When I first started my personal training business in 1998, I had many women gravitating to me because the only other trainer in town was a man.
In their own words, male trainers (then) didn’t know how to train woman, because women are different. Are health and fitness needs of women different than men?
Five topics were chosen by researchers to study because of the profound influences they have on women’s health and fitness needs. Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, osteoporosis, menopause and anxiety disorders were studied focusing on new research developments and suggestions to decrease risk factors.
Diabetes type 2 is a disease that limits the body’s ability to respond to the hormone insulin, leading to altered nutrient metabolism and elevation of blood sugar. The Centers for Disease Control reports approximately 14.9 million women in the U.S. over age 18 have diabetes.
The risk of diabetes is increased with smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, physical inactivity and/or high cholesterol. The American Diabetic Association’s position states that regular exercise improves blood glucose, enhances weight loss, and improves the cardiovascular system and well-being. The ADA recommends exercising every day or every other day and doing aerobic exercise and resistance training.
It suggests that if both are done on the same day, the resistance training should be done first for more stable blood sugar. A study noted that high intensity interval training showed significant improvements in blood sugar tests and the ADA suggests moderate to high intensity aerobic exercise 150 minutes a week minimum.
Balance exercises and stretching are also recommended.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in women. The American Heart Association reports that one in three women will die from CVD in the U.S., killing one woman every 80 seconds. The main goal is to decrease the controllable risk factors of CVD — high cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure, smoking, obesity and poor diet, physical inactivity and depression.
New research supports walking two-to-three miles per hour especially for seniors, yoga, and aerobic and resistance programs. Aerobic exercise recommendation is 150 minutes each week at moderate intensity or 75 minutes a week at vigorous intensity or a combination of the two. Resistance exercise two-to-three days per week at moderate-to-high intensity is also recommended.
Osteoporosis is age-related thinning and softening of bones. Reduction in the strength of bones leads to structural issues and an increased risk for fracture. In the U.S., 8 million women have osteoporosis and one of two will experience an osteoporosis related fracture.
The exercise recommendation continues to be weight-bearing exercise. Depending on the severity of the disease and doctor recommendations, the following impact styles are acceptable — jump rope, fast running, aerobic exercise or agility class, slow jogging, brisk walking and boot camp style classes. Balance training and flexibility should be included. Aerobic plus resistance training should be impact loading 30-60 minutes, a minimum of three days per week.
The lack of estrogen in menopause increases a woman’s risk of developing other diseases and increasing risk factors — osteoporosis, heart attack, stroke physical inactivity, overweight, anxiety and depression are all influenced by menopause. Menopause has become a risk factor in developing other diseases.
A well rounded program of aerobic, resistance and balance training, including flexibility, are recommended for menopausal women. Following the guidelines for osteoporosis are appropriate.
Anxiety that goes beyond intermittent worrying can become clinical and effect many aspects of a woman’s life. Research on exercise and anxiety is fairly new. Generally engaging in physical activity does have a positive effect, but the form should be individualized.
Training a woman is different, it is great to see more validity given to this fact through research and professional education.
— Robin Gaudette is the aquatics wellness coordinator at the Redmond Area Park and Recreation District. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .