What women need to know about starting a fitness program

© All rights reserved Keith Crovatt

One of the biggest women’s fitness myths is physical activity must be strenuous to achieve major health benefits. Where did this thought originate? A simple walk around the neighborhood is vastly superior than a walk from the sofa to the refrigerator during television breaks!

Women of all ages benefit from a moderate amount of physical activity, preferably daily. The same moderate amount of activity can be obtained in longer sessions of moderately intense activities (such as 30 minutes of brisk walking) as in shorter sessions of more strenuous activities (such as 15-20 minutes of jogging).

Look at these facts:

* More than 60 percent of U.S. women DO NOT engage in the daily recommended amount of physical activity.

* More than 25 percent of U.S. women are not active AT ALL!

* Physical inactivity is more common among women than men.

* Social support from family and friends has been consistently and positively related to regular physical activity.

What are the benefits of physical activity you ask?

* You are around for your children, grandchildren and loved ones as an example for taking care of your body. Many of us underestimate the role model position we are in with our families!

* Reduces the risk of dying from coronary heart disease and of developing high blood pressure, colon cancer, and diabetes.

* Helps maintain healthy bones, muscles, and joints.

* Helps control weight, build lean muscle, and reduce body fat.

* Helps control joint swelling and pain associated with arthritis.

* May enhance the effect of estrogen replacement therapy in decreasing bone loss after menopause.

* Reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression and fosters improvements in mood and feelings of well-being.

* Can help reduce blood pressure in some women with hypertension.

Additional health benefits can be gained through greater amounts of physical activity. Women who can maintain a regular routine of physical activity that is of longer duration or of greater intensity are likely to derive greater benefit. However, excessive amounts of activity should be avoided, because risk of injury increases with greater amounts of activity, as does the risk of menstrual abnormalities and bone weakening.

Previously sedentary women who begin physical activity programs should start with short intervals (5-10 minutes) of physical activity and gradually build up to the desired level of activity.

Women with chronic health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, or obesity, or who are at high risk for these conditions should first consult a physician before beginning a new program of physical activity.

Women over age 50 who plan to begin a new program of vigorous physical activity should first consult a physician to be sure they do not have heart disease or other health problems. The emphasis on moderate amounts of physical activity makes it possible to vary activities to meet individual needs, preferences, and life circumstances.

So where do you start?

If you work in an office building, park at the end of the lot and walk to the front door. If you park in a deck, take the stairs up and down each day for a moderate increase in activity.

If your office is on the second, third or fourth floor, find the stairs and take a hike! You will be amazed how easy this is and it is a great start for a fitness program.

Do you homeschool your children or babysit other children? Take several breaks during the day and walk around the neighborhood while giving math problems to the children. They will learn more, you will get the exercise.

Other people in your sphere of influence need more exercise too. Many more miles and stairs are walked when you are talking to others and your mind is not on the “exercise” itself.

Finally, map out one to two miles around your house, work place, community center, church and WRITE DOWN all of the various eateries, groceries, dollar stores, coffee houses, gyms, etc. You probably think nothing of jumping in the car to do simple errands that you are better off walking rather than riding.

Stand up, look around, start now, you can do it!