Women of every age have something to look forward to. Not only are there weddings, babies, grandbabies, career promotions and other life events to be excited about, but there are also many physical changes that are positive – yes, positive – as you age. There are physiological facts and breakthroughs in each decade of a woman’s lifespan which prove that aging gracefully and healthfully is possible. In fact, there’s never been a better time in history to be a woman!
According to an article by Buzzfeed, 30 Reasons Being a Woman is Awesome, women have better chances of surviving melanoma, have excellent communication skills, have more wardrobe choices than men (duh), and, apparently, are better leaders than men too! (Stepping on any macho toes? Sorry!) The article also points out that women have authored some of this century’s most popular book series, including The Hunger Games, Twilight, Harry Potter, and 50 Shades of Grey. Whether or not you’re into teeny bopper books, you’ve got to admit, we women are impressive! Now, let’s see what we can look forward to with each physical stage in life…
5-13 Years Old:
There are more and more programs out there which help young girls become physically active. It’s so awesome to see this change in society since, as mentioned in WellnessWinz’s This Girl CAN! article, sports and exercise have been proven to have significant and positive impacts on girls’ physical and mental health. For example, girls who participate in sports tend to have higher levels of self-esteem and confidence. What better time to get active than when your body is bursting wtih youthful energy?!
In the DC metro region alone, there are multiple non-profit organizations rallying behind girls’ involvement in physical activity. Girls on the Run (GOTR) and Koa Sports are two of these organizations. GOTR provides an “after-school program that encourages preteen girls to develop self-respect and healthy lifestyles through running.” Girls train for a 5K race under a coach’s supervision and training. On race day, the girls are accompanied by a parent, teacher, friend or guardian who runs the 5K with them. If you’ve ever been to one of these events, you will see just how awesome the energy is and how many people (who don’t even know the girls) come out to volunteer and cheer them on. It’s amazing! GOTR has officially helped one million girls. Now that’s how we change the world!
Koa Sports (see picture above) helps children enjoy excellent sports programs and camps. They have a “Play it Forward Scholarship Fund” which ensures that no underprivileged youth, who is interested in sports, gets left behind. Koa Sports draws on its coaching and equipment resources to make a difference. Organizations like this exist because sports have an incredible power to unite divided communities, to strength social bonds, to inspire confidence, and to offer unique health benefits.
If you’re not in the DC area, there may be organizations like this that exist in your own community. As a woman, I encourage you to seek them out, learn more, and perhaps even volunteer so that we can usher a new generation of girls into a healthy lifestyle. No longer does “run like a girl” mean something sissy. Girls are finally being recognized for their strengths! GIRL POWER! (forgive me, it felt right)
13-20 years old:
Most women reading this blog are in their 20s or older, so it’s safe to say that we’ve all “been there.” We’ve experienced the roller coaster of being a teen; the whiteheads, the first heartbreak, the ability to eat junk food with little to no consequences. Ahhh, the golden days.
With plenty of life ahead, a metabolism capable of burning off a full pan of brownies in an hour (okay, maybe that’s just a tad extreme), and plenty of organized activities to be involved in, being a teen isn’t half bad! However, being overweight in one’s teens can lead to being self-conscious and less healthy. But, it’s the easiest time in life to lose weight! This isn’t just because of the high levels of physical energy that teens possess, but also because of a teen’s ability to ask her mom or dad to buy certain foods that will help her feel better and improve her health. Adolescents aren’t starving college students living off of raman yet!
There are ways to feel great before flying the nest, especially since teens now have incredible resources at their fingertips thanks to smartphones, tablets and laptops. It’s easier than ever to find healthy resources and support. Pinterest, anyone?!
At the time of this article’s publication, the 2015 Women’s World Cup is taking place and US Women’s Soccer is captivating the attention of American audiences. The average age of the team’s players is 28 years old. This may be skewed a little bit due to three players who are slightly older but still, it’s awesome to think about the fact that even into the late 20s, a woman’s body is capable of performing incredible athletic feats.
A woman’s physical performance may be, in part, thanks to her higher pain threshold. Yup, that’s right! Women have higher tolerances for pain, probably due to child bearing. This helps us to not act like big babies when we stub a toe or have the stomach flu. I mean, have you ever seen the sad puppy look that your significant other shoots you from the couch when he is laid up from illness, sucking on ice chips and gingerly munching on Saltine crackers? It’s not a pretty sight.
Another cool thing about the adventurous, self-discovery years that define a woman in her 20s, is that she is literally still growing. Isn’t that incredible? The frontal lobe of the brain furthers its development, allowing us to become more mature, articulate and physically agile. Livestrong eloquently summarizes this process and its impact on our development:
“The frontal lobe of the brain continues to grow and develop during early adulthood. This area is responsible for judgment, a concept that contributes to a person’s mental maturation. In your early 20s, you will begin to more clearly distinguish right from wrong, beyond than the basic concept learned in childhood. The frontal lobe also helps speech functions and muscle movement, helping you become more coordinated and agile.”
There are a multitude of articles featuring older women speaking to what they wish they had known at a younger age. One of these reflective, advice-giving articles was recently published via The Huffington Post, written by Catherine Pearson. Pearson’s first two bits of advice include 1) ditching the unnecessary struggle of trying to fit into skinny jeans and 2) avoiding judgement of other women at all costs. Her advice is in keeping with other women’s outspoken wisdom. It appears that as we age, we become a lot more accepting of and comfortable with our bodies.
Part of this newfound body embracing may be because most women have had a baby by the time they are in their mid-30s. According to BabyCenter, the average age that American women have a baby is 26 years old. So, maybe this life altering experience [having a child] resets one’s overall perspective? Perhaps the frontal lobe’s development (mentioned in “Your 20s”) also contributes to this change? Whatever the case, it’s awesome to see women in their 30s accelerating in both their personal and career growth, more confident of who they are both physically and intellectually.
Pearson ends her article encouraging women to “not worry so much” and “just wear the damn bikini.” Let’s raise a glass to that! After baby bearing years, women may have a few stretch marks or loose skin, but they have also gained bragging rights: “Yea, I created a life. No biggie.” That’s an awesome physical feat that justifies putting on a bikini any darn time you like, in my opinion! As for women who haven’t had children yet, or who have decided to forego that aspect of life, they’re still probably glowing with newfound confidence and self-love – even more reason to ditch time-consuming worries and just start living life. Babies or no babies, it’s full steam ahead!
Mid-life is when plenty of women and men alike re-evaluate their personal goals. There may be some disappointments, realizing that certain things may never happen, but there may also be newfound hope once setting new, refreshing goals for one’s life. What’s important to remember throughout the challenges is that even though your body is changing, it’s still incredibly responsive. It will improve and adapt with some effort on your end.
Many women believe that by this age their metabolisms have dropped dramatically. Although it’s true that metabolic rates drop by about 2% or more per decade, that’s really not all that much! It’s not a drastic 500-1000 calorie difference a day like some women believe. For example, if you can eat 1800 calories/day in your 20s while maintaing weight, and your metabolism decreases by 2% every decade, then in your 40s, you’re likely eating around 1650 calories/day for weight maintainence. That’s the equivalent of 1.25-1.5 bananas, a yogurt cup, 3/4 of a granola bar, or a little less rice or pasta at dinner. Of course, everyone has different genetic, height and weight factors that play into this equation, but still, not as bad as you thought, huh?
Want more encouraging news?! I’ve got more for you…but err…maybe not such good news your spouse…
Time Magainze highlights several key differences between the average woman’s health profile compared to the average man’s. For starters, women have higher HDL cholesterol than men. HDL is a good kind of cholesterol that protects the heart and vascular health. As you can imagine, this means that women tend to have a delayed risk for heart disease. Additionally, women’s brains have better recall compared with men. Thus, women are more likely to remember where the car keys were left, what time her daughter’s dance recital is scheduled for, and what was on the grocery list that accidentally got left on the kitchen counter. I’m biting my tounge here because there are endless stories I could share which show that this holds true in my household!
I know, I know…MENOPAUSE. I’ve worked with plenty of women going through it and I completely understand that it’s not easy. I’m not trying to take away from that. But, I think it’s interesting to consider one positive aspect of decling estrogen. Here it goes, deep breath…
Higher estrogen prevents your body from being able to put muscle on quickly, causing women to see lesser strength and lean mass gains compared to men who work out at an equivalent level. So, what I pose to my older female clients is this: “What if now, assuming you work for it, your body can actually put on more muscle for the first time ever, allowing you a boost in your metabolism?!” Of course, menopause comes with a lot of fatigue that can make it hard to motivate to work out, but energy can and will boost if you get adequate rest, control food portions, stay hydrated, embrace relaxation and de-stressing, and exercise daily. Click on “Anti-Aging Foods” for a nice resource on eating healthy as you age. Psstt- this should be something that women of younger ages should also try to abide by!
Healthy eating and exercise really can do wonders. These women who are 50 and fabulous defy age expectations: These 7 Women Prove that Fitness is the Fountain of Youth. True, a bunch of them are in the health/fitness industry, but if these normal women can do it, then so can you! You’re still attention worthy, vibrant and beautiful.
Your 60s and beyond:
Healthy eating and fitness habits don’t have to stop in your 50s. They can and should continue, giving you energy to enjoy retirement, tubby grandbabies, and your favorite leisure activities. Plus, given the fact that women live longer than men, on average by seven years, you will want to remain healthy and mobile so that you can enjoy the added years nature has blessed you with!
Women around the world are proving that age is just as much a mentality as it is a physical state. People who have a strong desire to stay active and feel good can do just that, if they set their minds to it. This blog’s motto is “start believeing you can” because much of how we feel begins with a mentality that we set.
If you’re not convinced, check out this video from June 1, 2015: Hariette Thompson, Rock ‘n Roll Marathon. It shows one determined, 92 year old woman crossing a marathon’s finish line and setting history. She is now the oldest female on earth to finish a marathon! WOW!
Women of every age: There’s a lot of life to live and a lot to look forward to in every season. Cheers to being healthy and having some fun as we cruise down life’s highway!
Yours in health and wellness,