Women played sports 50 years ago, but nowhere near the level they do today. Not only are girls more active than they used to be, but they are just as active as boys. This change is significant, because it teaches girls how to remain physically fit throughout their lives. As women age, remaining fit and active can allow them to remain in great shape through their 80s. Fitness programs can help prevent many physical and mental health conditions, such as obesity, osteoporosis, certain cancers, stress and depression.
If you don’t exercise regularly but want to start, get your doctor’s OK first, especially if you are out of shape. Record your baseline levels to measure your progress. Take your pulse rate before you exercise and again after walking a mile. Time how long it takes you to walk that mile. Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you and see whether you can touch your toes or how far you can go. Determine your body mass index using a calculator, such as the one offered online by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
When you start a fitness program, set goals to help keep you motivated. Maybe you want to lose weight, train for a race or avoid age-related health conditions. Keep your goal in mind to keep you on track with your fitness program. If you are a busy mom, aim for exercising four or five days a week for an hour a day of moderate-intensity activity or 30 minutes of vigorous activity. If you are over 50, you should exercise six days a week, say Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge, M.D., in their book, “Younger Next Year for Women.”
Go For It
Don’t just walk on the treadmill reading a magazine or watching TV; you have to go for it and break a sweat, say Crowley and Lodge. If you incorporate exercise and fitness into your life, it gives you strength, optimism and can change your life. If you need some incentive to jump-start your way into exercise, take a vacation where exercise is the main activity. It can be a vacation where you bicycle, hike or cross-country ski. You can also sign up for a woman’s boot camp. These activities can pave the way for a fitness-filled lifestyle.
Joining a gym is not a necessity, but it’s a good idea. Even if you prefer to exercise outdoors, a gym is there when the weather is bad. Plus, you need to incorporate weight training into your routine at least two days week. This is important to build bone strength, which women tend to lose after menopause. Strength training builds muscle, which you need for power. You need aerobic exercise for endurance and circulation. Vary your exercises to prevent boredom and to prevent injury from overuse. Tennis elbow, for example, is not just a phrase, but a real injury you can get from too much repetition.
Gauge Your progress
After six weeks of exercise, retake your baseline measures to determine whether you’ve improved. Do this every three to six months to keep track of your progress. You might want to increase your exercise program if you are not getting the desired results. If you begin slacking off, join a class, exercise with a friend or try something new. You want exercise to become a part of your life forever.