Fitness and Women’s Health
September is National Yoga Month and September 25 marks the 12th annual celebration of National Women’s Health and Fitness Day. In light of these two milestones, it is appropriate to explore the role of exercise in women’s health.
Women of all ages are faced with ailments that can be reduced and in some cases, overcome, due to a regular exercise regimen. From the time a girl starts dealing with the hormonal ups and downs of puberty to when she experiences the hot flashes of menopause, she is made aware of her body and the need for a healthy lifestyle.
While going through puberty or any major hormonal shift, women may experience changes in metabolism, varied levels of stress, inconsistent sleep patterns and intermittent pain. As a woman comes into her 30s, she will begin to experience a loss of bone mass that can lead to osteoporosis or its precursor, osteopenia, later in life.
Prenatal and postnatal women will encounter many different changes in their body that translate into issues such as sleep deprivation, back pain, inability to cope with stress and the effect of pregnancy on posture. Menopause brings with it symptoms of hot flashes, increased anxiety and joint pain. These can all be managed with regular exercise.
The exercises best suited for women’s health are resistance training, stretching, aerobics and weight-bearing activities. Resistance training can be accomplished in different forms, with the most notable being Pilates, which assists healthy aging by making it possible to build muscle mass and bone density, increase endurance and boost metabolism. Another form of resistance exercise is total body TRX Suspension Training. Flexibility is key to maintaining sufficient range of motion in joints and reducing pain and muscle spasms by stretching the areas that are afflicted.
Yoga is the best-known way of achieving a more flexible body while improving balance and mental clarity. It can also help manage depression, anxiety, high blood pressure and feelings of anger and fear by focusing on the present, meditating and breathing. Pilates and yoga both increase circulation, bringing oxygen to vital organs and muscle groups. Aerobic activity is effective in increasing circulation and also burns calories, conditions the heart and enables better lung function.
Three popular forms of aerobic exercise include classes in Barre, TRX Suspension Training and Kangoo Jumps. These are not only great ways of increasing cardiac output, but are also fun, low-impact ways to accomplish fitness goals. Load- or weight-bearing exercise is essential for healthy bones and decreased risk of fall or injury. By using one’s own body weight as resistance within standing exercises such as Kangoo Jumps, Barre and yoga, bone density scores will rise and joint pain will decrease.
Regular activity for women lowers cholesterol levels, improves the quality of sleep and elevates energy levels. It also increases serotonin levels while decreasing cortisol, so that an individual’s mood is heightened and they can experience life to its fullest. Especially with yoga exercise, women can find themselves experiencing feelings of joy, solace, reflection, being part of a community and both emotional and physical balance. The practice of yoga allows individuals to be at one with their body and in turn, gain the ability to accept themselves fully.
Susan Clark, PTA, is the owner of Pure Pilates, 221 Gulf Breeze Pkwy., in Gulf Breeze, and has been Pilates certified since 2003. Amanda Olney, office manager of Pure Pilates, graduated from the University of West Florida with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology. For more information, call 850-932-3424 or visit PurePilatesPensacola.com.