If you care about staying youthful and healthy, you are probably already incorporating a variety of health-promoting habits into your daily routine—taking a multi-vitamin, eating a well-balanced diet, drinking lots of water, and wearing sunscreen as part of your skincare system. While these have great benefits for health and longevity, if you’re not exercising regularly, you may be missing out on a key way to keep the years off.
Not only does exercise improve your muscle tone and help you maintain a healthy weight, making you look great in your jeans and a halter top, it offers important health benefits, decreases your chances of developing serious health conditions such as osteoporosis and cancer, and can lengthen your life span. It’s important for women to understand the benefits of exercise on their overall physical and mental well-being and it’s easy to get started on implementing a regular exercise routine of your own.
Probably what drives woman to exercise more than any other reason is weight control. Studies show that overweight women are more likely to develop serious health risks such as heart disease, cancers, and stroke. By using up oxygen and causing the body to burn stored fat, exercise can help you maintain a normal weight. If you go for a four-mile walk four times a day, you’ll burn about 1,600 calories—about half a pound a week. After a year, this amounts to a loss of twelve pounds—twenty-four pounds after a year! Furthermore, exercise, by strengthening muscles, increases your metabolic rate, allowing you to burn more calories than you usually do just by sitting around and reading a book, for instance.
Studies estimate that for each pound of muscle you add to your body, you will burn an additional thirty-five to fifty calories per day; an extra five pounds of muscle will burn about 175-250 calories a day, or an extra pound of fat every two to three weeks, or about twenty pounds a year. This explains why men burn calories faster and lose weight more easily than women; they have more muscle mass, which allows them to burn more calories.
Another healthy benefit of regular exercise is stronger bones. Regular, moderate exercise, in particularly weight-bearing exercises such as dancing, walking, running, and jogging, as well as resistance training (strength-training) increases bone mass, making bones stronger. This makes those who exercise on a regular basis less likely to develop osteoporosis and arthritis and to suffer debilitating accidents such as falling, while helping you to stay active and graceful as you age.
Exercise can also help women deal with stress better and improve their mood. Studies show that regular exercise reduces the release of stress hormones, keeping the heart pumping at a comfortable rate, blood vessels relaxed, and blood pressure low. It also produces chemical changes, which affect your mood, reducing symptoms of depression and other psychological disorders. Research suggests that lower stress levels and a happier mood boosts immune function and lengthens the life span significantly.
Another great benefit is better skin. Dull, wrinkled skin is a tell-tale sign of your age. Luckily, exercise can improve complexion by increasing circulation, the delivery of nutrients, and detoxification of skin-dulling poisons. As it boosts oxygen to the skin, it increases the natural production of collagen, the connective tissue you’ve probably heard a lot about as it is responsible for giving your skin its youthful plumpness. Skin color also evens out and improves due to the increased blood circulation.
As you can see, there are many ways to gain from exercise as you get older. So how do you get started? First, remember that it’s never too late to start. No matter your age or your fitness level, you can get started now and soon see your work pay off. Remember, though, to check with your doctor before starting an exercise regime if you’re currently experiencing any health conditions such as high blood pressure.
My first tip to women getting started with exercise is to start off gently. In your first workouts, remember you’re a beginner and don’t overdo it. Start off by warming up and stretching every time you exercise, and gently cool off after each work out as well. You can just start off with twenty minutes of walking and gradually increase your intensity and speed. Eventually, you’ll be able to find that you can jog comfortably for an hour. It may be hard for you to believe this at the beginning, but if you stick with it, you’ll find in about six to eight weeks greatly improved physical performance.
Find what works for you. What really gets you going? Do you like to go for a jog with the dogs and reflect upon your day, or do you prefer competitive games with others such as one-on-one tennis? If the idea of hitting the gym with hundreds of other sweaty people makes your stomach twist into a knot, then try a few workout DVDs in the privacy of your home. Every individual is different. There are a variety of ways to get exercise. I personally enjoy Pilates sessions on my own. Have fun while trying different ways of working out.
Studies show that keeping variety in your exercise is the key to keeping your body challenged and keeping you interested in working out. How would you like to eat the same thing for dinner every night? Thanksgiving Dinner is wonderful, but after four days of leftovers, don’t you start to get tired of turkey sandwiches? Exercise isn’t very different.
Eating a balanced diet and drinking lots of water is key in keeping to you energized for your workouts. Make sure to have a high-protein snack of about 200 calories before your workout so you won’t lose steam, and drink water before, during, and after your workout. Taking your multi-vitamin and supplements such as calcium and magnesium will deliver to the body the nutrients it needs for exercise.
The benefits of exercise as you get older are clear. Not only will it allow you to live a longer life with a lower risk of serious health concerns, but it will increase your quality of life as you find yourself happier, more energetic, better-looking, and less stressed out.
Photo Credit: Flickr/Tony Hall