13th May 2024

In 2023, SAMH called for greater inclusivity in sport and wider society to support women experiencing menopause with both their mental and physical health. A year after sharing her story, we caught up with research participant Catherine to discuss how the conversation around menopause has changed, and what advice she would share with others.

Since sharing your experiences in SAMH’s ‘Moving Through Menopause’ research, how has the conversation around menopause changed for you?

I’ve had a massive outpouring of support from my friends and family. My social network has been my biggest and most loyal support. I’ve even been approached by complete strangers who have seen my articles and want to talk to me about menopause! This feels so different from Autumn 2022 when I took part in the ‘Moving Through Menopause’ project. At that time, menopause still felt like a social taboo. 

I’m obviously not a medical professional so I’m simply sharing my own, awful, experiences with menopause. That’s why I’m very keen to continue to push organisations, in particular our health services, to be far more aware of the impact menopause can and does have on women. After all, 51% of the population may experience menopause of some kind. We need to ensure this conversation continues at an even bigger level, and that requires all of us to speak up.

What’s your current exercise routine looking like? Have you reached any milestones or achievements?

I’ve been at the same amazing gym classes for 8 years now, but have had a huge amount going on in my personal life in recent months. Exercise always remains my constant. It really is my happiness. I am used to training very hard and, before, I had never really bought into the ‘any movement is good movement’ school of thought, but it really is so important to remember this when times are tough.

Since taking part in the research project, I’ve met the Women’s Health Minister, been on STV news, BBC Radio and had three articles published on menopause and exercise. Given that I didn’t know what menopause really was until three years ago, I’m pretty happy!

What have you learned anything about yourself, since sharing your experiences?

The importance of both pacing and self-care are massively important during this life stage. It can be super tough while also caring for parents and often children too, combined with your hormones being all over the place. I’m trying to step back and see the bigger picture.

What are some of the ways people experiencing menopause can adapt their exercises?

Consistency is the most important thing to keep in mind. Always strive to do what you can: if this means limiting the weights on things like squats or lunges, or even doing them unweighted, that’s fine. If you find yourself struggling with your previous workout routine, don’t hesitate to lower your workload. Don’t lose sight of being active into later life and make sustainability a key focus.

What’s your advice this #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek to others who are struggling with the effects of menopause on their mental and physical health?

Don’t underestimate the impact your diet can have on your wellbeing. Try to eat the rainbow; a wide variety of fruit and vegetables is so important, and experiment with new recipes. Watch your sugar intake, and try to limit alcohol to a single glass. I know this is boring but it really does make a big difference!

My most important takeaway is the importance of social connection. Having been stuck inside for so long during Covid, lean on your network for support and guidance. Having a chat with a trusted friend is so often the best thing you can do.