An important part of a wellness is exercise but starting an exercise program can be daunting for those who haven't exercised much or at all in their adult lives. Many women think its too late to begin a fitness program especially after the age of 40. They believe they are too old or too out of shape for it to make a difference in their lives. Well that's just absolutely not true. To prove my point, let me introduce you to a few women who realized you're never too old to improve your fitness and quality of life:
Sister Madonna Buder:
Her nickname is "Iron Nun" due to her extensive Ironman career that didn't begin until she was over 50. She joined the Catholic convent at 23 and has served as a nun for over 65 years. She didn't start running until she was 48. Sister Madonna did her first triathlon at 53 and has now completed over 360 triathlons and 45 full Ironman competitions (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, 26.2-mile run)! When she was 82 she became the oldest person to complete an Ironman. Her motto is something we can all live by: “The only failure is not to try, because your effort in itself is a success.
Ernestine Shepherd didn't start exercising regularly until the age of 56. She wanted to be able to wear "short skimpy shorts" but was unhappy with how her legs looked so she decided to work hard "to tighten up her thighs" and she started bodybuilding and running. Since then she has won two bodybuilding titles, and has run nine marathons. She leads exercise classes for seniors at her church and has worked as a trainer. In 2010, the Guinness Book of World Records declared her to be the oldest competitive female bodybuilder in the world. Ernestine says since she started bodybuilding she has never been happier and " once you start exercising it’s a whole new ball game”.
Pat Gallant-Charette started swimming at the age of 48. She wanted to honor her brother who was a swimmer and died suddenly while only 34. He had won the Peaks to Portland 2.4 mile swim earlier in his life and Pat decided to enter the race herself to honor her brother's memory. At that time she was a full time nurse with kids at home. Now, 20 years later at the age of 68 she is a marathon swimmer and has set records swimming over 24 hours and 32 miles! And she's getting faster! She is only the 4th person in history and the oldest to accomplish the Triple Crown of Lake Monster Swims and has no plans to retire. In her words:
"It was gradual steps that brought me to realize that you're never too old to go out and get your dream, you're never too old to improve your fitness."
Quite inspirational, right? Now while most of us will never rise to the achievement levels of these amazing women, I hope we can all acknowledge that it really is never to late to start exercising. So let's review the reasons why exercise is necessary.
Why Exercise Is Important At Any Age:
We all know exercise is good for us but here are a few facts to help remind you why it's important:
- Improves your overall immune system
- Helps with weight management
- Improves bone health which will reduce your risk of osteoporosis
- Helps maintain functional independence by improving your balance and reducing the risk of falls
- Exercise produces endorphins which helps relieve stress
- Helps you sleep better
- Studies show a lower risk of dementia for those who regularly exercise regardless of what age they start
- Exercise can delay or even prevent chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer
- Improves your mental health and can help with symptoms of depression.
- Boosts your energy level
- Exercise can be social: a group walk/hike or a dance class
How To Get Started:
- If you're over 40 or have chronic health issues, check with your physician before starting an exercise program. He or she will be able to give you parameters regarding what activities and how much exertion is safe for you.
- Start slow. If you overdo it right away and hurt yourself or can't move for a week you may become discouraged and give up, Some people may only be able to start with 5-10 minutes of exercise. That's ok, we all have to start somewhere so give yourself some grace.
- Increase gradually. Add 5 minutes to your cardio workout each week. If that's too much, back off to your previous level and try again the next week. If you're doing strength training, it's better to initially add reps instead of resistance to reduce the potential for injury to joints and tendons. Once you've been at it a month increase the weight to the next level and lower the amount of reps. After a week or two at the new resistance then start building up the reps again.
- Try different things. Running and weight lifting aren't your only options. While cardio AND strength training are important there are many options to achieve that. Find an activity that you like well enough to keep doing it. Consider: ballroom or line dancing, Hiking, Yoga, Pilates, hiking, classes, water aerobics, walking, paddle boarding, spin class, Zumba, rowing, swimming.
- Mix it up. I get bored easily so I do various activities: hiking, swimming, running, Pilates, TRX. Adding variety helps you look forward to your workout instead of dreading it.
- Join a group or get a friend to workout with you. It helps to have someone you're accountable to, to help you stay consistent. It also make it more fun, the time goes faster and you can socialize at the same time!
- Above all, find some activity you enjoy. If you hate what you're doing you will make excuses to avoid it. Getting fit shouldn't be torture. Yes it can be hard sometimes but it can also be fun!