National Women’s Health and Fitness Day: How Much Physical Exercise Do You Need?

September 27th is National Women’s Health and Fitness Day. As we’ve talked about in some previous blog posts, physical activity is important for normal growth and development, both mentally and physically. In fact, getting exercise can help reduce the risk of certain diseases or help you sleep better at night. Most of us know this, however, we frequently get questions from patients concerning how much physical exercise is right for them.

With National Women’s Health and Fitness Day approaching, we decided to cover some exercise basics to help you understand just how much is right for you or your children at every age – because your physical activity needs change as you get older.

Exercise for Children and Adolescents

Childhood and adolescence are important periods for developing movement skills and learning healthy habits that will form a foundation for lifelong health. Physical activity for children not only promotes strong muscles and bones, but it also benefits brain health and cognition.

For school-age children, performing moderate to vigorous exercise for 60 minutes a day can provide significant health benefits. These 60 minutes can be broken up into periods throughout the day, and should include aerobic, muscle-strengthening, and bone-strengthing exercises

Aerobic Activity

Most of a child or adolescent’s daily exercise should consist of aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercises are activities that move your large muscles for an extended period of time and increase cardiorespiratory fitness. Some moderate to vigorous aerobic exercises for children and teens include:

  • Playing on the playground
  • Tumbling or gymnastics
  • Riding a bike
  • Running or jumping rope
  • Games that require throwing, like baseball or softball
  • Activities like swimming, kayaking, or hiking
  • Helping with yard work
  • Active sports like soccer or basketball

Muscle-Strengthening Activity

In addition to aerobic exercise, school-age children should also spend some time performing muscle-strengthening activities. These are exercises that overload the muscles or make them do more work than they would typically. Some muscle-strengthing activities include:

  • Tug of war
  • Climbing on playground equipment
  • Gymnastics
  • Climbing ropes or trees
  • Some forms of yoga
  • Resistance exercises using resistance bands, body weights, or hand-held weights

Bone-Strengthening Activity

The third type of exercise that is essential for childhood and adolescent growth is bone-strengthening activities. These are exercises that produce a force on the bones, promoting bone growth and strength. This is usually done by making impact with the ground. Here are some examples of bone-strengthening activities:

  • Hopping, skipping, or jumping rope
  • Gymnastics
  • Running
  • Sports that involve jumping or quick changes in direction

It’s important for children of all ages to be encouraged to spend time being active in a variety of ways. This will help them develop not just physically, but also mentally, to continue these healthy habits through the rest of their lives.

Exercise for Adults

Active adults often have more health benefits than inactive adults. They feel better, sleep better, and are less likely to develop certain diseases and chronic conditions, like diabetes or cardiovascular diseases. Regular to moderate exercise helps to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, even with just one session of physical activity.

For adults, completing 150 to 300 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week helps you to achieve health benefits, and helps you perform everyday tasks, like carrying groceries or climbing stairs, with ease. Muscle-strengthening activities also provide health benefits and help the overall activity of adults.

Aerobic Activity

As we talked about earlier in this post, aerobic activities are exercises that move your large muscles for an extended period of time and increase cardiorespiratory fitness, sometimes referred to as cardio. When adults reach the recommended 150 minutes of aerobic activity each week, their health benefits increase. As they perform more aerobic exercise, moving towards 300 minutes each week, the health benefits become even more substantial. However, the amount of physical activity is more important than the length of each episode.

Here are some examples of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise for adults:

  • Taking a brisk walk at 2.5 miles per hour (or faster)
  • Bicycling slower than 10 miles per hour (on level terrain)
  • Active forms of yoga
  • General home or yard work
  • Jogging or running
  • Swimming laps
  • Bicycling faster than 10 miles per hour
  • Hiking uphill or with a heavy backpack
  • Intense exercise classes like kickboxing or step aerobics

Muscle-Strengthening Activity

Performing muscle-strengthening exercises provide adults with other health benefits that aerobic exercise does not. Muscle-strengthening exercises can increase your bone strength and help you maintain muscle mass while losing weight. These activities make your muscles do more work than they would in a typical day. There is no specific time that’s recommended for muscle-strengthening exercises for adults, but it is recommended to perform these exercises at least two times a week in addition to aerobic exercise.

Some examples of muscle-strengthening exercises for adults are:

  • Lifting weights
  • Working with a resistance band
  • Calisthenics, like pull-ups, push-ups, or a plank
  • Carrying heavy loads
  • Performing heavy yard work

As adults, maintaining a combination of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise and muscle-strengthening activities can help you stay healthy, continue to perform daily tasks at work or around the house, and feel better overall.

Exercise for Post-Menopausal & Older Women

Continuing the pattern of a healthy lifestyle and exercise into older adulthood and post-menopause provides a number of health benefits. But, if you’re a woman post-menopause who hasn’t always been active, don’t worry! It’s never too late to start.

Being active can help you with daily activities, and for women in their 80’s or 90’s can help maintain the ability to do key tasks on their own, like bathing, dressing, getting in and out of bed, and moving around the house or neighborhood. Older adults who are physically active are less likely to experience falls, and if they do, they are less likely to be seriously injured. Additionally, being active can preserve your mobility and improve your physical condition, even in adults that are considered obese or frail.

For older adults, exercise guidelines are very similar to those of younger adults. These guidelines recommend performing 150 to 300 minutes of aerobic exercise each week and muscle-strengthening exercises at least two times each week. Some examples of aerobic exercise are:

  • Walking or hiking
  • Recreational swimming
  • Classes like water aerobics
  • Bicycling, either stationary or outdoors
  • Some forms of yoga
  • Jogging or running

Forms of muscle-strengthening include:

  • Lifting free weights or using weight machines
  • Using resistance bands
  • Performing bodyweight exercises like push-ups or pull-ups
  • Carrying heavy loads or performing heavy garden or yard work

While it’s important to encourage an active lifestyle in people of all ages, this is especially true for older adults. Older adults tend to be more sedentary than other groups, so finding the time for physical exercise can really improve their physical ability and reduce the risk of chronic conditions, like diabetes, arthritis, and other diseases like dementia.

Exercise for Pregnant and Postpartum Women

When it comes to pregnant and postpartum women exercising, there is a bit more of a discussion on the risks and benefits. Generally, however, it has been found that the benefits of exercising while pregnant or postpartum far outweigh the risks.

Exercising while pregnant provides women with health benefits for their overall health. Some of the benefits include reducing excessive weight gain, the risk of gestational diabetes, and symptoms of postpartum depression. Certain studies have also found that exercising while pregnant may reduce the risk of complications, such as preeclampsia or Cesarean sections, as well as the time of labor and recovery.

Pregnant and postpartum women should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise each week. Women who already performed vigorous or intense exercise before becoming pregnant can continue with these exercises, provided they speak with their doctor about their activity throughout their pregnancy. Some aerobic exercises include:

  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Jogging or running
  • Hiking
  • Some forms of yoga
  • Bicycling

Women who are pregnant should avoid exercises that involve lying on the back during the first trimester of pregnancy and contact or collision sports with a high risk of abdominal trauma.

Before deciding how much physical activity to perform while pregnant or postpartum, make sure to discuss it with one of our doctors so that we can help you figure out what, if anything, you need to adjust during exercises. As with any other individual beginning to exercise, pregnant and postpartum women should begin slowly and then increase their exercise level gradually over time.

National Women’s Health and Fitness Day at A Woman’s Healing Center

At a Woman’s Healing Center, we are big proponents for women’s health. We want you to look and feel your best, throughout all the stages of your life! If you’re interested in learning about exercise and weight loss from A Woman’s Healing Center, take a look at our Team Weight Loss Program!

If you’d like to talk to one of our doctors about getting active while pregnant or later in life, please reach out to us! We’d be happy to answer any and all questions you might have. You can also fill out the form below to request an appointment or take a look at this information from the CDC on getting exercise. It’s never too late to begin, so why not start on National Women’s Health and Fitness Day!