Jessica Ennis-Hill: Women shouldn’t feel at the mercy of their hormones

At 37, Jessica Ennis-Hill hasn’t quite reached midlife – but she has been giving some thought to the life phases yet to come. “I want to take more opportunities and enjoy them during my later life,” says the former heptathlon star.

“My early life was quite intense, especially as an athlete. That whole period was very structured and restrictive to a certain extent, and very intense. I feel like I’ve almost got a second – in a weird way, a new career, different opportunities. This period and that period before definitely feel very different to me.”

It’s nearly seven years since she retired from athletics, announcing shortly after scooping her second Olympic heptathlon medal at Rio 2016 that she wanted to leave “on a high”. Her accolades included three world champion titles and Olympic gold at the London 2012 Games.

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She and husband Andy already had their son Reggie, then two, and daughter Olivia came along in 2017. In 2019 she launched Jennis – a fitness and ‘hormone intelligence’ app offering workouts, plus expert-led lifestyle and nutrition recommendations tailored to women’s individual needs.

Jessica Ennis-Hill's Jennis app has introduced a perimenopause programme. Picture: Jay Kamara for Jennis/PA.Jessica Ennis-Hill's Jennis app has introduced a perimenopause programme. Picture: Jay Kamara for Jennis/PA.
Jessica Ennis-Hill's Jennis app has introduced a perimenopause programme. Picture: Jay Kamara for Jennis/PA.

Pregnancy and postnatal fitness were a key focus at first, and Jennis quickly evolved to centre on menstrual cycle mapping. The impact of female hormonal health and fluctuations was an area that had been seriously lacking in sports science research. Ennis-Hill became one of a number of high profile athletes to start speaking out on the topic – and the goal with Jennis was to channel this growing knowledge towards all women, so they could feel “more in control and empowered”. Now, the app has evolved further with the launch of a perimenopause programme. The Jennis model is about a holistic approach, with lifestyle interventions taking in movement and exercise, nutrition, stress and sleep (alongside women exploring HRT support with their own GPs should they choose)

Menopause awareness has increased in a general sense in recent years. “Obviously, everything Davina McCall has been talking about with the menopause on TV and her channels has created so much amazing noise around it,” Sheffield-born Ennis-Hill notes. Yet a lot of people remained in the dark about perimenopause – the stage leading up to menopause which can typically last from four to eight years. “I definitely didn’t know for a good few years that was the pre-phase to the menopause, and the symptoms that you would experience and how it would affect your body,” admits Ennis-Hill.

These symptoms can be much the same as with menopause: mood changes, disrupted sleep, hot flushes, difficulty concentrating, vaginal dryness, libido changes, anxiety. “Your energy levels, your mood, all these things can have a massive impact on your day-to-day life, your work life and relationships,” says Ennis-Hill. “There should be more understanding around it, so we can help more women navigate through it.” Jennis Perimenopause is available through the Jennis hormone intelligence app.

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