Physical Activity at Midlife: The Good, the Goals, the Guidelines

Easy ways to add activity to your daily routine

by The North American Menopause Society
Photograph: expression photo/Shutterstock.com

The Good
Regular physical activity is a vital part of every woman’s life, preserving physical and mental health and improving quality of life. It helps keep women’s hearts, bones, mood, and dress size at their best.

The Goals 
Be dynamic and build physical activity into your daily life -- getting started is easier than you think and doesn’t have to take a lot of time. It can be as simple as adding 15 extra minutes of activity to your daily routine: Take the long way, use the stairs instead of the elevator, park your car at the far end of the parking lot, and walk wherever and whenever you can.

Remember to look for support – you can talk to your friends and family to find out what they are doing to become more active. You can motivate each other by planning activities together.

It doesn’t have to be complicated. Create an environment that is exercise-friendly. Move a stationary bike in front of the TV. Exercise in short spurts to accommodate busy schedules. Keep walking shoes at work or an exercise bag in the car. Continue the activities you are doing now but do them more often. Move frequently and do simple stretches.

Your healthcare provider can help you determine the initial level of exercise appropriate for your needs. Increase your activities as your body adjusts to your new lifestyle. Set a goal and once you’ve reached it, raise your activity level and try more intense exercise routines.

The Guidelines
Once these goals have been accomplished, it’s time to establish a long-term plan. Use the following basic guidelines:

  • There are three types of exercises to include in any exercise regimen: aerobic, weight-bearing, and flexibility. The goal is to improve endurance, flexibility, strength, and balance.
  • Any activity is better than none, but professionals suggest 30 minutes of aerobic activity per day for the greatest effect on heart and lung health. Remember, this doesn’t have to happen all at one time. Three 10-minute sessions can have the same impact. Previously inactive women should gradually work up to this level. Walking at a moderate pace for 15 minutes, three times per week, is a good way to start. Women can gradually increase the time and exercise intensity.
  • Weight-bearing activities, such as fast walking or working with weights to build muscle, can delay or prevent bone loss. Fitness experts recommend doing these two to three times per week.
  • Flexibility exercises, such as yoga and stretching, help maintain function while aging. The exercises also improve balance, which can decrease the risk of fractures caused by falls. These exercises should also be done two to three times per week.

The benefits of regular exercise for midlife women are extensive—from disease prevention to overall well-being. Finding ways to make exercise a permanent part of daily life will help ensure a healthier future.

Next: 31 Classic Fitness Mistakes Smart Women Make

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