#003 The Core Four: Fitness
Read Time: ~ 3 minutes
I’ve always been a cardio endurance junkie. For many years it acted as my meditation, my medication and my identity. During the most difficult times of my life I turned to lacing up and hitting the road, just me and my breath. I’ve completed marathons and Ironman's.
It also saved me from lots of bad choices. 😊 During my single years I always had an excuse to skip the bar scene; I had to get up early and go for a long run/ride. It protected me and I loved it.
But much like my food, my trusty fitness plan is no longer sustaining me and I had to face the fact.
It was time to prioritize strength over cardio.
Maintaining adequate strength is essential for a woman’s lifespan and healthspan. It counters so many of the issues we face during and after menopause.
- Sarcopenia or the loss of muscle mass due to aging
- Decreased metabolism and energy
- Osteoporosis and loss of bone density
- Increased Cortisol Levels (stress hormone)
- Increased risk of fall and traumatic brain injury
A less discussed consequence of sarcopenia is falls.
I was shocked to learn that more Traumatic Brain Injuries are caused by falls than by motor vehicle incidents in older adults!
The CDC reports that deaths by falls have increased nearly 30% from 2007 to 2016 and is expected to continue to rise.
If we drill down further into women and falls, we begin to see the link between menopause, decreased strength and aging. The graph below is from a 2020 CDC Report of Unintentional Deaths from Injury for Women by Age Group. Prior to the average woman going through menopause the cause of death from falls in the age group 35-44 was just 1.8% by the time most women enter menopause (45-54) that number is 4.2%.
To put that in perspective, that is a 133% change!
And 10 years out from menopause (55-64) it’s 12.8%, a 611% increase.
By 65, it's the leading cause of unintentional death.
As with any population study there are multiple variables but without question decreased strength and mobility are playing a role.
Just compare it to the cause of death from motor vehicle incidents which remains basically stable throughout that period and it's easy to infer that as our strength decrease, falls rise.
PS- unintentional poisoning is a whole other subject we need to address at a later date.
2020 CDC Report, Unintentional Deaths from Injury for Women by Age Group
But there are some other really important facts that this data doesn't capture.
QUALITY OF LIFE.
Like the ability to chase after and pick up those precious grandbabies, placing your bag in the overhead bin, carrying your groceries, gardening, hiking and playing in the ocean. Or just not being in constant pain, having good posture, and being able to comfortably bend down and tie your shoes. These simple things add so much to our joy and reduce so much of our suffering.
Ladies now is the time to go beast mode in 2 specific areas. Grip strength and balance. 🙂
2 key aspects of functional fitness for women:
- Grip Strength - this is a major indicator of health and vitality. Having a strong grip not only reduces falls but also allows us to lift more weights increasing overall lean muscle mass & strength.
- Balance - this is an obvious one for falls and working on single leg compound movements like walking lunges is a great way to improve and strengthen it.
You don’t need burpees or fancy equipment. Simple compound movements are the best.
Here are a few ideas to get you going.
1. The Basics:
This is literally all you need. Do these 6 exercises 3x a week. Focus on form over weights. There are a million youtube videos to help.
- Standing Press
- Bench Press
2. Find a strength app or class you enjoy.
I love Peloton strength classes. I’m starting with just 10 minute classes and working up from there. Play the long game! Remember, progress over perfection.
3. Old School Grip Strength Trainer.
I bought these for $9.99 and gave one to my mom. It's great to keep by the laptop and use throughout the day. It really helps with laptop fatigue and building strength. If time is an issue then just start here.
It's never too late. Need some inspiration?
Meet Joan. I follow her on IG (@trainwithjoan). She didn’t start lifting weights until 70 and at 76 she’s better than ever!
Would love to hear what your fitness goals are and if you plan on adding strength. I’m always here for a chat and encouragement. You got this!
With love and gratitude,