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Exercise for Women Over 40

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


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Exercise for Women Over 40 - Tuesday, December 4, 2007With advancing age, there are a variety of conditions that can influence the ability to exercise. For example, degenerative joint disease, or osteoarthritis - the wear and tear form of arthritis - can develop in weight-bearing joints, such as the hips and knees. Osteoarthritis can make high impact physical activity, such as running or jogging, uncomfortable. Other medical conditions, such as osteoporosis, obesity, and hypertension, can affect what types of exercise you do, the intensity at which you engage in physical activity, and the frequency that you perform exercise.

Walking is the most common form of exercise among adults. Brisk walking is considered a moderate intensity physical activity. Walking typically burns on the order of 80-120 calories per mile. Walking can be advantageous for middle-aged and older adults because it is easier on joints than running or jogging. Brisk walking is basically a variation of the walking that we do everyday. It involves increasing the pace at which you move compared with normal walking. Your stride length is typically a bit longer with brisk walking, and there is a greater swinging of the arms. The main investment in a walking program is simply a comfortable pair of walking or running shoes. Buy shoes that have good cushioning and good stability. Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing. Aerobic exercise should be done for at least 30 minutes at least five days a week according to current guidelines from the American Heart Association and the American College of Sports Medicine. Walking counts towards this total.

Swimming and aqua aerobics can be ideal forms of aerobic exercise for middle-aged and older adults. Pool exercise is easy on joints. The buoyancy of the water helps to counteract the force of gravity. Essentially, you weigh less in the water than on land. However, it is more difficult to move sideways in a pool than it is on land because of the force of drag. This means that you can burn calories effectively whether you are swimming or walking in a pool. You can swim on your own or you can do a group fitness aquatic class.

Yoga and Tai Chi are mind-body forms of exercise. Yoga combines deep breathing, stretching movements, and a variety of body postures. It tones muscles, improve flexibility, and helps reduce stress. It also improves balance. Tai Chi is a traditional Chinese martial arts form. It makes use of flowing postures. Like yoga, it can improve flexibility and promote balance. Both yoga and Tai Chi can reduce the risk of falls in older adults. Tai Chi is a nonimpact workout. It is a great exercise option for older adults with arthritis. Most types of yoga are nonimpact. (Power yoga is an impact form of yoga.) The practice of Tai Chi and the practice of yoga have been shown to aid in blood pressure reduction, probably through the use of controlled breathing.

Strength training is complementary to aerobic training. The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association currently recommend that most healthy adults over the age of 18 perform aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes on at least 5 days of the week. Aerobic exercise includes activities that involve repetitive motion of large muscle groups (especially the legs), resulting in sustained elevation of heart rate. Aerobic or cardiovascular exercises include walking, jogging, running, biking, swimming, as well as a variety of other types of activity. Resistance or strength training involves the contraction of muscles against some form of resistance. The resistance can be provided by weights, such as is the case when doing muscle-conditioning exercises with dumbbells or barbells. Resistance training can also be done with exercise bands or tubing; the tension of the tubing provides the resistance. There are plate-loaded machines found in health clubs that are designed to be used for resistance training. Resistance training should be done at least twice a week. This resistance training should be done in addition to aerobic exercise. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that resistance training be done on nonconsecutive days; that is, skip at least one day between strength training sessions. The ACSM recommends performing at least one exercise for each of the major muscle groups (chest, shoulders, back, biceps, triceps, and abdominal/trunk muscles and leg muscles). Each set should consist of 8-12 repetitions. You can do one set for each muscle group. As you become more experienced with strength training, you can perform more than one set.

Resistance training tones muscles and strengthens bones. Just as you burn calories when performing aerobic exercise, you burn calories when performing strength training. The average individual can burn approximately 350-500 calories an hour when doing strength training, depending upon body size and amount of effort exerted. This type of exercise leads to an increase in lean muscle mass because of hypertrophy of muscle tissue. Over time, resistance training is associated with reduction in body fat. The increase in lean (fat-free) body mass results in an increased resting metabolic rate; this means that your body burns more calories at rest when you are leaner and contain more muscle tissue. This aids in achieving and in maintaining weight loss. Strength training sculpts your physique. It also makes your body more sensitive to the action of insulin. Strength training is associated with reduction in the risk of falls and a reduced chance of fracturing a bone, such as a hip. This is important as we age. With advancing age, osteoporosis and osteopenia, forms of bone loss, become increasingly more common. Resistance training helps to combat the development of osteopenia and osteoporosis.

No one exercise is perfect. Your exercise choices will be determined as much as by what you like doing as by your personal health and medical history. Try many forms of exercise to see what you like. Also, cross-training is a great way to stay healthy and injury-free. If you do the same activity day in and day out, you may mentally become fatigued and lose interest. Overdoing any one form of exercise can lead to overuse injury. It is best to mix it up and challenge your body in different ways by engaging in a variety of types of physical activity.

Walking Yoga Tai Chi Swimming/Aqua Aerobics Strength Training

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