Carol Clements is a personal trainer in New York City.
The importance of exercise is a given when it comes to the health of a developing young girl or a maturing woman. The elements of physical fitness are the same no matter what your age: endurance, strength, flexibility, coordination, agility, core function, and balance. However the focus area for your workout may change after menopause. You don't necessarily need to exercise harder, just more consistently, and with shifting priorities.
If you've always loved your Pilates and yoga for feeling long and lean you may need to substitute strength training. Bone density and muscle mass decline after age 40. Women at risk for osteoporoses might prioritize weight lifting instead of stretch class. In that case, if swimming was your aerobic exercise of choice consider weight bearing cardiovascular exercise. You want to maintain a healthy weight and heart but the way you get there could address another area of health as well. Or, conversely, say you've always used running as your exercise regimen. Be open to taking a yoga class so you won't feel so stiff and lose range of motion. There are great yoga DVDs available for beginners. Martial arts and dance are core function building as well. Even if you have no time for another exercise class you can improve balance by standing on one foot while you tie your shoes or get something out of the refrigerator.
With metabolic rate declining with age, especially post-menopause, you may notice stored fuel around the waist and general weight gain. Scheduling regular aerobic workouts to burn calories and boost metabolism is more important now. If you've become more sedentary in your daily life, that's going to compound the problem. Can't squeeze in another cardiovascular gym session? Then socialize with physical activity as the impetus. Walks in the park are better than meeting for drinks and pasta. Choose weekend family fun centered around easy sports or projects instead of background television luring you to just sitting around. "Change" is the key word in the expression "Change of Life".
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