By Patricia Older

By discovering the wonder of self through movement, today's mid-life woman can invigorate both the mind and the body, while easing the discomforts of menopause. A generation with high expectations, we are doing better than ever. While racing along with personal and professional responsibilities, we want, among other things, to stay healthy and to look good. This is especially so during our transition through menopause. Unfortunately, in our 20th century lifestyles, technology has changed our work and leisure activities. We rarely move with our muscles, tending to use our joints instead.

Our bodies are designed to move, and our minds and our bodies are inter-connected. Research is showing that menopausal women who are physically active feel better and cope with the signs of menopause better than those who don't exercise. In fact, moderate exercise, when coupled with proper diet and adequate sleep, contributes to elevating moods, strengthening the bones and heart, and easing the changes in our spiritual lives and physical selves.

Walking is the most natural of all exercises. It increases the oxygen to our brain and muscles, reduces stress, and slows bone mineral loss. When done properly, it energizes and refreshes. Since I am always confronted with reasons and opportunities not to walk, I asked two friends to be walk partners, and we signed a "contract". One friend goes with me on Tuesdays, another Thursdays, and the weekends are mine alone.

You too can find a friend or co-worker to sign a weekly walk contract with. If you prefer solitary walks, sign a contract with yourself. Be realistic, (and specific), such as, "I will walk three times this week for 15 minutes." (You can even accrue time, five minutes at a time). Put in what your reward will be, (for me, money always works), and your penalty, (an extra chore you dislike with a passion), and sign it. Since footwear is important, buy walking shoes that fit, (the afternoon is the best time to try on shoes because your feet swell through-out the day), and plan where you want to walk. Fluids are essential, so wear a fanny pack with a small water bottle .

For the first five minutes, walk easily and with your head high, (chin level with the ground). Find your natural stride. This allows your muscles to warm up. Pick up speed, but never more than you are comfortable with, and swing your arms in a natural arc, opposite your leg movements, and no higher than your shoulder. Walk with purpose and direction, and for fun, choose landmarks to vary your speed. (A 12 minute mile burns twice the calories of a 15 minute mile, but begin your walking program slowly; a 25 minute mile).

Chart your progress, no matter how silly it seems, with little stars on your calendar. When you are tempted to give in to the other demands in your life and forgo your walk, remind yourself of all the positive reasons to walk. Remember, walking is a natural movement of the body, and has the capability of giving you time to enjoy yourself and the world. Walking for exercise will reward both your physical being and your mental self, as well as help relieve menopausal signs.

So, do yourself a favor and take a walk today.

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