While exercise is good for both genders, experts say that there are gender-specific benefits that women should know.
A study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham analyzed several reasons why exercise helps women:
- Exercise may help reduce breast cancer risk
- Prevent weight gain (which can lead to greater risk of developing cancer)
- Mitigate the loss of bone mass, leading to osteoporosis
- Exercise can also help maintain back posture
Another study examined women’s expectations and beliefs about motivation and exercise and how their attitudes about exercise foster or undermine both.
Researchers correlated attitudes about their daily lives to how they feel about physical activity. They found women who are happier, more content and feel self-determined tend to approach exercise with a better attitude and are therefore, more motivated to exercise.
When researchers examined the beliefs of inactive women they found their attitude stopped them from exercising. Their beliefs, feelings, experiences, and definitions of physical activity were in conflict with their life goals, values, and priorities and their attitude also undermined their need for autonomy, competence, and relatedness.
Many believe “valid” exercise must be intense, yet they want to feel relaxed during their leisure time.
Inactive women also tend to feel pressured to exercise for health or to lose weight. While success comes from achieving goals, the expectations about how much, where and how they should be exercising means they can’t achieve these goals. This thinking makes women less likely to exercise.
Perhaps this is a reason why according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men are more likely than women to meet the federal guidelines for adults of at least 2.5 hours of physical activity per week.
As women, we need to give ourselves permission to have fun with exercise. Let go of the pressure to “go hard.” There are so many things that keep us in shape. Resistance and weight training are best, but walking or jogging in combination with weights works wonders. Yoga can build bone strength while stretching muscles.
Treat yourself to a playlist, a motivational podcast or a listen to a book while you exercise. Challenges can be fun when you embrace an attitude of self-worth and contentment. Your body’s physiology will shift for the better with just 10 minutes of walking.
When you start forming new habits, be sure to celebrate your success as you give yourself the gift of moving your body.