Beat Menopause Weight Gain Interview

Sam Murphy Personal Trainer

Sam Murphy - Fitness Journalist and Author

We're delighted to bring you an interview with Sam Murphy, one of the UK's leading fitness experts.

Sam's journalism appears in The Guardian, The Financial Times, Observer Sport Monthly and Health and Fitness, as well as in many specialist magazines.

She frequently gives presentations on fitness, is a qualified personal trainer and author of seven books on fitness and exercise.

Sam's book The Real Woman's Personal Trainer has all the inspiration and information you could wish for, if you're wanting to bring exercise into your life and stride out with a new spring in your step.

And of course, Sam prioritises her own passion for running and to date has run 15 marathons, completing the most recent in just over 3 hours 20 minutes.

Who better to tell us what kind of exercise is the best for midlife women - and how you can go about setting your own goals to become fitter, healthier, more toned and slimmer as you head into the menopausal years.

Hi Sam, thanks for taking the time to talk to us about your book, The Real Woman's Personal Trainer. The sub-title 'A Goal-by-Goal Programme to Lose Fat, Tone Muscle, Perfect Posture and Boost Energy - For Life' is so inspiring, especially for women who perhaps haven't exercised in quite a while. How should women start to plan an exercise regime for themselves, especially if they are not used to exercising regularly?

The first thing is deciding on an activity you enjoy. There is no point in deciding you'll take up running if you detest it - so whether it's walking, swimming, dance classes or boxercise, pick something you think will be fun.

Start with a realistic and gentle schedule. Lots of us, once we've decided to exercise, launch in to 7-days-a-week regimes, which never last! So commit to exercising every other day perhaps - or twice a week - and then stick with it.

The effort level that you are working at to begin with should be comfortable - you should be able to still maintain conversation. So if you're utterly winded and blue in the face, you are working too hard for a beginner or rusty returner!

I always suggest exercise as a way to help women beat menopausal weight gain, but sometimes get the answer, 'I'm too old to...' run, skip, dance, or whatever. Are some forms of exercise more suitable for women of 40-50+, or is the choice of exercise more to do with general fitness levels?

I would say that it's more to do with general fitness levels. I know women who have taken up running and triathlons in their 60s! While older people are often guided towards more 'gentle' forms of exercise, like tai chi and yoga, the crucial thing for someone who has become sedentary is to increase the amount of low to moderate level aerobic activity - that's walking, cycling, jogging etc.

I don't mean to suggest that things like yoga, Pilates and strength training have no place - it's just that it's aerobic fitness that has the greatest effect on that all-important cardiovascular health.

I loved your section 'Older and wider' in the book. Could you give us a brief outline of why it's perhaps even more important to continue or start exercising in midlife and beyond?

It's certainly true that we can get away with less as we get older due to factors such as a decline in metabolic rate, in muscle mass and in aerobic capacity. So while you can skip a few days of exercise when you are 25, and not notice, it's harder to get away with at 45!

But while there are some physiological changes, most of the reasons that people gain weight and become less fit as they get older are down to lifestyle. We drive where we used to walk, we sit in front of the TV instead of dancing till dawn, we spend weekends catching up with chores rather than heading out for bike rides, tennis or football. And to top it all we use labour-saving devices to 'save' time rather than using our bodies.

While exercise is crucial, the other part of the equation in my opinion, is to reverse this trend and look for more opportunities to be active during our daily lives. By combining a more active lifestyle with regular designated workouts that you enjoy you'll soon be on your way to looking and feeling so much better.

Finally Sam, could you suggest a simple weekly exercise plan for someone of 50+ who wants to build and maintain fitness, and gradually shed up to a stone in weight?

People can devise their own programme by following the general principles outlined above and given in more detail in my book. It's also possible for me to devise a personal programme for a client as part of my fitness coaching.

Thanks for your time Sam Murphy, and for telling us more about your excellent book, The Real Woman's Personal Trainer: A Goal-by-goal Programme to Lose Fat, Tone Muscle, Perfect Posture and Boost Energy for Life. Recommended reading for even the most reluctant exerciser!

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