We know from our regular IG Live Clinics with Dr Stephanie Goodwin, that many midlife women have “menopause belly fat” as one of their pet hates. How do you get rid of menopausal belly fat is a question that crops up a lot. Which is why exercise is so important. So can you lose belly fat by doing Pilates? Is Pilates a good exercise for weight loss? We know just the woman to ask.
Jess Schuring is the founder of Heartcore, a group of London-based Pilates studios and online classes. She also happens to be Meghan Markle’s favourite Pilates teacher, with other celebrity clients including Victoria Beckham, Elle McPherson and Robbie Williams.
Jess started Heartcore over 15 years ago after moving from LA to London. Having worked with thousands of people in various stages of life, she draws on her extensive experience and knowledge as well as her own journey towards midlife.
Today, Heartcore is a thriving, global, life embracing community sharing in the power of positive movement. With daily classes taught across seven London studios as well as live/on demand classes online, you can experience Heartcore’s unique method from anywhere in the world.
Jess tells us why Pilates is so good for midlife bodies, and why she is on a mission to encourage us all to be fit and strong?
Why are you passionate about the power of Pilates to help midlife women?
Entering what we refer to as midlife, often triggers a big shift in our emotional, physical, and mental state of being. During this transitional period, it’s common to feel exhausted, anxious and a bit out of control with what is happening around us.
READ MORE What are the 34 menopause symptoms?
Pilates is an incredibly powerful tool to help regain inner balance, confidence, and a strong mind/body connection. Using conscious breathing patterns helps to calm the nervous system, while moving through a flow of curated, low impact, feel good moves to help you build a strong core (aka the powerhouse) and a healthy, toned body.
Pilates also improves overall flexibility (something that starts to decrease as we age) and helps reduce tightness in the body (which often is accompanied by niggles and pain). It also increases muscle density at a time where women need it the most with the metabolism slowing down and muscle mass decreasing.
Will Pilates tackle the “menopause belly” that so many midlife women complain of?
The short answer is, yes. : )
The so-called ‘menopause belly’ is a result of a slowing metabolism, a less active lifestyle and hormonal changes. Regular exercise including low impact cardio sessions, several times a week, paired with a well-balanced diet, appropriate supplements (Vitamin D, Calcium, Magnesium, etc), and enough sleep will support you in maintaining a healthy weight and body.
READ MORE Does HRT and menopause cause weight gain?
In Pilates, we build deep core strength which helps visibly tighten the area around your midsection. The other big plus of Pilates is an improved posture and increased mobility allowing you to stay more physically active and boost your metabolism. And the more freely you are able to move, the more your inner body can work effectively in support of a healthy digestion and natural detoxification process.
How do the hormonal changes of perimenopause and menopause affect a woman’s strength and fitness?
The complex hormonal changes during the menopause transition make it difficult to generalise the effects on our strength and fitness levels, they’re unique to every woman.
That said, the most common physical symptoms include hot flashes, night sweats, overall weight gain, build-up of fat around the abdomen, an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and osteoporosis (decrease of bone strength and density) due to the decline of oestrogen levels.
Alongside these physical symptoms, our strength levels may feel compromised due to the way we feel about ourselves. Many women experience mood swings and symptoms like anxiety, low self-esteem, fear and confusion. And while these usually disappear gradually, they can have a significant effect on our wellbeing and the choices we make to allow us to feel better.
READ MORE Menopause and anxiety, the lowdown.
Why is a strong body so important in midlife?
Let’s just start by saying that maintaining a strong body is important for life, and at any life stage. The earlier we start a regular, consistent fitness routine, the better.
As we move towards midlife, our bodily functions are on the decline and staying strong in our body is key in supporting a healthy heart – by far the most important muscle in our body. Latest studies also confirm that active people are less likely to show a decline in their mental function and develop Alzheimer’s.
Also, we’re aware of the benefit that social connection and physical activity brings in support of our mental health. Keeping physically strong and fit supports an engaged, social, active lifestyle and the ability to travel and live a vibrant life.
And lastly, when you are committed to your health, you are more aware of your body’s needs which in return helps you to naturally make more conscious lifestyle choices for a healthy, happy, long life.
Why is Pilates such good exercise for midlife women?
In our mid to late 40s, life often brings big changes and while some of it can feel unsettling, it creates new opportunities to redefine ourselves as we move into the next life stage. And for that, we need to feel empowered, confident, and strong.
At Heartcore, it’s our mission to make you realise your own power and remind you of the strength that you have inside. We choose a dynamic, smart, safe (no impact) approach to Pilates designed to strengthen, tone, mobilise and lengthen your body, allowing you to break through your perceived boundaries and instead create possibility and self-awareness.
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Additionally, moving together with a group of like-minded people enhances conversation, motivation, consistency, intensity and results. All these benefits inspire us to stay committed, feel connected and to enjoy ourselves as we move through midlife and beyond.
Can Pilates help with building bone density in the menopausal years?
Several studies support that Pilates can be effective in increasing bone mineral density. A regular Pilates routine can also help alleviate and reduce pain in common places like the back and neck through building vital core strength, mobility, strength, and length in the body.
For many midlife women, issues like creaky joints and sore knees put them off exercise. Can Pilates help?
When we are in pain or unsure about the best and safest way to move, it can easily put us off any kind of regular fitness routine. Yet, as we age it is more important than ever to stay physically active on a regular basis so we can enjoy life and feel good in our body and mind.
One of the best, if not, the best choice for the ageing body is Pilates. It’s a mindful, low impact and intelligent training approach that takes all of your different needs into account. Practicing Pilates regularly does not only help with addressing ‘creaky joints’ and ‘sore knees’ but can actually help reverse many side effects that we experience as we age.
What are your favourite Pilates moves for midlife women?
The mind + body connection that Pilates develops is so powerful, and in truth, all Pilates moves are incredibly beneficial, especially as they support a healthy, full body function.
I personally love hip openers like lunges and deep squats, core strengthening plank variations, and posture correcting, shoulder, chest and heart opening stretches.
How will your new Release & Relieve classes help perimenopausal and menopausal women?
I am so excited about launching this series of deep physical and emotional release sessions. While each session features a slightly different approach with some more energetic and others more calming, all are designed to celebrate the inner mind and body connection by releasing tension, building strength, creating space, finding balance and embracing being you.
READ MORE What is the difference between perimenopause and menopause?
As a midlife woman yourself, what is your fitness regime?
For me it’s the combination of Heartcore and being outdoors in nature. Alongside the two live classes I teach online every week, I take three Heartcore Pilates classes in our studios and run about three times a week in London’s Hyde Park.
When I am abroad, I teach and take the Heartcore class online three to four times a week and go on exploring runs in the place/city I am in.
I appreciate that running comes with a high impact on the body and to help reduce the stress and impact on my joints, I keep my strides a bit shorter, try to run on grass where I can and invest in top quality running shoes. And of course, deep stretches post run.
What about nutrition and supplements? How do you stay feeling well?
I am a vegetarian and “sometime pescetarian” (I only consume line caught fish), keeping my diet clean, green and fresh. And I live by a simple rule: if I don’t understand the ingredients, I won’t eat it.
I practice the 16/8 hour fast simply because I am not a big fan of breakfast. I keep my lunches light with salads and veggies and look forward to a wonderful dinner every night.
My current daily supplements include Magnesium with Vitamin B complex, Vitamin C, Collagen, Iron and Zinc.
READ MORE 10 of the best menopause supplements.
For me, eight hours of sleep every night makes all the difference in the world and allows me to feel well during the day. I love early nights and early mornings.
I am committed to moving every single day. It doesn’t always need to be a strenuous workout and could sometimes simply be a brisk 30 min walk but there is always some kind of movement involved.
What do you say to midlife women who need some encouragement to start exercising?
At Heartcore, we appreciate that nobody is the same, and are committed to creating environments that make you feel accepted, welcomed, encouraged, and supported, at any stage of life. It’s never too late for anyone to start exercising and it can start small, with committing to moving everyday by walking or stretching.