older woman getting fit

Let’s Get Physical — and Healthy — Ladies!

Between excelling at work, remembering to drink enough water, juggling all the activities the kids are in, balancing the monthly budget, socializing with friends and family, catching up on all the popular television shows and getting enough sleep, it can be tough to find time to fit in a fitness session or plan a healthy meal. Women face some unique challenges when it comes to maintaining their health and fitness; there’s no doubt about that. We’re here to make it easier for you to reach your health and fitness goals. So, we’ve broken down the most popular health and fitness concerns that affect women and how to take charge of your health, so you can continue being Wonder Woman.

1. “There’s just not enough time in the day to work out!”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests adults do at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes a week of high-intensity aerobic activity, but many women find it hard to find the extra time. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that only about 46 percent of women 18 years and over meet those guidelines.

“The biggest concerns I hear are time, motivation, and ‘I’ve never been one to exercise’,” says Deanna Xeros, director of rehab services & fitness center at Texas Health Dallas. “We just want everyone moving! Yes, ideally, 150 minutes of cardio a week is recommended, but if you can do 25 minutes of vigorous exercise three times a week, that is also beneficial. You can also break up your minutes if 30 minutes at a time is too strenuous. Just set a time aside each day to focus on exercise.”

Still don’t think you have enough time to fit in a workout during the day? Fitness Magazine suggests these helpful ways to sneak in a workout into your daily routine:

  1. Turn your commute into a workout. If it’s not feasible to bike or walk to and from your office, try to get off the bus or train a few stops earlier, or park your car further away from your office to extend your walking distance.
  2. Turn your lunch break into a walking break. That can mean taking a walk around the office or building after eating, or making your lunch handheld so you can walk and eat at the same time. Either way, getting moving during your break will not only help your physical health, but getting away from your desk for an hour is proven to make you more productive.
  3. Turn your desk into the gym. It can be as easy as sitting on a stability ball to strengthen your core or keeping some light dumbbells at your desk to squeeze in a few reps of bicep curls, overhead presses and even some ab crunches. Aim for two to three sets of each exercise you do.
  4. Turn your binge-watch session into a workout session. Leave some dumbbells, a jump rope and other fitness tools near the TV to remind yourself to get moving during your next binge-watch. Follow this “Made-for-TV” workout to get started.

2. “I try to work out, but I don’t really know where to start or what to do.”

Women face a unique conundrum when it comes to working out. Most women understand that aerobic activities are great ways to get fit, but shy away from the weight room for fear of “bulking up”. Yet, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests adults also include muscle-strengthening activities that involve all major muscle groups on two or more days a week.

“Women definitely need a balanced workout of cardio and weight training,” says Xeros. “Women can start with smaller weights and complete multiple repetitions. This will not add bulk but develop definition.”

If you don’t know where to start, a personal trainer can help identify your goals and guide you through workouts, so you know you’re getting the most out of your time working out.

3. “I know I need to see my doctor; I just don’t know what to be concerned about or bring up to them.”

You know your health concerns have changed from when you were younger, but maybe you don’t know what exactly to focus on at your current age. The Office on Women’s Health makes it easy for women to understand their health at every decade and what they can do to live a healthier life. Each decade is broken down by what you can do every day and every yea, plus what tests, vaccines or medicines you should ask your doctor about in order to stay healthy.

Women’s health needs change throughout their lives, with some based on the stage of life a woman is in and others based on risk factors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the top five causes of death in American females are heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.

“Women are at a higher risk for heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes and breast cancer as they age,” says Xeros. “With all these conditions, exercise is a crucial component to help fight the effects of these diseases. The earlier one can begin to exercise, the better. Whether one is in a gym, at home, in a neighborhood, or attending group exercise classes, dancing, etc., incorporating exercise each day is the key.”

Nina Asrani, M.D., cardiologist and physician on the medical staff at Texas Health Fort Worth and at Consultants in Cardiology, a Texas Health Physicians Group practice, says women should know these critical numbers when it comes to their health:

  • Blood pressure — A number over 140/90 is generally considered hypertension, and may warrant medications.
  • Cholesterol — A routine fasting blood test can tell you your cholesterol. You want a low LDL (lousy cholesterol), and a higher HDL (healthy cholesterol). This should be discussed with your doctor, who can advise on diet and medications if needed.
  • Blood sugar — An elevated fasting blood sugar will diagnose diabetes.
  • Weight — Know your body-mass index and your waist circumference, as carrying extra weight in your belly confers a higher risk of heart disease.

4. “I just don’t have the time or resources to make healthy meals. And my kids definitely won’t eat them if I do!”

It’s no secret that healthier foods are not always the cheapest options on the menu or at the grocery store, and when you’re already so busy, you might cave and hit the drive-thru to fill up your family’s bellies and keep your wallet full, too. But just a little bit of prep, and maybe a meal-delivery service every now and then, can help keep the nutritional values of your family’s meals high while keeping the cost low.

As for getting your kids to eat those healthy meals, Denice Taylor, registered dietitian with Texas Health Arlington, says it may not be as hard as parents might think.

“You are your children’s role model,” says Taylor. “If they see you eating healthfully and exercising, they may imitate your behavior. Take your children grocery shopping with you, and teach them cooking skills when they’re young.”

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, women should enjoy a variety of foods, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, low-fat dairy and lean protein. Nutrient-rich foods provide energy for women’s busy lives and help to prevent disease.

5. “I’m just too exhausted and too stressed to get anything done regarding my health and I feel like I’m unraveling.”

Women often spend so much of their time caring for others that they forget to take good care of themselves, or maybe they don’t see the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but Liesl B. Smith, M.D., OB/GYN and physician on the medical staff at Texas Health Dallas, says that mentality sets women up for failure.

“As I often tell patients, you can’t expect to feel well if you don’t treat your body, including your brain, well,” Smith says. “Getting enough sleep, exercising adequately, eating a healthful diet (including avoiding excess alcohol), and making time for rest and relaxation are all important. Every day I have conversations with patients who complain of lack of energy, having a short fuse, not sleeping well, being overweight and other similar complaints. There’s no medication to fix poor self-care.”

Women can advocate for each other by encouraging healthier habits. Additionally, Smith encourages making small lifestyle changes that are easy to maintain but can make a big impact in the long run.

“Eat a healthy diet, which is thankfully becoming easier to do with our better access to healthful food choices in more places,” she says. “You have to make smart choices about what and how much goes in your mouth. Move every day. Some days you might get lots of exercise and some days less, but keep up the effort to do something active daily, even if it is just a walk around the block or using stairs instead of an elevator.

“Also, be aware of your mental health and don’t be afraid to access mental health care. Texas Health has greatly improved access to mental health care with their Metroplex-wide referral line (682-236-6023), which I give out to patients every day. Remember, a trained counselor can equip you with great skills to keep the stress of life from getting the better of you.”

Fitting health and fitness into your life can be tough. That’s why we’re here to help. Visit TexasHealth.org Classes and Events to find more easy ways to take care of yourself.

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