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Exercises for women

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Elizabeth Quinn
Exercise benefits for women of all ages.

Why all women should exercise

No matter at what age a woman becomes physically active, an ever growing body of research continues to support the notion that the benefits of this increased activity are tremendous, and extremely beneficial throughout a woman's life.


Until recently, most people believed that children didn't need to worry about getting enough exercise. But with the advent of television, and now computers, a growing generation of sedentary children are becoming the next generation of unhealthy adults. Current research is finding that heart disease begins developing in youth (reference?). Considering that cardiovascular diseases are now the leading cause of death for women as well as men, one could conclude that childhood and adolescence is the appropriate time to develop healthy lifestyle habits that include exercise.


During midlife, the most common physical complaint among women is weight gain. This slow, but steady and persistent gain is something the majority of middle aged women experience. Experts disagree on the cause of this weight creep. Some believe it caused in part by hormonal changes; others argue it is most likely due to a decreasing amount of lean muscle tissue, which results in a slower metabolic rate. Research studies by Wayne Wescott, PhD, Fitness Director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, Mass., have shown that women who stay active throughout midlife have more lean muscle, greater metabolic rates and less weight gain then their sedentary peers.

Research has also shown that many of the other common ailments of middle aged women can be alleviated or controlled through exercise. Exercise can improve sleep quality and daytime energy levels, and help prevent chronic health problems such as high blood pressure, Type II diabetes, high cholesterol levels, depression and arthritis. One of the most convincing reasons to begin an exercise program in midlife is to ward off the debilitating effects of osteoporosis. It is widely known that a woman's bone density begins to decline even before her midlife years, and bone loss accelerates after menopause. While most types of activity offer some protection against bone loss, weight bearing exercise such as walking, jogging and strength training seem to offer the greatest benefit.


Physicians who work with the elderly are the fastest growing group of doctors who use exercise to combat injury, illness and disease. Washington Physiatrist Scott Gross, M.D. routinely prescribes exercise programs to his elderly patients. "Decreased muscle strength, flexibility and endurance is central to many of the problems I see in older adults, especially women. In terms of daily living, the typical 75-year-old woman I see rarely has adequate strength to carry groceries up a flight of stairs, and certainly could not pick herself up off the floor after a fall." The good news is that it is never too late to start. The MacArthur Foundation, whose researchers have been studying successful aging for a decade, has found that even those in their 90's who never exercised before can become more physically fit, and can enjoy an improved quality of life, even if they have other health problems.

Start Now

Once you've made the decision to begin exercising, don't wait. By starting today, with something as simple as a walking program you will discover the key to a lifetime of health. For many women, young, old or in the middle, the day they begin an exercise program can be the day they discover the key to improved quality of life.

Elizabeth Quinn

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