A certain Olivia Newton-John song must’ve had more influence on us than we probably believed at the time, because “Let’s get physical!” appears to be a rallying cry for midlife women today. The vast majority of respondents to the first NextTribe Exercise and Fitness Survey (a whopping 87 percent) claim to work out between three and seven times a week, while only about six percent have no regular exercise routine. (An impressive 45 percent of you say you’re working out more now than five years ago, btw.) This dedication is amazing—for the mind as well as the body: a recent Swedish study published last year in Neurology found that highly fit women are 88 percent less likely to develop dementia than other women, including those who are moderately fit. Read on to find out about what we do to stay in shape and why—or why not.
Exercising Our Options
Walking wins big with midlife women, as more than 65 percent of us cite it as our preferred fitness activity. Why not? Walking is free, easy, doable anywhere, and requires no special gear, so there’s often no excuse not to. “I don’t own a car so I walk at least two hours a day, more in the spring and fall,” says Cynthia. Plenty of us ramp up walking to include hiking (20 percent) and running (15 percent), plus 28 percent use a treadmill or other type of cardio equipment. But weight-training weighs in as our second most-popular workout, with 45 percent pumping iron. This is great! Numerous studies have found that weight training (aka resistance training and strength training) improves glucose control and body composition, builds bone and muscle, and helps preserve strength, independence, and vitality with age.
Just Do It Daily
Nearly half of the survey respondents exercise five to seven times a week, while some 32 percent wangle a workout three to four times a week. We’re doing it for the right reason, too: 65 percent exercise to improve or maintain health. And while 15 percent aim to pare unwanted pounds and six percent exercise to combat stress, both those specifics fall under the good health umbrella. If you need inspiration, look no further than Joni, who tells us, “I run five miles six days a week, lift weights three times a week, do Pilates twice a week, and swim a mile three times a week.” She also expects to ramp up her routine five years from now—when she’s 67. Phew!
Sitting on the Sidelines
The number of women surveyed who work out regularly would no doubt be higher if injury or other illness didn’t have them bumming out on the bench. About 21 percent say health or injury issues are keeping them out of the game. Carol, who’d suffered bone spurs from walking on hard surfaces in worn-out shoes, wants to keep going free of pain. Karen, a daily runner who’s eager to start competing in races, wonders, “Is there an age at which running does more harm than good to the body?” (We’ll look into that in a future article.)
Why Not Work Out?
Those who aren’t waiting for a torn muscle or sprained ankle to heal have their reasons for taking a pass. More than a quarter of survey respondents admit they simply lack the motivation to get moving. And while a few report that they don’t enjoy physical activity (under four percent) or would rather do something else (five percent), that sounds a lot like lack of motivation. “If I get fit, will I have to keep making my exercise harder and longer?” asks Jennilyn. “That’s so un-motivating to think it’s going to be more in the future.”
What’s Next? You Name It!
Okay, we get it. If fitness is a chore, why would anyone bother, especially when we’re so busy? (Just under 20 percent report they have no time to exercise.) The terminology alone—workouts, routines—blech! But what about the fun factor? Hoisting dumbbells in a gym full of grunting guys may be your idea of hell, and monotonous treadmill stomping may seem beyond boring, but keep in mind how vast, challenging, potentially social, and flat-out joyful our options really are. Among the activities NextTribers yearn to try next are tai chi, cross fit, skiing, barre classes, mountain biking, stand-up paddle boarding, spinning, and (yes!) surfing. So c’mon, ladies, let us hear your bodies talk!