Break-Through Exercise Guidelines for Women

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Marilyn Horton gives training advice for women on the frequency and duration of exercise, as well as an effective training schedule for your overall health.

As women age, your need for regular exercise also increases. According to the Mayo Clinic’s web article entitled “Belly Fat in Women,” “Whether it’s because of heredity, hormonal changes or aging-related weight gain, many women notice an increase in belly fat as they grow older.” Your body’s natural estrogen-production actually acts against many woman trying to fit into a size two blue jean, but every woman can still exercise regularly and keep your body healthy and running efficiently. In doing so, you will also reach and easily maintain the best weight for your frame, naturally.

How Often to Train

Unless you are training for a specific event or athletic goal, your need for exercise is strictly for health, weight maintenance and overall conditioning. Continuously changing up your fitness regimen keeps your exercise routine from being just “routine.”

Plan to exercise five to six days each week, even if one day’s exercise session is no more intense than a leisurely walk around the neighborhood with a friend. Plan at least one full day of rest each week, where you do no strenuous exercise and focus on rejuvenating your body for the coming week.

Also, allow yourself a week completely off from exercise once or twice a year. So many people, but particularly women, have a tendency to feel guilty if you miss a workout or do not workout while on vacation with the family. Don’t beat yourself up about missed workouts or periodic time off from training because when you return you will feel rested, rejuvenated and ready to get back into the fitness groove.

The Benefits of Weight-Bearing Exercise

As women age, your bones and muscles deteriorate, which causes imbalance, falls, broken bones and slowed recovery. According to the online article, “Osteoporosis: Peak Bone Mass in Women,” written by the staff of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, “The best activity for your bones is weight-bearing exercise.” Train two to three times each week with weights or on weight-bearing equipment to keep your muscles toned, your bones strong and your entire body operating like a fat-burning machine.

Even if you do not have access to your own Certified Personal Trainer, you can still get a good weight-bearing workout at home. Investing in a couple of weighted dumbbells can go a long way toward your fitness goals as you perform exercises like weighted walking lunges, overhead presses and bent-over rows around your house.

Building Cardiovascular Endurance

Women tend to have a one-dimensional approach to exercise. That is, we find something we enjoy doing and we do just that every day that we exercise. This not only gets old over time but also limits your overall fitness level. Do not just find one thing you enjoy doing and always do that for your daily exercise, but add different dimensions and activities that will build well-rounded fitness.

For instance, whether or not you ever want to participate in a 5k race, being physically able to run a mile or two will benefit you in many ways from chasing your children around to more physical sexual activity. Build your cardiovascular endurance by jogging, riding a bicycle with your kids or joining in the pick-up basketball game at the local YMCA.

Duration of Exercise

However you schedule your day, your daily workout needs to be as efficient as possible to make the most of your time and your energy. According to Jeff Galloway, lifetime running coach and Olympian, in his book, Galloway’s Book on Running, it is best to aim for 40 to 60 minutes of exercise at a time to fully activate your fat stores for energy, which will help you naturally manage your weight while also satisfying your heart’s desire to be challenged.

Sample Exercise Plan

Here is an example of a week in the life of one 35-year-old woman’s workout schedule:

Monday — boot camp class at the gym

Tuesday — weight-training, upper-body muscles

Wednesday — neighborhood run with the dog

Thursday — off

Friday — weight-training, lower-body muscles

Saturday — group bike ride with the local cycling club

Sunday — off

Have fun with different ways to change up your workouts and make every day fresh and effective. Try out the new instructor at the fitness center you attend or go for a run in the park when the weather is nice, hire a personal trainer once or twice to get your weight-training jump-started or check into books, websites and blogs that include workouts and training routines. Whatever you do, get moving, get your heart pumping and make it fun so you will stick with exercise for a lifetime.

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