Exercise is an important component of our overall health. For women, our needs can change as our hormones change – especially after giving birth. It’s Women’s Health and Fitness Day, so we sat down with Kelly MacLain, MSPT at Baptist Memorial Health Care, to get her thoughts about how women can best take charge of their health by staying physically active.
How do fitness needs vary between men and women?
Because we begin with less bone mass than men, women have to be more concerned with maintaining bone density – especially after menopause, when a sudden drop in estrogen levels causes the bone to be lost at a faster rate. Exercise that placing weight or force on the bones helps maintain this density. This can include upper and lower body weight training, standing and inverted yoga poses, walking, running, and stair climbing.
Changes that occur due to childbearing also present unique exercise needs. The abdominal and pelvic floor muscles are stretched and need to be restrained to prevent future back and gynecological problems. C-sections and other gynecological surgeries also disrupt the abdominal muscles. Injuries to the pelvic floor can occur during childbirth, which interferes with activity and exercise. Consult a physical therapist if you cannot even get the abdominal muscles going again or if you experience pain during exercise. Because we often seem to have a lot of responsibilities, finding time for fitness can be one of our biggest challenges.
What are some surprising ways women can fit exercise into their busy lives?
Just like anything in your life, in order for it to happen you do have to decide that it’s a priority. Your goal is less 30 minutes, five times per week. Don’t panic – you don’t have to do 30 minutes continuously. It can breaks up into several small sessions. Try to think of three 10 minute activities you might be able to do per day, like a walk after lunch to prevent afternoon sleepiness, playing tag with your kids before homework time, doing leg lifts and squats at the counter while making lunches, walking the dog, weeding the garden, and of course – shopping.
Figure out if you are a social exerciser or if you like exercise as a chance to be done alone. If you like the presence of others as motivation, consider replacing your girls-only activities like going out for coffee or drinks with something active instead. Take a ride in the park together or sign up for a fitness class like barre or adult dance. Instead of sitting down at the couch with your guy and watching another episode of American Pickers, get outside and hold hands and walk around the block together.
What options does Baptist offer to help women take charge of their health and improve their overall well-being through fitness?
Many of our facilities have walking trails mapped out that you can walk on a break, especially if you have a sitting job. Consider signing up to run or walk one of the numerous 5K races that you hear about at Baptist. They are usually to raise funds for a charity and if you pick a cause that matters to you. That will provide you with the motivation to get through. They are equally a lot of fun.
Have questions about how you can better implement a fitness regimen into your everyday routine? Ask your doctor for personalized recommendations so you can get moving today.