They’re calling it the ‘menopause marathon’

Eight women, ages 55-71, plan to swim the length of Lake George in a relay

LAKE GEORGE — Exercise is the No. 1 antidote to aging.

That is the point a group of menopausal women will be trying to make when they swim the length of Lake George in a relay Thursday and Friday.

They are calling it a “menopause marathon.”

Dr. Kate O’Keeffe, a retired Glens Falls OB-GYN, thought of the idea last year as she was preparing to participate in some lectures about healthy aging and the aging brain. The coronavirus pandemic squashed those lecture plans, but it couldn’t keep the women from the lake.

“Swimming’s not a problem with COVID,” O’Keeffe said, “so I got eight of us ladies together, and we met and decided to go ahead and do it.”

Eight women, ages 55-71, were scheduled take off from a boat at 6 a.m. Thursday morning from Million Dollar Beach in Lake George and start a relay swim, with each woman swimming an hour and a half. Swimmers will wear an orange bubble for safety, and a boat driven by O’Keeffe’s husband will accompany them along the way.

They hope to make it to the Narrows by Thursday evening. After that, they will all go home for a much-earned sleep, and start again from the Narrows Friday morning, eventually ending the day at Roger’s Rock beach.

“We’re not going to do the last little part of the lake because it’s all weedy and yucky,” O’Keeffe said.

The women are not racing and are not trying to break any records.

“It’s just about getting out in the beautiful outdoors and exercising and swimming,” O’Keeffe said. “It’s a great exercise for older people because it’s great on the joints and outside and fresh air and you’re not in a gym with COVID.”

O’Keeffe, 68, who was an OB-GYN in Glens Falls for 38 years, often counseled her patients on the importance of exercise for the aging brain. She has belonged to what she calls an “estrogen club” for 25 years, a group of women who meet once a week for outdoor exercise like walking, hiking and swimming.

“It’s very therapeutic mentally and physically, and I always encouraged my patients to form their own little estrogen club with their girlfriends,” she said. “Instead of focusing on food and going out to dinner, focus on an activity.”

Two members of the swim team are also in her estrogen club. Other swimmers are patients she has gotten to know over the years.

“These are basically women who like to exercise, like to get outside and do something,” she said. “If you met them, you’d think everyone was probably 15 years younger than they actually are.”

Exercise can improve mood, help with weight loss, improve your sex life, give you more energy, and lower the chances of cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s, O’Keeffe said.

“It’s so true,” she said. “One hour of exercise a day raises your endorphins for eight hours. So that’s better than Prozac, so it’s really mentally and physically very positive.”


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