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Women mired in the mid-life blues should put their best foot forward, advises Ros Dodd

I’m loath to admit it, but for a while I’ve suspected that I’m suffering a mild form of depression. I’ve reached that age – 45, ouch – when my career has levelled out to the point of tipping over and my youthful ambitions have either been achieved or scrubbed on account of their obvious non-viability.

I have the husband and child I spent the best part of my 20s and 30s yearning for, and whilst they bring me a degree of joy and fulfilment, I’m left with the gnawing feeling that this is as good as it gets. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ungrateful and I’m not unhappy – far from it – but I think mid-life blues kick in when you realise you’re no longer striving for the pot of gold and your lot in life – what’s left of it – is to teeter along the rainbow in the hope you don’t fall off.

I was heartened, therefore, to read this week that the key to happiness for middle-aged women is to put on their walking shoes. According to American researchers, a brisk right-left-right-left is the best way to stave off the mid-life doldrums. Apparently, the ideal pace for keeping such symptoms at bay is about 4mph.

The study looked at 380 women aged, on average, 42, and noted their physical activity level and menopausal symptoms including stress, anxiety, depression and hot flushes. The women were followed for more than eight years, says a report in the January issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.

Researchers found that high levels of physical activity were most beneficial to post-menopausal women (which I’m not, by the way), who had lower levels of stress than those who did very little exercise. Even those who did a “middle-tier” amount of exercise, walking five times a week for 40 minutes, had better mental well-being than those doing very little – about 15 minutes five times a week.

Now, this to me is pure common sense, and dovetails beautifully into another newly-published survey which suggests that doing housework is just as beneficial as pounding the treadmill at the gym.

I’ve never been a sporting type, but I’ve always tried to stay vaguely fit if only to offset the repercussions of various unhealthy habits; nowadays, I cycle my daughter to school and, sometimes, back again. It’s not far, but there’s enough of a hill on the return journey to leave me gasping for breath. What is interesting is that I always feel better for the physical exertion – and my day is better set up as a result.

Now that New Year is upon us, however, I am resolved to get some daily exercise on top of the cycle rides. So for all of you middle-aged, mildly depressed women, here are my tips for staving off the dreaded cloud of despondency:

  1. Make a conscious decision to take a walk every day
  2. Don’t be over-ambitious initially: a stroll around the neighbourhood is enough to start with
  3. Research interesting areas within easy reach of where you live and walk round those
  4. Search out books about walks in Birmingham and the Midlands
  5. Research websites that do the same, such as
  6. Join a local walking/rambling group so that you don’t have to go it alone
  7. Invest is some good-quality gear so that you are set up whatever the weather
  8. Line up a treat for yourself – such as a long, hot bath or mug of hot chocolate – for when you get back
  9. Take up an interest in natural history – this will make your walks more interesting and rewarding
  10.  Start a diary of the walks you’ve taken: this will help you build up a sense of satisfaction and direction

So, there you have it, sisters. It’s easy to feel defeated by the onset of time, but I’ve no doubt that the key to keeping the age at bay is to play it at its own game and walk, walk, walk…..


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