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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


McGill has found an unexpected benefit in her increased activity level. "It's a wonderful stress reliever," she says. "When I'm working really hard, exercising becomes an emotional release. I think it's going to become addictive."

That is not the only benefit she has discovered. "What I'm learning," McGill says, "is that it's important to do something for myself. I've always been available for my husband, my children, and my job. But I'm finally discovering that I can give myself the gift of being healthy and active."

As McGill learned, your health and fitness needs change as you move through the decades. More importantly, no matter what your age is, says Jennifer H. Mieres, MD, FACC, FAHA, exercising and staying fit should be a part of your daily routine. Mieres is director of nuclear cardiology and an assistant professor at New York University School of Medicine. She is also a medical spokeswoman for "Choose to Move."

"Staying fit reduces the risk factors of heart disease," Mieres explains. By exercising regularly, you can also control cholesterol, weight, blood pressure, and stress.

According to the National Women's Health Information Center, exercise also:

  • lowers your risk of getting colon cancer and diabetes
  • keeps your bones, muscles, and joints healthy
  • reduces anxiety and depression and improves your mood
  • protects against falling and bone fractures in older adults
  • protects against breast cancer
  • aids in controlling joint swelling and pain from arthritis
  • increases energy
  • helps you sleep better
  • helps you look better


A lifetime of fitness

By developing good exercise habits when you are young, Mieres explains, fitness becomes a lifetime habit, but it is never too late to start. And remember, always get your doctor's okay before starting any exercise program, but particularly if you have any chronic health concerns.

Most fitness experts recommend at least 30 minutes of exercise a day most days of the week to get the health benefits you need. Your exercise should include a mix of cardiovascular exercise (such as jogging, cycling, or racquetball) strength training (using, for example, free weights or resistance bands), and flexibility activities (such as stretching, yoga, and tai chi).

But if all this sounds like too much --- and it may be if you have not exercised in the past --- then moving even for short periods can be helpful. In fact, studies show that those who exercise for ten minutes three times a day achieve the same cardiovascular fitness effects as those whose workouts continue for 30 minutes.

Whichever decade you are in, you can tailor an exercise program to meet your age, fitness level, and individual health issues, says personal trainer Larysa DiDio, owner of Physical Fitness Xperts in Pleasantville, New York.

Follow this guide for a lifetime of fitness:

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