The Importance of Exercise at Midlife
Along with all of the other changes happening, we also deal with our metabolism slowing, as well as the loss of bone and muscle mass. While you could look at this as a harsh slap in the face from Debbie Downer, many choose to look at it a bit more positively, using this “bonus” as a good reason to employ daily self-care habits. “At menopause, women must pay closer attention to how much they eat and the way they work out,” says Sabrena Merrill, MS, senior advisor on health and science for the American Council on Exercise. In the menopause years specifically, regular exercise, along with a balanced diet, results in better weight control, mood boosts, stronger bones, and a reduced risk of cancer and other diseases, not to mention looking and feeling better inside and out.
If you already maintain a regular exercise routine, it might be time to reevaluate what you’re doing to make sure your workouts are balanced. It’s not a bad thing for younger folks to go all-out on cardio or spend most of their time in the weight room but at our age, it’s better for our bodies and overall health to mix cardio with strength training, balance work, and stretching. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends moderate aerobic activity for at least 150 minutes a week or vigorous aerobic activity for at least 75 minutes a week, spread out over the seven days. Strength training is recommended at least two times each week.
If you’re a non-exerciser or you haven’t exercised regularly for a while, it’s always a good idea to consult your physician before beginning any program. Once you’re ready to get started, there are so many available options for movement; it’s a matter of finding the right activity. Discovering something that you enjoy doing will make exercise feel like less of a chore and you’ll find it easier to build it into your schedule and stick to it. For example, I despise running with every fiber of my being so the thought of doing that a few times a week makes me roll my eyes so hard they might possibly get stuck that way. While I greatly admire those who think nothing of running a 5K or a marathon or any distance in between, running is definitely not for me.
Boxing and dancing, however, are two activities I adore. I have a membership at a local boxing club and attend classes on a regular basis, noting them on my calendar as official appointments and reminders of the commitment I’m making to myself. If you decide to join a gym or pay for classes, find out if you can take advantage of a trial session (some will offer a week-long pass) before handing over any of your hard-earned money to see if you feel comfortable there. If I may offer a tip for beginners, while you might feel self-conscious exercising in a public venue, nobody is looking at you. By and large, people who are at the gym are extremely self-focused. Put your mental blinders on, drown out your mean inner critic with a more loving and positive voice, and just do what you came to do.
I have added dance fitness to my routine as well and while I used to pay for classes years ago, these days it costs me nothing because I do it at home: YouTube is full of excellent videos by qualified instructors at all levels of difficulty. My dance workouts feel more like solo dance parties, and before I know it the hour has gone by and I have an amazing feeling of accomplishment along with a healthy glow.
If you’re not sure what kind of exercise you’d like to try, Healthline has some great ideas for menopausal women that include everything from various cardio exercises to yoga and meditation to yard work. Additionally, The North American Menopause Society has tips on building a balanced workout. Whatever you decide to do, be proud that you’re taking care of yourself. Your body will thank you.
Not convinced? Here’s one last bit of motivation. American singer, dancer, and choreographer Toni Basil, perhaps most well-known for her hit song “Mickey” (and that cheerleading video!) in 1982, is in her seventies and still kicking up her heels. Check her out on YouTube, and after you do that, get yourself going. What are you waiting for?
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