12 Benefits of Walking for Women in Midlife
Walking is beneficial to women (or men) at any age, but women in midlife facing peri-menopause or menopause can benefit greatly from walking.
Overall for women’s health, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends moderate aerobic activity for at least 150 minutes a week (2 1/2 hours). Walking is a low impact way to get those 150 minutes of low to moderate aerobic activity.
As we age, it can become difficult to find the time to add a fitness routine like going to the gym into our lives; however, finding 30 minutes to take a walk can be done. In fact, it may become the part of your day you most look forward to as it has for me.
I have found walking to be my favorite form of exercise. In fact, I shared last year how walking became a part of my fitness journey back to health after my hysterectomy in this post: Just Take a Walk.
When women age, estrogen levels begin to decrease. During menopause, we lose our estrogen hormones altogether. Estrogen helps reduce inflammation in our bodies. That is why women in menopause may suffer increased of joint pain, bloating, and overall fatigue. Exercise can help combat that loss of estrogen and help with the symptoms associated.
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There are many benefits to walking, but for women going through midlife and menopause, it is even more important.
12 benefits of walking for women in midlife
- Depression – when we walk, we naturally boost our mood by the release of endorphins into the body. There are many studies of the effects of exercise toward mental health benefits, including depression and reduced stress. The effect of being outside and breathing fresh air is a natural mood booster.
- Bone health – walking helps improve bone density, which can aid in osteoporosis prevention. Some studies of post-menopausal women found 30 minutes of daily walking reduced hip fractures by 40 percent; and increased bone density by at least 2 percent.
- Weight control – walking burns calories and over time that can result in weight loss of those who need to lose added pounds for overall health. Even a 30 minutes of walking can impact weight loss, especially around our abdominal area where a lot of menopausal women have increased belly fat.
- Muscle tone – walking positively affects building muscle tone; especially in our legs and abs. As we build our endurance in walking toward a more brisk pace and longer distance, muscle tone will become more prevalent. Tone arms by adding arm swings to brisk walking, or using light hand weights.
- Heart health – walking improves circulation and reduces cholesterol and high blood pressure, a factor that contributes to heart disease. One long term study of female nurses found 30 minutes of daily walking lowered risk of heart disease by 30-40 percent.
- Better circulation – walking provides improved blood circulation naturally. Good circulation will significantly lower the risk of a stroke in women. In fact, women who walk at least three hours a week have a 43% lower risk of a stroke compared with inactive women.
- Improved Sleep – studies indicate exercise is a natural way to improve sleep. As women hit menopause, sleeping – or lack thereof – can become an issue. Walking is a great way to get that needed exercise to relieve insomnia.
- Longevity – living longer is another benefit of walking. In fact, research found regular, moderate exercise – such as walking – of people in their fifties and sixties, are 35 percent less likely to die over their next eights years of life than sedentary people of the same age.
- Vitamin D – a beneficial vitamin to women as we age, especially into menopause, is vitamin D. It can help fight heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, cancer, and weight gain.
One of the best sources of Vitamin D is the sunshine. Spending 15 minutes in the sunshine with short sleeves will give us approximately 5000 IUs of vitamin D, which is more than enough recommended daily intake. Obviously, we should always take care to wear sunscreen and/or sun protection, but walking in the sunshine is a great way to get that daily dose of vitamin D.
- Memory – walking can help with brain fog and age related memory decline. Studies show the more we increase our heart rate and get our blood pumping, the more it appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, which is a part of the brain that’s involved with verbal memory and learning.
Moderate walking can improve our brain function altogether by helping keep us sharper for longer.
- Joint support – not only is walking easier on a body’s joints than higher impact exercise, it also helps supply nutrients to the cartilage in our joints. Walking causes joint fluid to circulate, which brings oxygen and nutrients into our joints.
- Increase happiness – walking outside, especially within nature so we can breathe in the smells and hear the sounds, is a natural boost for immunity and overall well-being. A study by one mental health organization showed walking in nature increased happiness in over 70 percent of its participants.
If I can be happier, I am here for it!
Menopause and middle age is difficult for a lot of women, but our fitness and exercise doesn’t have to be. Women in midlife have choices so choose what makes us feel good. Walking is one choice we can make for our physical and mental health to gain a multitude of benefits.
We can walk 30 minutes a day to gain these 12 benefits for midlife women.
Grab a good pair of walking shoes, start your smart watch for accountability, and put one foot in front of the other.