Department of Health & Human Services
Premiers Active April

Exercise for women 50+

It’s important to remain healthy and fit at any age, not only for your body, but for your mind and your social life. Physical activity is achievable regardless of your lifestyle, mobility or general health. Even a slight increase can make a difference to your health and wellbeing.

How does regular exercise effect ageing?

Swimming senior

Regular physical activity not only minimises the physiological effect of ageing and sedentary lifestyles, but also increases life expectancy.

Significant psychological and cognitive benefits are possible for older adults regularly participating in physical activity.

Health concerns for older women

Bone Health & Menopause

Good bone health is important for all women. Women lay down their peak bone mass during their growing years through regular weight bearing exercise. During the pre and post menopausal years, regular weight bearing exercise will only maintain and preserve bone mass. Through appropriate training programs involving strength and weight training, bone mass can be maintained and the age-related decline in bone density can be slowed. Such training will also strengthen the body, improve balance, posture and mobility, and therefore reduce the risk of falls and fractures.

Low impact activities such as walking, cycling and swimming have been shown to be less effective in preventing bone loss, especially in post-menopausal women. Extended periods of bed rest in older women can result in rapid bone loss, which is irreversible. To maintain bone mass, you need moderate to high intensity and impact loading exercise. Do weight bearing activities 3-5 times a week and resistance exercises 2-3 times a week, at least 30 minutes of a combination of weight bearing activities targeting the major muscle groups.

Resistance Exercise

Resistance means you’re working against the weight of another object. Resistance strengthens muscle and builds bone. A few examples of resistance exercise are:

  • Free weights or weight machines
  • Racquet sports like tennis and squash
  • Water exercises

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Weight Bearing Exercise

Weight-bearing means your feet and legs support your body’s weight. A few examples of weight-bearing exercise are:

  • Brisk or hill walking
  • Jogging
  • Stair climbing

Nutrition

Good nutrition is essential for all ages. A well balanced diet is important for fuelling the body for exercise and daily living. Daily food intake should include foods from each of the five major food groups including dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt, as well as iron-rich foods such as red meat, chicken, seafood, spinach, legumes, dried apricots, nuts and seeds.

Iron & Calcium requirements for postmenopausal women

An active woman has increased energy requirements and carbohydrate rich foods are an important source of energy. It is important for all women to get sufficient iron and calcium, the amounts changing with menopause.

Iron – 8mg per day, preferably from haem iron sources such as beef, chicken and fish. 70g beef or 60g almonds = 2mg iron

Calcium – 1300mg per day, from dairy products and non-dairy foods likes soy, salmon, almonds and spinach. 1 cup milk or 100g almonds with skin = 300mg

Incontinence / Weak Pelvic Floor

Regular pelvic floor muscle training has been found to be beneficial for women of all ages, not just those already experiencing the effects of a weak pelvic floor and/or incontinence.

How much activity should you do?

Older women should do at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity on most, if not all days. Thirty minutes is needed to keep your heart, lungs, muscles and bones in good working order. But doing any activity is better than no activity. The more you do, the greater health benefits you will gain. The hardest part is getting starting, then to continue exercise. A good idea is to find a ‘health buddy’ that has similar goals or someone who can help you stay on track and provide you with motivation i.e. friends, partner, family, or even the dog. You might want to start walking for 10-15 minutes at a time i.e. to a friend’s house or to the shops and gradually build up to 30 minutes.

In addition to moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity, do strength, flexibility and balance activities for further health benefits. Weight bearing exercise will help improve balance, posture and mobility to decrease risk of falls, especially for women with diagnosed osteoporosis.

Activities of moderate to vigorous intensity include:

  • Brisk walking
  • Continuous swimming
  • Golf (without the cart)
  • Low impact aerobics
  • Cycling
  • Tennis
  • Water aerobics
  • Dancing
  • Washing the car
  • Walking the dog
  • Gardening
  • Mopping and vacuuming

Tip – Any exercise that is considered ‘weight bearing’ is best for maintaining your bone health.

Tip – Take a friend and make it fun and rewarding for the both of you.

Tip – Reduce your sitting time as much as possible. Limit TV and computer leisure activity to less than two hours per day.

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Practical tips for exercise

  • Check with your doctor and start gradually
  • Warm up and stretch
  • Don’t exercise in the heat of the day
  • Stay hydrated with water
  • Wear comfortable and appropriate footwear for the type of exercise

Extra precautions

If you are starting to exercise for the first time, have mobility or chronic health problems, visit your doctor to discuss any risk factors in your taking up an exercise program and how to eliminate or minimise them. Your age, weight, health, ability or experience are not barriers to exercise.

Your health age may be different to your real age – you could be younger or older due to a range of factors, such as your lifestyle and family history. For a quick health age calculator, visit Bupa.

References

For a full list of references, contact Sports Medicine Australia.

Acknowledgments

Authored by Christine L. McDonald & Leanne Evans, Australian Womensport and Recreation Association. Sports Medicine Australia wishes to thanks the sports medicine professionals and Active Women in Sport Project partners who provided expert feedback in the development of this factsheet. This factsheet has been developed with support from the Victorian Government. 

Disclaimer

The information contained in this fact sheet is in the nature of general comment only, and neither purports, not is intended, to be advice on a particular matter. No reader should act on the basis of anything contained in this fact sheet without seeking independent professional medical advice. No responsibility or liability whatsoever can be accepted by Sports Medicine Australia or the authors for any loss, damage or injury that may arise from any persons acting on any statement or information contained in this fact sheet and all such liabilities are expressly disclaimed.

Last updated: November 29, 2016 at: 5:21 pm

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