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Healthy for Life: Fitness Needs for Every Decade of a Woman’s Life

Get moving: Fitness for women at any stage of life
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Melanie McGill is the first to admit that she has never been athletic. But she was always active. There were kids to chase around, a dog to walk --- in short, the busy life that keeps most women on the go. But since the kids have grown up, McGill finds that, at 53, the lifestyle that once kept her reasonably in shape has been replaced. Now she spends hours behind a desk, focusing on her career as a special education professor.

It was when McGill started to plan a ski trip that she finally faced the fact that age and inactivity had caught up with her. "I had no strength," she says. "I was out of breath going up the stairs. I had a pain in my lower back. And, I lost my abs. I don't know where they went, but they were gone." It was a rude awakening. But McGill admitted she needed to spend a little less time at her desk and a little more time focusing on fitness.

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Getting started: Make a conscious choice to be fit

As a volunteer with the American Heart Association (AHA) in Dallas, McGill learned of "Choose to Move." That's the AHA's new 12-week physical activity program designed to help women live a healthier lifestyle without spending a lot of time or money.

"I realized I had to stop talking about getting fit and healthy and do something about it," says McGill, who was chosen by the AHA along with six other women to kick off the program and chronicle their success online.

After a physical assessment that identified her strengths (her weight is fine, thank you very much) and weaknesses (she needs to focus on cardiovascular fitness and strong bones), McGill now spends 30 minutes almost every day in vigorous physical activity. "I'm getting past leisurely walking and gradually increasing my pace," she says. In addition, she is working out with free weights for strength and doing floor exercises for core stability. "I'm hoping that these exercises will prevent injuries and keep my lower back from aching," says McGill.

McGill has made other small changes in her daily routine. Instead of lying in bed a few extra minutes, she is up at 6:30 a.m. so she can walk for 30 minutes before heading to work. She takes the steps more than the elevator, and she walks to the store instead of driving. "I keep a comfortable pair of shoes in my car and in my office so I can walk more often," she says.

"Being part of the program helps," says McGill. "I have the support of the others and I don't want to let anyone down."

More than just getting fit

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