart.
This client has continued to swim in the lido even though the water temperatures have now dropped to below 10 degrees. Cold water swimming is not for everyone and you do need to acclimatise slowly and preferably swim with others. There are many groups of winter swimmers across the country and it can provide enormous social benefits too alongside the physiological ones: improves circulation, reduces inflammation in joints, boosts low mood and depression, but above all can become part of a healthy lifestyle, which is essential for women in any stage of the menopause.