Physical Activities And Exercise For Women In Midlife

Amelie, a 52-year-old software engineer, has been managing her diet-controlled type II diabetes for five years. Despite her efforts, her hemoglobin A1C and morning fasting blood sugar levels remain a concern. Her doctors have suggested regular exercise as a potential solution, debunking the common misconception that daily activities are enough to maintain a healthy weight. They explain that while Amelie’s active work routine is beneficial, it may not be sufficient for her specific health needs.

Let’s clear up a common misconception. There’s a difference between physical activity and exercise. Physical activity is any movement that uses your muscles and burns energy. It could be as simple as gardening, running errands, or doing household chores. On the other hand, exercise is a specific type of physical activity. It’s designed to improve your fitness in areas like muscle strength, endurance, cardiovascular health, body composition, and flexibility. This could include regular endurance or strength training at a level that provides health benefits.

Benefits of Exercise for Midlife Women

There are various kinds of physical activities and exercise for women in midlife, such as resistance training, endurance training, yoga, freehand, stretching, and others. Which type of exercise is best for you depends on multiple factors. Specific exercises perform specific functions, but almost every focused exercise imparts certain general benefits.

• Resistance training in gyms and fitness centers is primarily focused on increasing muscle cross-sectional area, increasing or preserving bone mineral density, and increasing muscle strength.
• Endurance exercises such as fast walking, jogging, swimming, and aerobics increase aerobic capacity, reduce blood pressure, reduce fatigue and reduce anxiety.
• Yoga undoubtedly increases flexibility, stretches your body, and, in the long run, increases muscular strength and endurance.
• Stretching and freehand exercises reduce fall rate, increase flexibility, and increase positive feelings.

Regular Physical Activity

In many studies, it has been proven that even moderate levels of physical activity and exercise for women in midlife have significant health benefits for women. Even burning as low as 150 kilocalories per day or 1000 kilocalories per week can lead to lower coronary diseases by 50% and other related ailments such as hypertension, diabetes and colon cancer by 30%. The reduced risk of various ailments does not entirely depend on regular physical activity but also various factors such as age, smoking habit, alcohol usage, history of hypertension, cholesterol and others. However, regular, physically active women are 50% less prone to various diseases such as diabetes, psychosomatic symptoms associated with menopause and others.

Studies have shown that regular physical activity can also minimize the risk of colon cancer in women. Certain mechanisms involved in physical activity help reduce the risk.

• Less transit time in the bowel, which reduces the risk of exposure to carcinogens.
• The colon mucosal cells’ growth depends on insulin action, and physical activity decreases in insulin action.
• Physical activity increase prostaglandin F2α, which further increases intestinal motility.
• It also reduces in prostaglandin E2, which increases colon cell proliferation.

Examples of Moderate Levels of Physical Activity

Less vigorous, more time

• Washing a car for 45–60 minutes.
• Playing volleyball for 45 minutes
• Gardening for 30–45 minutes
• Wheeling oneself in a wheelchair for 30–40 minutes
• Walking 1.75 miles in 35 minutes (20-min mile pace)
• Basketball (shooting baskets) for 30 minutes
• Bicycling five miles in 30 minutes
• Pushing a stroller 1.5 miles in 30 minutes
• Raking leaves for 30 minutes

More vigorous, less time

• Dancing fast (social) for 30 minutes
• Water aerobics for 30 minutes
• Bicycling four miles in 15 minutes
• Jumping rope for 15 minutes
• Shoveling snow for 15 minutes
• Walking stairs for 15 minutes

Exercise Prescription for Healthy Populations

Resistance Training

Resistance training is beneficial for both men and women, especially middle-aged women who want to cut fat, strengthen bones and build some muscles. The problem with resistance training is you require a gym and a good trainer, which are often not possible, especially for working women. However, this form of exercise is best to stimulate the neuromuscular system. In a generally healthy population, resistance training can be performed with exercise machines or with free weights.

Machines offer more safety for beginners and isolate muscle groups more so than free weights. However, free weights require the individual to use accessory/stabiliser muscles, as they would naturally in daily life, and improve strength more than training on machines. Free weights also concurrently train balance, strength, and coordination – similar to the demands of daily activities. Household items (rice bags, jugs of water, soup cans, etc.) can also be used for resistance instead of metal weights or a cable system. For an individual with no resistance training experience, machines should be used initially to increase strength so that a progression to free weights can be made safely.

Endurance Training

Endurance training improves the cardiovascular system. The training is designed to involve the rhythmic movements of large muscle groups. For example, running, fast walking, swimming, aerobics, etc., are modes of endurance training. Intensity and duration are related inversely, such that a reduction in intensity requires an increase in duration. Any of these variables can be manipulated within and between exercise sessions. For example, in a three-days-a-week exercise program, day one = 40 minutes of treadmill walking at 65% HRmax, day two = 10 minutes of bicycling at 70% HRmax, 10 minutes of intervals at 90% HRmax, then five minutes at 60% HRmax, and day three = 20 minutes of swimming at 80% HRmax. All three variations can provide health and fitness benefits.


Due to the various physiological shifts that begin in early middle age, these years provide a significant chance for a woman to influence her present and future well-being. Engaging in exercise and physical activity can delay the age-related changes (declining muscle strength, power, aerobic capacity, and bone mineral density) that may increase the risk of dependence and disability. It is recommended that women (and all adults) aim to be physically active for a minimum of 30 minutes, most if not all, days of the week to reap the health advantages.

Engaging in consistent physical activity and exercise can lead to beneficial enhancements in both health and fitness. Even moderate levels of physical activity can lower the likelihood of developing specific cancers, heart issues, diabetes, and obesity. Resistance training is effective in maintaining or even enhancing bone density while also increasing muscle mass, strength, and overall power. Additionally, endurance training can help lower resting heart rate, enhance blood lipid levels, reduce blood pressure, and boost aerobic capacity.

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