Exercise for heart’s sake

It’s OK if you start small – and then slowly expand your routine. Keep heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity and several cancers at bay.

By Janet Antoshko

Life moves at a fast pace, and it can be difficult to keep up. Many women are stressed out from the constant pressures of managing their households, careers and other responsibilities. A lot of these women find themselves in the “sandwich generation” where they are providing care for their children and their aging parents.

Women are often so busy taking care of their loved ones and their responsibilities that they run out of time to take care of themselves and get regular physical activity. The harsh reality is that this lack of physical activity can have dangerous consequences to the health of women.

Brings dramatic change
Heart disease is the leading killer of women in Canada. According to Statistics Canada, cardiovascular disease accounted for 29.7 per cent of all female deaths in Canada in 2008. Physical activity has been shown to help women dramatically lower their risk of heart disease, yet according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada 52.5 per cent of Canadian women age 12 and over are physically inactive. The foundation also reports that $6.8 billion of direct and indirect costs can be attributed to physical inactivity in Canada.

Regular physical activity does not only combat heart disease, it can also assist in preventing and managing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity and various types of cancer. Physical activity has also been linked to improved psychological health through a reduction in stress, anxiety and depression.

Make it part of your routine

Photo credit: Feisty Side of Fifty Five
Photo credit: Feisty Side of Fifty Five

So how can women incorporate more physical activity? If you do not have time for a structured exercise program, the most important thing is to start somewhere. Even if it is just adding a few extra steps a day, it is important to keep physical activity in mind and look for opportunities to be active. Whether you take the stairs at work or go for a brisk walk in the evening, it is OK to start small and build toward a consistent exercise plan in the future.

About a half hour of moderate-intensity physical activity every day (or most days) will help keep you in good health. The healthier you are, the better prepared you will be to take care of your loved ones and manage your responsibilities.

Exercise does not need to be painful and strenuous in order to provide health benefits. Make lifestyle changes where you can that will allow for opportunities to be physically active. Don’t think of it as an exercise plan – think of it as a self-care plan. Give yourself permission to say “no” to others and “yes” to yourself!

Janet Antoshko, this month’s healthy living columnist, is the kinesiologist at Victoria General Hospital’s Mature Women’s Centre. To support patient care at the Vic, please contact Victoria General Hospital Foundation at (204) 477-3513 or online at www.thevicfoundation.ca.

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