Toning Exercise For Women

According to an Australian study of 7281 subjects, women have unique life reasons that can derail workouts. These include the birth of a child, marriage, single parenthood, a new job, divorce, overworking, job stress and returning to school. Time is a big consideration. After a day of work and childcare, most women prefer to spend their leisure time in socializing with family and friends, reading and watching television, rather than rushing to the treadmill.

It’s just hard to be a girl!

The fact is that exercise has unique benefits for women. Regular exercise lowers estrogen levels, reduces body fat, and produces a healthier body mass index (BMI), all of which significantly reduce the risk of breast cancer, especially in postmenopausal women. In a study of 173 sedentary, overweight postmenopausal women, researchers had half the women do aerobic exercise for 45 minutes, 5 days a week and the other half perform weekly stretching. Since fat cells produce estrogen, fat loss lowered estrogen. The result: a lower risk of breast cancer. A survey of women, some with breast cancer, revealed that women who did more exercise, chores and had a physically demanding job were 26{a3acb2be643effc4b7b4b3705df5cb2eae026059a1d075d54be8af4d92e7e619} less likely to develop cancer before menopause. They were also 19{a3acb2be643effc4b7b4b3705df5cb2eae026059a1d075d54be8af4d92e7e619} less likely to develop postmenopausal cancer than sedentary women.

Strength training, in particular, has several benefits. When 27 menopausal women lifted weights for 8 weeks in a strength-training program at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, 33{a3acb2be643effc4b7b4b3705df5cb2eae026059a1d075d54be8af4d92e7e619} had boosted energy and sex drive. Also, 40{a3acb2be643effc4b7b4b3705df5cb2eae026059a1d075d54be8af4d92e7e619} felt less anxious, and 50{a3acb2be643effc4b7b4b3705df5cb2eae026059a1d075d54be8af4d92e7e619} said they were less achy, stiff, and irritable. Hot flashes, headaches, and painful intercourse decreased. (Some authorities believe that daily multivitamins contain iron, which can offset the monthly iron loss during your menstrual period). As women grow older, weight training becomes more important.

For women, perceiving fitness as positive and favorable is important. Women who perceive themselves as having more energy, fewer emotional problems, less pain, fewer social problems and lesser feelings of nervousness and depression are more likely to start exercising. Also, women are more likely to continue exercising if they believe that they have more energy, fewer emotional problems, excellent health and less pain.

When starting an exercise program, it is important to remember a few basic principles –

Get The Right Exercise Routines.

Ideally, you want a routine you can print out, take to the gym or use at home. It should include a start and end picture of exercises, along with a description of technique. Such exercise charts are available in health clubs and can be found on various websites like the one mentioned in the resource box. Always obtain a routine from a reliable source and ask questions if you don’t understand anything.

Start With Moderate Exercise.

The latest recommendations focus on moderate activity levels aimed at achieving functional fitness and avoiding disease. This differs from older guidelines that emphasized high-intensity activity for cardiovascular fitness. This shift took place because research found that lower levels of activity offered substantial health benefits. Also, public health experts believe that focusing on moderate rather than intense activity may help motivate more individuals. These guidelines don’t mean that high-intensity exercise isn’t helpful. They simply offer an alternative route for people who prefer less intensive workouts. If time is a factor, you may opt for more vigorous exercises, and shorten the duration of your workout.

What Is Moderate?

Because the same activity elicits different levels of effort for people at different levels of fitness, the best way to recognize how hard you’re working is to be aware of your breathing pattern, heart rate and exertion levels. Moderate-intensity activity is going to make you breathe harder than light activity, make your heart beat faster and likely make you sweat a little.

How Hard Is Moderate?

Very light exercise results in no noticeable exertion. Reading the newspaper is a good example. Light exercise results in noticeable exertion and normal to slightly increased breathing. Walking a dog can be considered light exercise for many individuals. Moderate exercise is (surprise, surprise) moderately vigorous. Gardening, for example, may be associated with deeper breathing to panting and sweating. Finally, hard exercise involves vigorous exertion, gasping and heavy sweating. Think of that aerobics class that’s hard to get through!

Source: Adapted from Exercise: A Program You Can Live With, Harvard Health Publications, February 2002.

How Much Exercise Is Needed?

3-4 days a week of moderate exercise for 30-45 minutes each time. Researchers have found that 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most days of the week can reduce the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, and colon cancer. It reduces feelings of depression and anxiety, helps build bones and muscles, keeps joints functioning well, and in older women minimizes the risk of falling.

How Do You Find The Time?

You don’t have to fit your exercise all into one session or limit yourself to only one exercise. For example, take a brisk 15-minute walk during your coffee break and another after dinner. Use a bicycle for 15 to 20 minutes. It all adds up. You may find that you can reach an hour a day of moderate-intensity activity more easily than you thought.

If you have not done much exercise lately, start adding physical activity to your life with some simple tips. Park your car further from your destination and walk. Find a group of friends to walk with on weekend mornings. Garden or help in home repairs. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. Use hand weights while walking. Vacuum while watching television. Every little bit helps!

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