FITNESS FOR OLDER WOMEN

– By Sajeda Akbarally

There has been much written about men- issues pertaining to men, exercises for men etc. Most of my work in the fitness area is with women. So, I thought I would dedicate this article to women, a specific group of women – the older women. You can decide whether you fall into this group J. Many “older” women ask me whether they are too “old” to start exercising. You are never too old!

Did you know that? :-

  • After the age of 30 women lose approximately 3kg of muscle mass in every succeeding decade of life.  For people whose diet is inadequate this figure can be as high as 20% to 40%.
  • Women who are inactive, and who have poor dietary habits run a higher risk of osteoporosis in later life.
  • A woman’s risk of death from heart disease, usually due to a poor lifestyle, increases by approximately 400% after menopause. The rate of stroke also increases dramatically at this time in life.
  • Women with diabetes at any age are at a significantly higher risk of developing heart disease and stroke than those women who do not have diabetes.

There is considerable evidence to support the theory that exercise works directly to improve your health, lower the risk of developing life-threatening problems and provides an added indirect benefit of keeping your weight down.

So what is the recommendation?

Many health professionals recommend that older women engage in regular cardiovascular exercise (e.g. walking, cycling, swimming) as well as regular strength training.

In order to counter the natural muscle wastage  (3kg every decade after age 30) you need to perform some degree of strength training. This will help preserve, if not, increase muscular strength and endurance, particularly in the leg and hip muscles, which often become weaker with age.

It is highly advisable that you have a resistance program (weight training program) specifically designed for your needs. In this way you can address any problem areas, or other areas that require special focus.

If you are not a “gym” person, you can consider group classes such as circuit training (refer my last article).

If you are exercising at home it may be worthwhile engaging the services of a personal trainer to give you some guidelines as what is safe and advisable for you to do on your own.

Advantages of Exercise for older Women

Aside from the fundamental health benefits and weight control, as already outlined, there are a number of practical benefits and allied health benefits. These include:-

Daily activities become easier and less tiring as you gain stamina, with increased cardiovascular fitness. People who exercise generally have more energy to get through the day.

  • Strength training helps older women tone, shape and strengthen muscle fibres, minimizing the “fatty marbling” within the muscle that results in a flabby, weak muscle.
  • Exercise helps increase metabolism, and bone density – both factors which ordinarily decline with age.
  • The risk of sustaining fractures resulting from osteoporosis can be mitigated with strength training.
  • Increasing your core (abdominal) strength will help to improve posture, and contribute towards a firmer looking abdomen.

Cautions to Older Women contemplating Exercise

  • If you are over 40 years of age I would recommend you get clearance from your doctor to start exercising if you have never exercised before, or if you have any concerns which may affect your ability to exercise.
  • Unless you have been exercising previously it is important to seek the guidance of a qualified trainer before commencing any physical training program.
  • It is imperative that you listen to your body, and do not push yourself beyond reasonable limits. Do not compare yourself with your younger compatriots, or with yourself “x” years ago. We all age, and need to accept that we cannot do what we once were capable of doing…

So there you have it – all the reasons why all you “older” ladies should consider exercising! Go for it!

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