There are many things in life we can’t predict, but one thing that’s inevitable is the aging process (whether we like it or not). And as we age, our bodies change, which in turn affects the way we exercise.
The most important thing is to understand your body as you age so you can adapt and maximize your activity. With consistent movement, we can remain active and agile well into our senior years.
This article will examine key changes in women’s bodies and how these changes may affect exercise, and therefore how you can maximize activity through these changes.
Every woman hits menopause at a different age, but whenever it does happen, the body will go through a series of noticeable changes.
Cessation of menstruation, moodiness, hot flashes, and a decline of estrogen levels are all symptoms of menopause. Women going through menopause also experience a decline in muscle mass and a slower metabolism, often resulting in weight gain around the hip, thigh and middle areas. Additionally, a woman’s bone density is no longer as high, which causes the thinning of the bones, making her more vulnerable to fractures and broken bones.
What You Can Do
Weight-bearing exercises are helpful and necessary to offset thinning bones which can lead to osteoporosis. Weight-bearing exercises are activities that make you move against gravity while staying upright. Weight-bearing exercises can be high-impact or low-impact. These include walking, lifting weights, and many others. The National Osteoporosis Foundation provides a great list of sample exercises here.
The Musculoskeletal System
Muscles are responsible for holding our organs and bones in place. Over a period of time, a woman’s muscles lose both their strength and flexibility, which could result in pain further on down the line.
When a woman reaches approximately 35 years of age, her bones reach their highest mass, and from there, they start to dissolve and absorb considerably quicker than new bones are created. The natural disintegration of bones coupled with lower estrogen levels due to menopause and the general wear and tear of them result in a shrinkage in bone size and density.
When a woman experiences the combination of bone and muscle deterioration, she’ll also notice that her movements become more restricted, which could affect her coordination, balance and strength.
What You Can Do
It’s important to incorporate balance work into your fitness routine. This can be as simple as standing upright with one foot lifted. Focus on keeping your shoulders back, chin lifted and your core engaged. Your core is your midsection and it involves all your muscles in that area including the front, back and sides. To have your core engaged, draw your belly button to your spine and think of how you would harden your abdominal muscles if you were about to get hit in the stomach. Once you engage your core, you’ll notice that you can more easily balance on one foot. That’s because core and balance go hand in hand and, therefore, core exercises are very important as we age. Try to find a Pilates class in your area for an excellent core workout.
As we age, our metabolism slows. This can result in general sluggishness and fatigue as the body is simply no longer able to break down the calories consumed as efficiently as it once did. Slower metabolism also can lead to weight gain if we’re not eating a healthy diet and staying active.
What You Can Do
Be mindful of your diet and make sure you’re fueling your body with good foods that are good for you. A proper diet of lean meats, vegetables, fruits and whole grains will keep you feeling good all-around. Incorporating exercises that get the heart pumping faster (cardiovascular exercises) will also help. These exercises do not have to be high impact. Walking is always a popular choice as you can do it from anywhere. Group fitness classes such as barre and low-impact dance are also fun options.
Women are amazing at any age and our bodies should be celebrated through all stages of life. In order to keep feeling your best, find an activity you enjoy and that keeps you moving forward.