If you were thinking of hitting the gym today, don’t be swayed by a new report that claims women who exercise a lot hit menopause earlier.
According to a recent Japanese study that tracked over 3,100 premenopausal women for 10 years, those who exercised the most–meaning, 8 to 10 hours a week, were 17% more likely to start menopause than their less-active peers. In addition, females who ate a diet rich in polyunsaturated fats, which is found in fish and vegetable oils, were 15% more likely to reach menopause.
So does that mean that those of us who eat healthy and work out a lot should cut back? Of course not. But anyone who sees this report might be tempted to think so. It’s the old, don’t-exercise-too-much-because-it’s-bad-for-you belief that certain non-exercisers subscribe to. But in a society where two-thirds of our population is overweight or obese, 50% of adults don’t meet the minimum exercise requirement of 150 minutes a week, and 31% don’t exercise at all, this is hardly a cause for concern.
And yet, some people continue to believe that too much of a good thing is bad.
When I was in my 20s and trying to get pregnant, both my mother and my sister repeatedly told me to stop running so much because it was harmful and I would never have a “baby-ready” body that way. You better slow down, you need to cut back, you should put some weight on, they would say thinking they were somehow being helpful with our conception plans. And even when I did get pregnant, I continued to get disapproving judgments for the exercise I was doing, which consisted of mainly swimming at that point because running made me nauseous. I wish I had the example back then of the woman who just ran the Chicago Marathon and gave birth after crossing the finish line.
My point is, some people will continue to believe that too much exercise is harmful. I say, we live in a country where that’s hardly a concern, and research like this needs to stop sending people the wrong message. Granted, no one is in a hurry to reach menopause, but telling people that two of the best things we can do for ourselves–eating a heart-healthy diet and exercising a lot–can bring this on, is not warranted. Especially when there are so many unanswered questions, like what kind of exercise were these women doing? And does this study apply only to Japanese women? What about other races?
Not to mention the fact that there are a whole host of life-saving benefits that exercising 8 to 10 hours a week can have. For me, I will risk an earlier onset of hot flashes and night sweats for the sheer joy and power and fitness that working out this much gives me.