Fitness & Nutrition Tips for Women Over 40

 

by Bob Ghelfi, M.D.

For women, the decades of 40 and beyond are full of evolution. At this point in life, many women begin to experience hormonal imbalances that can create a multitude of symptoms. Balanced nutrition and exercise can diminish those symptoms and contribute to a greater sense of well-being.

Fitness

  • Cardio. At some point in history, cardiovascular activity became synonymous with running, but many, many other activities will get your heart pumping, such as dance, fast-paced walking, rollerblading, cycling or hiking. Cardio exercise boosts the release of endorphins, so not only do you torch calories, but your reduce stress, depression and anxiety. Raising your heart rate also widens bloods vessels, increases oxygen delivery to the muscles and carries away toxins.
  • Resistance. Women are notorious for shying away from the weight room, but it is the single most important thing you can do to preserve your upright posture and sustain bone density. Strength training not only builds muscle and strength, but it increases your metabolic rate, so even when you are not working out, you are burning more calories. You don’t have to lose your femininity to strength train – Pilates, some types of Yoga, resistance bands and the TRX straps are all excellent ways to strength train without bulking up.
  • Flexibility. Women can reduce injury by maximizing flexibility and improving core strength. Stretching is ideal for keeping joints functioning throughout life maintaining full range of motion. Pilates and Yoga are two disciplines that ensure you get the most out of your efforts.  Stretching before or after a workout, for at least 15 minutes can be beneficial as well, but form is important, so take tips from a professional or visit a stretching class.

Nutrition 

  • Calcium. Most women know that calcium is important and that the risk for osteoporosis is high, but what many women may not realize is how little calcium they intake. It is not unusual for women, starting at a young age, to consume inadequate amounts of calcium. Although bone density reached its peak in a woman’s late twenties to age thirty, calcium is still important to maintenance. Pharmaceutical grade calcium supplements, milk, dark leafy greens, like spinach and certain nuts, like almonds can provide calcium.  Be certain not to consume your calcium with caffeine or iron, as this diminishes the absorption by the body.
  • Vitamin D. As more and more studies conclude, vitamin D is becoming a crucial nutrient for optimal health. Vitamin D acts more like a hormone than a nutrient inside the body – playing a role in bone health, mood regulation, immunity and disease prevention. The sun is your best “source” of vitamin D – your skin absorbs the sun’s rays to be converted in the body to the most useful form of vitamin D. Mushrooms are a new source of bioavailable vitamin D, as some manufacturers have begun fortifying this vegetable.
  • Iron. Iron is another important nutrient for women. Prior to menopause, a great deal of iron may be lost due to menstruation. The need tapers off between the ages of 40 and 50 with the onset of menopause. Nonetheless, for an active lifestyle, iron is vital.  The most optimal source of iron is cooking in an iron skillet – the mineral leaches into the food and sustains bioavailability.

Aging well is definitely an option – it can be challenging with daily stressors, a non-stop, busy lifestyle and the temptation of modern conveniences.  Careful planning is the key to success.  Eat a variety of foods – particularly vegetables and moderate servings of fruit. Choose lean proteins and drink plenty of water.  Make exercise a habit, not just something you do. Your forties is a time when hormone levels can begin to decline, so testing and monitoring of your hormone levels is also necessary to achieve balance.

 

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