Welcome to the Fountain of Youth!

(crossposted at BlogHer)

You cannot imagine how happy I was when asked to write about Exercise and the Middle Aged Woman.  Really.  It’s one of my favorite topics of conversation because I think being active is the real fountain of youth.

If you believe that by fountain of youth I’m implying that exercise can stop hair from graying or make those lines at the sides of your eyes disappear, then I’ll disappoint you.  What I mean is that anyone who looks at you will know that those lines come from smiling; they won’t as easily notice the gray because of the glow on your face. Exercise can imbue you with wonderful energy that makes you forget how many candles were on the last birthday cake.

It might also give you sufficient breathe to easily blow those candles out next time they come.

So, what is it about exercise that makes it so wonderful for we middle-aged women?  Exercise can:

  • Strengthen Bones.
  • Control Hormones.
  • Increase muscle mass and decrease body fat;
  • improve the immune system;
  • fight stress and and improve mood;
  • aid with sleep;
  • improve mental acuity;
  • improve sexual endurance and pleasure.
  • Given these benefits, who could wisely choose to ignore physical activity?  Not me!

    What is the “right” exercise to undertake, though?  My first thought is to keep this answer very simple: WHATEVER YOU WILL CONTINUE TO DO.  The USDA recommends:

    • Engage in regular physical activity and reduce sedentary activities to promote health, psychological well-being, and a healthy body weight.
      • To reduce the risk of chronic disease in adulthood: Engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, above usual activity, at work or home on most days of the week.
      • For most people, greater health benefits can be obtained by engaging in physical activity of more vigorous intensity or longer duration.
      • To help manage body weight and prevent gradual, unhealthy body weight gain in adulthood: Engage in approximately 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity activity on most days of the week while not exceeding caloric intake requirements.
      • To sustain weight loss in adulthood: Participate in at least 60 to 90 minutes of daily moderate-intensity physical activity while not exceeding caloric intake requirements. Some people may need to consult with a healthcare provider before participating in this level of activity.
    • Achieve physical fitness by including cardiovascular conditioning, stretching exercises for flexibility, and resistance exercises or calisthenics for muscle strength and endurance.

    Did you notice that section I put in bold type?  Engage at least 60 minutes a day.  I don’t believe anyone would sustain exercise over time unless it was something they enjoyed doing. Whether that be walking or dancing, yoga or weight training… find some activity you enjoy and keep doing it.

    If you’re new to exercise, you might be know what you like.  In that case, consider what might keep you from regularly exercising.

    Does the idea of going to a gym and having strangers see you working out completely intimidate you?  Then check out some DVDs from your library and work out at home.  It might be that a salsa-exercise tape encourages you to find a salsa dance class.  Or Tae-bo draws you to the neighborhood karate studio.  You might find that these classes at home fit your schedule and lifestyle perfectly.

    Me?  I know myself well enough to know I must go leave the house to get a serious workout in.  Whether it’s walking my dogs around the hills and open parkways or pushing weights in the gym, if I don’t  remove myself from the distractions and responsibilities of the household, I will do everything else first before I exercise.

    Building an exercise habit takes a little time, but it is not hard.  I mark my workouts on my calendar, just like any other appointment.  Then do not allow myself to cancel.  I know people who get up early to utilize that quiet time before family and employment demands.  Others work on lunch hours or after work.

    Find a time and a way that works for you.  Then continuously push yourself to change things up a bit and progress.  Because when you’re busy growing, changing,  and moving, you’re living.


    One response to “Welcome to the Fountain of Youth!

    1. I am glad to see AN HOUR A DAY in print more and more places these days. I totally agree with that – but four years ago – people thought I was nuts to do an hour of semi-intense (or a couple hours of not at all intense). I feel that most of us have to do an hour or two to bring us past the couch potato status. Even if our food is clean and healthy – even if we are maintaining and not losing. With everything (cars, vacuum, washing machine, lawn mower, whatever) being powered these days – most of us DO VERY LITTLE in a day that is actual exercise. If it isn’t intentional (for most of us) then it doesn’t get done.

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