Being Active Through The Ages –
Regular physical activity is important for women’s health and wellbeing. However, different life stages call for different amounts and types of exercise.
Smartplay, Sports Medicine Australia’s sports injury prevention program, funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing explains the importance and variance of physical activity throughout these various stages.
Going through adolescence is an exciting, but often difficult time for many teenage girls. Encouragement to participate in regular physical activity can help in managing this transition.
Girls often experience many emotional and physical changes during adolescence. These changes are usually a result of many things happening at once:
- Mood changes caused by the increases in hormones during puberty
- Embarrassment as bodies begin to appear different
- The large demand on energy stores as the body changes, which can lead to fluctuating energy levels.
- Regular physical activity can help with these transitions, evening out emotional changes, including mood swings, improving self esteem, and helping to prevent depression and anxiety.
- Despite the importance of physical activity for overall health and fitness, many girls are less active during their teenage years.
- Reasons for this can include a lack of time, competing priorities such as part time work, school and family
commitments, self consciousness and a lack of positive role models. Another deterrence can be the beginning of menstrual cycles.
- All teenage girls should do at least 60 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity every day (even during menstrual cycles. Physical activity may help to relieve the discomfort often associated with periods).
- This could include such activities as brisk walking, bike riding, dancing, running, netball and swimming.
Building physical activity into a daily routine and avoiding sedentary activities will help develop a routine for good health during and beyond the teenage years. This is important as active teenagers are more likely to become active adults and prevent many health problems linked to inactivity.
• Helps maintain a healthy body weight
• Makes muscles and bones stronger
• Improves fitness, strength, stamina and flexibility
• Improves heart health
• Provides an opportunity to have fun, interact with friends and/or family and learn how to work in a team.
• Increases self-esteem
• Decreases stress and depression
Increasing your daughter’s physical activity – tips for parents:
• Build exercise into your family routine.
• Discover your daughter’s potential interests. For example, if she likes
watching tennis, she may like to take lessons.
• Try out different things. Most gyms offer the first class for free. This can
help you experiment with activities that may be appealing.
• Help your daughter find time to exercise.
• Talk to your daughter’s friends and their parents and suggest they do an
activity together. Consider a same sex rather than co-ed activity to avoid
For more information on exercising during the teenage years visit www.sma.org.au and download the Growing Up with Exercise fact sheet.
20s/ 30s Stage
During the 20s and 30s many women often neglect exercise for work or family. However by participating in exercise women are better placed to cope with the stresses of this very demanding life stage.
Developing healthy habits through the 20s and 30s will not only allow women to be healthy and active providing better results for their work and family but will also help to avoid medical conditions such as osteoporosis.
Exercise is also beneficial during and after pregnancy, which is a common life stage experienced by women during their 20s and 30s.
Exercise During Pregnancy
Women who exercise during pregnancy achieve better weight control, improved mood and help prevent the onset of gestational diabetes.
But how much exercise is safe?
Healthy women with uncomplicated pregnancies can continue their previous exercise program after consultation with their doctor. Exercise programs can also be started during pregnancy.
There is no safe ‘upper’ limit of exercise but by the third trimester no more than three sessions per week of vigorous exercise is recommended. Activities which require a degree of balance, rapid changes in direction, jumping, excessive stretching and jerky movements should be avoided.
Exercise After Pregnancy
Exercise after birth can hasten recovery, assist with muscle strength and toning, reduce anxiety and depression, and increase vitality.
After a normal vaginal delivery, gentle exercise including pelvic floor, abdominal exercises and walking can be commenced when comfortable. More intense exercise should be delayed for up to six weeks. After caesarean section, six weeks is the recommended time to return to exercise if the wound is well healed.
As a guide women should wait until at least one week after they no longer feel any discomfort and have been to their doctor for a check up. Walking is the simplest exercise to start, as the baby is readily transportable in the pram.
Please note: all exercise during and after pregnancy should be discussed with your doctor and stopped if abnormal symptoms occur. Further information can be found in this article too.
Tips for exercise after giving birth:
• Start gradually
• Warm up
• Drink plenty of water
• Start with low impact exercise
• Wear comfortable and appropriate footwear
• Wear a supportive bra
• Exercise after breast feeding
• Include pelvic floor exercises
• Eat regular meals and snacks
• Choose nutrient dense foods
For more information on exercising during the 20s and 30s visit www.sma.org.au and download the Exercise in pregnancy and exercise and wellbeing after pregnancy fact sheets.
40s, 50s and Beyond Stage
As women enter their 40s, 50s and beyond, health and fitness issues are as important as ever. Being active improves strength and balance to prevent falls and fractures, and helps reduce disease and illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes and osteoporosis. Many women also start to experience the onset of menopause, which can be a stressful time in life.
Exercise During Menopause
Regular exercise is important for women as they transition into menopause for many reasons. It decreases body fat which reduces the risk of common chronic diseases including osteoarthritis; cardiovascular disease; gall bladder disease; type 2 diabetes; breast, colon and endometrial cancer; hypertension and stroke; minimises the physical changes associated with menopause; and contributes to positive mental health and wellbeing.
Women with menopause should undertake aerobic exercise which involves jumping and hopping to maintain and increase bone density, resistance training to prevent cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, and balance training to decrease the risk of falls and fractures.
Resistance training can include training with weights, pilates, yoga and simple strengthening exercises that can be easily incorporated into your daily life. These could include squatting down to take the washing from the basket or standing up from a chair without using your arms.
Balance training is also important as balance begins to decline in menopause and beyond due to changes in muscle mass, strength, coordination, nerve conduction, vision and mental awareness. Tai chi is a great way to improve balance.
As women continue to age, they continually face new health obstacles. Osteoporosis becomes something to which women need to pay close attention. To help prevent the onset of osteoporosis women need to exercise, as active women are less at risk.
Regular weight training or weight bearing exercise such as jogging, tennis or aerobics (one hour, three times a week) increases and maintains bone density.
Regular exercise will also improve balance, coordination and agility which may help to prevent falls and subsequent fractures.
For more information on exercising during the 40s, 50s and beyond visit Sports Medicine Australia.