Memorial Regional Health: Exercising for health, not just for weight loss — Women who exercise for overall health benefits experience a better quality of life, research shows
- The American Heart Association recommends that healthy adults engage in flexibility training two to three days per week, stretching major muscle and tendon groups.
- Flexibility training or stretching exercise is another important part of overall fitness. It may help older adults preserve the range of motion they need to perform daily tasks and other physical activities.
- For older adults, the American Heart Association and American College of Sports Medicine recommend two days a week of flexibility training, in sessions at least 10 minutes long. Older adults who are at risk of falling should also do exercises to improve their balance.
- Aerobic activity: Get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity each week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity. The guidelines suggest you spread out this exercise through the course of a week.
- Strength training: Do strength training exercises for all major muscle groups at least two times each week. Aim to do a single set of each exercise, using a weight or resistance level heavy enough to tire your muscles after about 12 to 15 repetitions.
Editor’s note: The following content is sponsored by Memorial Regional Health.
Weight loss is often a goal for women embarking on a new exercise routine, but exercise can also boost mental and physical health to improve quality of life and promote longevity.
On the heels of Women’s Health and Fitness Day, Memorial Regional Health wants to remind local women that fitness is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. While it can help women reach weight loss goals, it should be part of a lifestyle routine, regardless of a need or desire to lose weight.
“It is important to focus on exercising for your health and overall well-being, not just for weight loss,” said Ericka Lucas, physical therapy manager at Memorial Regional Health. “Find some time for you — you are worth it.”
Women face various societal roles and pressures that can get in the way of maintaining a healthy weight. They’re often full-time employees, mothers, and caregivers, making it difficult to find time to spend on themselves, Lucas said.
“A lot of times, this stress can play into weight gain,” she said.
Health as the motive
One study looking at women who exercised with the specific goal of weight loss found that women who exercised did not lose significantly more weight than women who did not exercise. The study, published in the International Journal of Liberal Arts And Social Science, showed that a woman’s motive for exercising plays an important role in the benefits exercise provides.
“In light of these findings, it is reasonable to suspect that if one exercises for weight loss and this motive is not fulfilled, the effects of exercise on quality of life may be different than if one were exercising for an alternative motive, such as health reasons and improved health is attained,” the study said.
Lucas said it’s important for women to find an exercise or activity that is enjoyable in order to stick to a healthy routine.
“If you enjoy it, you will be more likely to do it,” Lucas said. “Whether it be walking, jogging, doing exercises at home, joining a gym, etc.”
Don’t skip the weights
Strength training increases lean body mass, decreases fat mass, and increases resting metabolic rate in adults, according to research.
“While strength training on its own typically does not lead to weight loss, its beneficial effects on body composition may make it easier to manage one’s weight and ultimately reduce the risk of disease by slowing the gain of fat — especially abdominal fat,” according to Harvard Medical School.
Fighting abdominal fat happens with aerobic exercise, strength training, and a healthy diet. Unfortunately, Lucas said specific exercises that target the belly are not effective in reducing belly fat.
“This is a common misconception,” she said. “There is no such thing as ‘spot-training.’ You cannot simply do abdominal exercises and lose belly fat — it doesn’t work that way. The only way women can target their midsection is by losing weight — by eating healthy and exercising.”
With resistance training, women can not only fight a slowing metabolism as they age, they can also fight osteoporosis. Resistance training promotes good bone health, Lucas said.
“Everyone can perform some type of resistance training or weight-bearing exercise,” she said. “Even walking is considered a weight-bearing exercise and can help strengthen bones.”