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
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
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: