The benefits of exercise are many — no secret there — but for women over 40 exercise is a critical part of a self-care routine.
Exercise improves cardiovascular health and reduces some of the risks associated with declining estrogen. It increases HDL (the good cholesterol), reduces LDL (the bad cholesterol) and triglycerides (a type of fat in your blood). It reduces your risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes. Exercise can help create a calorie deficit and minimize midlife weight gain, and it is proven to help reduce stress and improve mood. But the most important reason to exercise? To maintain muscle and bone mass.
However, keeping up with an exercise routine in midlife is often easier said than done. You’re swamped with work obligations and family commitments — and you might be suffering the extreme fatigue and sleeplessness that are common symptoms of menopause. Finding the time and energy to exercise can seem beyond challenging. But staying active is crucial to long-term health and well-being.
Choose the Best Activity for You
It matters less what you do and more that you do something practically every day. Your goal should be at least 30 minutes of moderate activity five days a week. If you like to run, great! But walking is equally beneficial, and almost everyone can make time for a brisk walk each day.
If you like group exercise, new-breed exercise studios are popping up all over, bringing with them spin classes, HIIT classes (high-intensity interval training), body sculpting classes, and more. Low-impact activities like Pilates, yoga, barre, and tai chi help improve balance and flexibility, and build a mind-body connection through breath and movement.
If you don’t like group exercise, there’s never been a better time to stay at home and sweat. YouTube is filled with free yoga videos, technology has brought us such wonders as Mirror, and subscription services like Daily Burn and Pilatesology let you stream your workouts whenever you want.
Commit to Consistency
If you’re just starting a regular exercise routine, remember that results don’t happen overnight. And it’s helpful to have a simple goal in mind. Start small with something like a 10-minute walk around the block before breakfast or 15 minutes of yoga after work. Then, as you get into the swing of things, you can bump up the time or add a new challenge. Aim for consistency but understand that nobody’s perfect. If you miss a day, just recommit the next day. There’s a myth that it takes 21 days to form a new habit, but the reality is that for most people it takes longer than that. Be patient with yourself, but stay determined until you wake up one day and can’t imagine skipping your workout.
Mind Your Diet
There’s a saying: “You can’t outrun a bad diet.” And it’s true. No amount of exercise is going to impact you long term if you’re eating a bunch of junk. Break up with sugar, alcohol, and processed foods, and start a love affair with lean protein, colorful fruits and vegetables, and plant-based fats. Focus on getting the vitamins and minerals you need for healthy skin, hair, and nails — and the rest of your body will benefit, too.
Consider a Few Lifestyle Upgrades
You probably saw this coming, but now is the time to quit smoking if you haven’t already. It’s also the time to make sleep a priority, clean up your beauty routine, and learn to manage your stress. And for the latest science-based strategies around exercising in midlife, check out Dr. Deb Saltman’s book, Understanding Weight Control.
Photo: Adam Kaz