Wendy Hoffman blogs about menopause and women's health—particularly focusing on how diet and nutrition can positively affect a woman's life around the age of menopause.See all posts »
What Gets You Moving?
Not too long ago, I wrote several columns for this blog about the many health benefits of being physically active. I told you about studies that showed how regular exercise can alleviate menopausal symptoms and even improve cognitive function if we stay at it. One column focused on how we could realize these benefits and more in only 20 minutes of high intensity interval training. But the findings of a recently published study that explored what really gets sedentary people moving convinced me that the information I provided (with links to studies you could read) probably did little if anything to move the needle for many of you.
In her Personal Health column this week, New York Times writer Jane Brody, reports on a study of overweight middle-aged men and women that reveals what really gets people “off their duff.” Apparently, It isn’t the promise of a healthy old age, a svelte body or low blood pressure. Rather, for women especially, it’s the goal of enhancing the quality of their life now that seems to have the most influence.
“Sustaining physical activity is a motivational and emotional issue, not a medical one,” says Dr. Michelle Segar of the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at the University of Michigan, whose study was the subject of Brody's column. In other words, framing a discussion about exercise in terms of cardiovascular benefits, weight management or bone health doesn’t ring the bell for a lot of people.
That started me thinking about my own views about exercise and what motivates me. I play tennis several times a week, mostly doubles with other women. We play and gab and I enjoy the camaraderie and competition. I also do strength training at a fitness center where everyone is all business and there’s little conversation. I count my reps and try to keep my heartbeat up. I can’t say that I enjoy it, but I like the way I feel afterwards and I am usually very productive after a morning workout.
I also sleep a lot better on the days when I’ve exerted myself. A good night sleep, in turn, makes me more energetic the next day and, as my husband will tell you, I have a better disposition.
But I’m also very mindful of my ultimate goal, which is to be physically fit in my later years so I can continue enjoying an active life, hopefully without disease. We all know women in their 60s and 70s who are strong enough to swim three miles or hike for hours, while others suffer from arthritis and gerd. What separates them? And who do you want to model your life after?
I’d put myself in both camps: exercise for stress relief and well-being now and good health in the future. How about you? What keeps you committed to an exercise program (or could get you started)?
I’ll open up a discussion on my Facebook page and would love to get your feedback.
Wendy Hoffman writes about women’s health at www.menopausetheblog.com.