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Five Amazing Things Being Active Does for a Woman’s Health

Updated: Mar 19



Julia “Hurricane” Hawkins started running at age 100.  By 101, she was an age group world record holder in the 100 meters.  She set another world record at age 105.  While Julia’s amazing longevity and athletic abilities are no doubt partly related to good genetics and good luck, she has also led a life full of physical activity, including gardening and cycling. Julia credits her active lifestyle for her continued good health at age 108.  And she’s right. Want to roar through life like the “Hurricane”?  Read on for five amazing benefits of staying active.

 

Bone Health About 90% of bone mass is achieved by age 18 with peak bone density occurring around age 30.  Participation in weight bearing forms of exercise, including sports that involve multi-directional forces like basketball or tennis can help maximize peak bone mass.  Continued participation in weight-bearing activity can help a woman maintain as much of her bone mass as possible as she ages, which decreases the risk of an osteoporosis-related fracture, a leading cause of disability later in life.  Walking and running are good, but so are activities that load bones from unpredictable directions like pickleball and Zumba.  Lifting weights adds an additional positive stress on bones as the muscle contractions pull on the bones and the bone responds by becoming stronger in that area.

 

Heart Health Physical activity has numerous benefits for the health of the heart. Active people have lower blood pressure and blood lipid levels. They are less likely to develop cardiovascular disease and less likely to die from diseases of the heart or blood vessels.  Regular activity also strengthens the heart muscle itself thus contributing to increased tolerance to exercise.  This allows someone to do more without resting whether that’s going on a hike, chasing kids around the yard or spending hours in the garden.

 

Muscular Strength, Endurance, Flexibility and Balance The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that healthy adults participate in 150-300 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic activity or 75-150 minutes of vigorous activity as well as do resistance training twice per week.  Walking at 3.0 mph, bicycling at 10-12 mph or doing heavy cleaning all count as moderate intensity activity. Accumulated bouts of just 10 minutes at a time can improve health. Activities like walking, running or cycling improve cardiovascular and muscular endurance, while lifting weights improves strength.  Strength training can lower the risk of sustaining an injury in other sports. In addition, lifting weights can help maintain muscle mass and stronger adults are more likely to maintain their physical independence as they age. Other activities such as yoga, Pilates, and Tai Chi can improve flexibility and balance, which may help decrease fall risk with aging.

 

Brain Health Exercise is great for the brain as physical activity increases brain blood flow and perfusion, thereby helping to improve cognition and memory.  Staying active through the lifespan also lowers the risk of developing age-related dementia by 28% and Alzheimer’s by 45%.  Exercise affects the brain positively in the short-term as well with improved mood, resilience, and a lower risk of depression and anxiety. 

 

Sleep Few things are as refreshing as a great night of sleep and quality sleep is crucially important to the maintenance of overall good health. Physical activity has been shown to help people fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, thus improving both sleep quality and duration. This is partly a function of exercise’s impact on melatonin production, a hormone that helps regulate sleep-wake cycles. Interestingly, moderate activity seems to enhance sleep quality more than vigorous exercise in some studies. As noted above, exercise improves mood and reduces stress, both of which positively impact sleep. Like exercise’s effect on brain health, quality sleep is associated with improved memory, learning and cognitive functions.

 

Physical activity has numerous positive benefits to a woman’s bones, heart, muscles, brain, sleep and overall well-being. Stay active! While there is no guarantee you will earn a cool nickname and set world records in your 100s, exercise will likely help you live longer and live better!


This article orginally appeared in the monthly participant e-newsletter to PNC Women Run the Cities entrants. Learn more about the event here.


Photo by Ben Garvin.


 

Kristen Gerlach, PT, PhD, is a physical therapist who specializes in working with runners. She is one of the team of Motion Experts TCM has gathered to help its subscribers and participants get the most out of their running. Have a question for Kristen: [email protected] or website: instridemnpt.com.


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