workout tips

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One day every year since 2001, thousands of women across America have flocked to some 500 community hubs—parks, schools, hospitals, houses of worships and, of course, gyms—to participate in numerous, varied events under the umbrella of National Women’s Health & Fitness Day. Organized by the Health Information Resource Center (HIRC), the annual event (this year on September 27) places a heavy emphasis on fitness, and for good reason: Current research repeatedly points to exercise as the key behavior for women to maintain their health, especially as they age.

Consider the following research: A 2015 study of 75,000 women conducted at Vanderbilt Epidemiology Center and Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville, Tennessee, shows that women who are physically active in their teen years have a 16 percent lower risk of dying from cancer and a 15 percent decreased risk of death from all causes; a 2015 opinion from the American College of Obstetricians states that regular physical activity during pregnancy reduces the risk of gestational diabetes in obese women and enhances psychologic well-being; and a study published in 2017 in Menopause presented evidence that an active lifestyle with regular exercise for women ages 45 to 64 enhances health, quality of life, and fitness and results in fewer hot flashes and improved mood as well as decreased overall health risks.

“Our goal for this national event is to encourage women to take control of their health, to learn the facts they need to make smart health choices and to make time for regular physical activity,” says HIRC executive director Patricia Henze. But for busy techs, it’s easy to put exercise on the back burner. To help motivate you to get moving, here are the top 10 reasons why today is the best the time to start a fitness routine.

1. Exercise ups your metabolism.

A combination of cardiovascular and strength training activity boosts the metabolism, which naturally begins to slow in women as early as age 30. However, trying to gear an exercise routine to reduce a specific part of the body is futile, says Beth Jordan, a certified personal trainer, who is also a fitness nutrition specialist and orthopedic specialist for the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

“The idea of ‘spot training’ is that you can cause weight loss in one area without affecting other parts of the body,” she says. “When you exercise, your body does use fat as fuel; however, the body does not care where the fat comes from, so you cannot focus on or ‘spot reduce’ one particular area.”

2. Staying active reduces stress.

“Exercise increases concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that can moderate the brain’s response to stress,” says Jordan. “It also releases endorphins [brain chemicals], and that generates feelings of happiness and alleviates symptoms of depression and anxiety.” And yes, work- ing out does boost self-confidence and self-esteem.

3. Moving improves your memory.

“Exercise can help ‘shore up’ the brain against cognitive decline by boosting chemicals in the brain that support and prevent degeneration of the hippocampus, which is an important part of the brain for memory and learning,” explains Jordan. 4. Your energy levels will increase. Activity spurs the circulation of blood throughout your body, which “lights a fire” in your system, say experts. “If a sedentary individual begins an exercise program it will enhance the blood flow carrying oxygen and nutrients to muscle tissue, improving their ability to produce more energy,” confirms Pete McCall, exercise physiologist at ACE. Furthermore, when you exercise regularly, the body becomes conditioned to use its own fuel—oxygen and glucose—more efficiently, leaving you with energy to spare.

5. Sex gets even better.

Increased circulation to all areas of the body—including the genitals—spurred by a vigorous workout may account for the many women who have reported an improved libido after beginning an exercise regimen. This is of particular importance to women taking antidepressants, which are notorious for impairing sexual arousal. In a 2012 study reported in Annals of Behavioral Medicine, women on antidepressant medication who exercised several minutes prior to sexual stimuli experienced significantly greater genital arousal.

6. Your bones will be stronger, longer.

Osteoporosis, or loss of bone tissue, occurs as a result of nutritional deficiency (generally, a lack of calcium or vitamin D) and/or hormonal changes, and is especially common after menopause. It carries a strong genetic component, and petite women are particular vulnerable. “Women need to incorporate strength or resistance training into their exercise routine to keep their bones dense,” says Jordan. “One of the biggest misconceptions women have is that lifting weights makes them look ‘bulky,’ and therefore they avoid this type of training or use too- light weights. But women do not have the hormones to support big muscles.”

7. Being active is empowering.

Research performed at the Institute of Aging at the University of Florida in Gainesville and appearing in a 2014 issue of JAMA showed a positive association between regular exercise in advanced age and a reduced chance of disability and frailty in this population.

8. Exercise fends off fraility.

Self-defense disciplines, such as tae kwon do, krav maga, jiujitsu and even simple kickboxing, provide a strong fitness component while teaching students how to defend themselves in a variety of threatening, real-life situations. For some women, practicing self-defense enables them to fully experience life without feeling afraid. “Part of self-defense is confidence in yourself,” says Neal Newman, owner of the Academy of Self Defense, with several locations in Northern California’s Bay Area. “[It] empowers people so they don’t feel like a victim walking down the street.”

9. Moving means more (and better) sleep.

The National Sleep Foundation confirms that people who get at least 150 minutes of exercise per week sleep significantly better and feel more alert during the day. The reasons are numerous, but include decreased stress, fewer leg cramps (and other aches and pains) and simply feeling more tired at bedtime.

10. You’ll look like a million bucks.

Just as healthy circulation feeds your muscles, it does the same for your skin, sending youth-preserving oxygen to your dermal cells. One 2014 study conducted at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, actually discovered signs of age reversal in the skin of 29 male and female participants ages 20 to 84 after three months of regular exercise.

Delta Force

For an effective exercise routine, variety is essential. “Women should stick to the ‘delta’ of exercise types—cardiovascular, strength training and flexibility—and keep mixing them up,” says certified personal trainer Beth Jordan. She explains that the body has five basic movements: walk, sit, push, pull and rotate. “Exercises are created to ensure that these five movements are used correctly and combined in what are called compound exercises.”

For example:

Cardiovascular: running, walking, swimming, dancing, high-intensity interval training, kickboxing, jump rope, sports- related activities and plyometrics
(maximum force movements such as jumping jacks, jump squats, burpees)

Strength/resistance training: lifting dumb bells, kettle bells, medicine balls and body bars; weight machines; cable and other machines such as TRX; body weight exercises such as push-ups and pull-ups

Flexibility/balance: yoga, barre, Pilates, stretching, balance ball and myofascial rolling (using a round foam roll under the body)

Jordan recommends enlisting a professional trainer to guide you based on your particular goals and limitations. “You should have a plan and direction, learn the proper form as well as how to use the equipment correctly,” she urges. “This will prevent injury, and keep you from becoming overwhelmed and giving up on yourself.”

– by Linda Kossoff

This article was first published in the September 2017 issue of NAILPRO

 

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