The onset of women’s midlife crisis is a challenge. Along with menopause and inevitable changes in family dynamics, it’s another lesson in change for women. Turning fifty, most have a remarkable resume that includes not only their professional background and experiences in the workplace, but the additional skills and knowledge gleaned from years of experience performing as nurturer, instructor, manual laborer, domestic CEO, community leader and child psychologist. Exercise, combined with sound nutrition and an upbeat attitude, offers an unbeatable formula for vigor in midlife. After compiling recent research, so great are the benefits of exercise on health, attitude, and longevity, it is safe to say, “Exercise or die.” Unfortunately, not many of us take up the challenge to improve our physical well-being. Data from the centers for disease control shows only sixteen percent of women sixty five or older exercised regularly in 1990, and this percentage decreases as we age.
Exercise strengthens the heart. Fit heart transports oxygen with greater efficiency to all parts of the body, providing more stamina as it maximizes nutrient supply. Because post-menopausal women are at greater risk for heart disease, to further benefit the heart, consult your physician about taking an aspirin daily. This simple practice may cut the risk of heart attack in half. Exercise burns fat faster, partly because it increases metabolism, and partly because it builds muscle which burns calories at a faster rate than fat does. The older you are, the more you have to gain from exercise. All it takes is thirty minutes a day, five days a week. If you can only start with five minutes of walking, then that’s what you should do. Just like it sounds, you walk out for five minutes, turn around, and walk back. Ten minutes of walking, and off you go about your day.
The good news is that regular exercise incorporated into our lifestyle can improve our heart and respiratory function, lower our blood pressure, increase our strength, improve bone density, improve flexibility, quicken our reaction time, reduce body fat, increase muscle mass, and reduce our susceptibility to depression and disease. Aerobic exercise brings additional oxygen and glucose to the brain, both of which are crucial to brain function. The body responds by forming new capillaries to bring the additional blood to nerve cells and by boosting brain chemicals that protect neurons and strengthen new neuronal connections. Exercise also promotes attention and alertness, both of which are needed to get information into your memory.
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