May 10th-16th is National Women’s Health Week, and it’s a great opportunity for women of all ages to take a moment from their busy schedules and think about their health and wellbeing. Here are a few tips to help you reach your fitness and wellness goals safely, effectively, and while having some fun:
Strength training is fantastic for women and goes beyond the obvious benefits of losing weight, gaining muscle tone, and improving your cardiovascular fitness. Having a stronger musculoskeletal system will help you throughout your day-to-day activities, increase your bone strength, reduce your risk of fractures, help prevent certain health complications, and improve your mental outlook! When most people think of strength training the first thing they picture is weights, but that isn’t the only way. Barre classes use high repetitions and body weight to build muscle and are a fun, challenging way to engage the areas where we tend to soften with age, such as the triceps, calves, abdominals and gluts. Hatha yoga, or the physical part of yoga, is a great way to maintain strength as it incorporates both strengthening and stretching. Most of us spend a lot of time sitting throughout the day, and our muscles get tight and tend to change (and not for the better). Yoga is a great way to address that.
If you do want to practice weightlifting, take a look at this post: Women’s Weightlifting Tips. If you’re just getting started using free weights and/or weight machines, work with a certified fitness professional at first to learn how to use the equipment safely and gain the fundamentals of proper form. A little knowledge goes a long way towards preventing injuries.
Women often adopt a forward-leaning position in their bodies with their shoulders rounded forward. This puts us at risk for getting neck or low back pain due to the compressive forces on our structures. Think about lifting your breast bone to the ceiling-this will take the pressure off of your lower back, putting your mid back in a good position to put your neck in a neutral spot. This post by Anna Ribaudo, PT, DPT, OP offers some more great tips for women and men alike: Seven Tips for Great Posture.
How Do You Know When You’ve Pushed Yourself Too Hard While Exercising?
That aching you feel in your muscles in the day or so following a workout is normal; it’s called delayed onset muscle soreness and it’s completely natural, especially when you first start running or exercising after not being active for a while. However, you should feel the soreness on both sides of your body and it shouldn’t last more than a few days. If a joint or muscle on one side of your body hurts more than the other, it’s painful to move, or the soreness lingers, these may be red flags that your body has been pushed too hard and you should seek the advice of a physician or physical therapist.
The Best Workout is the One You Like to Do!
If you’re trying to get in shape, find something that you enjoy doing and that fits your lifestyle. If you’re a busy mom, try getting the whole family involved by taking a walk together after dinner. If you don’t enjoy being in the gym, take advantage of the nice weather over the spring and summer to get outside and bike or run. If you enjoy team sports, join an athletic club or intramural team. Whatever form of exercise you choose, listen to your body and modify your activity levels as needed. It’s good to challenge yourself, but an injury will only set you back so incorporate new exercises into your program slowly. New runners should be mindful to increase their speed and mileage gradually over time. Another option is to try a basics level strength training, running for beginners through a running club, yoga, barre or Pilates class so that you can learn the fundamentals of that form of exercise and set yourself up for more success in the long run.
Do you enjoy listening to music while working out? Check out this playlist created by Certified Athletic Trainer Kara Federowicz in honor of National Women’s Health Week!
Cara Ann Senicola is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, Board Certified Clinical Specialist in Orthopedics, a USA Track and Field level 1 Certified Running Coach, and a certified yoga instructor with HSS Rehabilitation. She is currently working towards a manual therapy certification through the University of St. Augustine. Her clinical interests include orthopedics and sports medicine, with a special interest in treating runners and triathletes.