We all know the drill, we’ve heard it all before… we need to exercise for our health… but what exactly are we exercising for?
Did you know many women are not active enough, and about 12 percent are sedentary.
I know being a mum is HARD… like that s*** can be really really hard! Trying to find the time, let alone the motivation… many women exhibit these common exercise barriers, including lack of time, lack of motivation, low income and parenting demands… its definitely a juggling act when you become a parent that’s for sure!
But regular physical activity is vital for good physical and mental health. It helps improve your overall health and fitness, maintain a healthy weight, reduce your risk for many chronic diseases and promote good mental health.
Australia's Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines recommend that at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, preferably every day is required for good health. This is the same for women and men. However, only 54 per cent of Australian women meet these guidelines.
It’s important to address your own barriers and make the necessary changes to your lifestyle to accommodate physical movement into your day to day activities. Find an exercise style you love, find an exercise partner, having your kids join in when you workout at home… these are all ways mothers manage to move their bodies while maintaining their commitments.
So why should women incorporate physical movement every single day?
1. To build & maintain healthy bones & joints.
Weight training is important for women of all ages. As we start to age, muscles and bones start to lose strength, and this is when we are in the dangerous position of developing osteoporosis. We are also at risk of injuries sustained while falling over due to lack of muscular and bone strength and balance. An estimated 125,021 people aged 65 and over were hospitalised due to falls in 2016–17, attributing to three quarters of all hospitalisations for this age group.The overall rate of fall cases was higher for women across all older age groups, and women accounted for 65% of all fall-related hospitalisations. So NOW is the time to be focusing on strength and balance to lower this statistic later on in our lives. You MUST strength train to maintain your muscles. Women who don’t can expect to lose at least 3% of their muscle mass per decade after age 30… and if you already have low muscle mass to begin with… well that’s where the above stats have come in! As we age, we want to be able to maintain our quality of life, and do simple things such as opening jars, getting out of bed, and playing with grandchildren. We want to be working on strength training NOW in our fertile years, as estrogen & progesterone (our sex hormones) promote muscle growth & strength. Once women hit peri-menopause, our hormone levels start to decline, making it that little bit harder to build & maintain muscle mass. Interestingly, Women NOT taking oral contraceptives saw a 40 - 60% greater gain in muscle mass from training than their peers on the pill. Strength training should be done a minimum of 2-3 times a week, to start building & maintaining your bodies strength. So grab your calendar & schedule in your workouts!
2. Exercise helps release stress & promote psychological wellbeing.
Currently in Australia, as many as 1 in 3 women will experience anxiety in their lifetime, and women are twice as likely to develop depression.
But regular exercise may alleviate symptoms of depression by:
• increasing energy levels
• improving sleep
• providing social support and reducing loneliness if exercise is done with other people
• increasing a sense of control and self-esteem, by allowing you to take an active role in your own wellbeing.
You may have heard that when you work out, neurotransmitters called endorphins are released that act as a sort of feel-good painkiller. The amounts released vary with the type of exercise and intensity of workout you are doing. Studies have found that those who did an hour of HIIT training experienced a significant increase in endorphin release compared with those who completed an hour of less demanding exercise. But remember, we don’t want to tire ouselves out as this will raise your cortisol levels – 20-30 minutes of HIIT several times a week is sufficient.
Exercise also releases dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, which all help with mood regulation. So regular exercise can positively impact serotonin levels in your brain, which in turn boosts your mood and overall sense of wellbeing.
3. Exercise aids in hormonal health.
Exercise is also extremely beneficial for hormonal health. It is important for women to be at a healthy body weight, as estrogen is formed in fat cells. When we are overweight, our bodies can then be imbalanced in hormone production systems.
Menopause symptoms are also partly driven by the decline and imbalance of estrogen. An easy way to remedy this is with exercise. Try to get your heart rate up for at least 30 minutes daily, which helps boost your estrogen levels. This can buffer the worst of menopause symptoms.
Testosterone - even though testosterone is commonly associated with men - is vitally important for women too. It builds muscle, burns fat, increases energy and sex drive & strengthens bones. Regular physical activity can increase testosterone, helping to slow the natural effects of aging. Testosterone peaks around our ovulation phase of our cycle, which may be why you feel like you have the most energy & strength around this time too! Another reason exercise is good for hormones in because it aid your body in waste elimination. As your body gets rid of waste, it is also eliminating excess hormones, which would otherwise be recycled into your body causing hormone imbalances. Congestion in any of your channels of elimination can result in other channels having to work harder to ensure adequate removal of waste from the body. The signs of congestion are most frequently seen in the skin, where skin conditions such as acne, dermatitis, eczema or psoriasis can result from an overburdened bowel or lymphatic systems. Speak to your trainer in which exercises are best for your body to help with the elimination process. As you can see, regular physical activity is vital for good physical and mental health, with a range of benefits for women. The recommended activity level is 30 minutes per day, or a total of 150 minutes during the week as a minimum & women should start their fitness journeys as soon as possible, so that healthy habits are established before entering into the peri-menopause phase of our lives.
Sophie xx P.S. If you're ready to start your health & fitness journey, let's chat! View my training packages here