Commentary by Kirsten Kaisner-Duncan, MD
Establishing a consistent exercise routine is important at any age. For women age 50 and older, however, regular exercise counters many of the effects of aging. It helps alleviate menopause symptoms, improves sleep and elevates mood. It’s also beneficial for weight management and preventing more serious conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis.
Elaborate planning isn’t necessary to get the exercise you need. In fact, one important factor is simply to ensure you’re doing some physical activity every day. Household chores, errand running and yard work are ways to maintain a basic level of fitness. And although you don’t need a gym membership to stay active, a well-rounded fitness program should include:
Aerobic activity – Find time to do some aerobic exercise at least three to four days a week. You can benefit from as little as 20 minutes. Walking, jogging and swimming are good choices. Aerobic exercise improves cardiovascular health and strengthens muscles.
Strength training – This can be accomplished with simple hand weights. Start with a lighter weight, and then gradually work your way up, increasing repetitions as your workouts progress. This type of training maintains bone strength, helps tone and improves posture.
Stretching – Maintaining balance, range of motion and flexibility is increasingly important as we age. Stretching helps, and again, the activity doesn’t have to be strenuous. Simple stretches in the morning and/or before bed are a good way to start. For a more structured approach to stretching, consider yoga or Pilates.
While it’s never too late in life to begin exercising, it’s best to talk with your doctor first.
Productive living is easier when we’re healthy, strong and energized. Regular exercise goes a long way in preparing women in their 50s and beyond to enjoy this time of life.
Kirsten Kaisner-Duncan, MD, specializes in internal medicine and is a guest columnist located at IU Health Physicians Internal Medicine – Zionsville. She can be reached by calling the office at 317.873.8910. For more health information, subscribe to the Strength In You newsletter at iuhealth.org/StrengthInYou.