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  • Writer's pictureKelsey Long

Exercise for Women's Health

From puberty to menopause, through pregnancy and postpartum, exercise is an

important form of medicine for women at all stages of life and states of health.

‘Women’s Health’ is a broad term used to refer to all health conditions and life stages

that affect women. Some of these conditions include:

- Cancer – breast, cervical and ovarian

- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)

- Menstrual conditions

- Endometriosis and Adenomyosis

- Fertility, Pregnancy, Postpartum

- Gestational Diabetes

- Menopause

- Pelvic Floor disorders – pelvic organ prolapse, incontinence (urinary and

faecal)

- Chronic Pelvic Pain

- Sexual health and dysfunction disorders

- Mental health


The ‘Stats’

In 2020-21, 56% of Australian females aged 15 and over have 1 or more of the

following 10 chronic conditions. (Arthritis, asthma, back problems, cancer, COPD,

diabetes, heart, stroke and vascular disease, chronic kidney disease, osteoporosis,

mental health conditions).


The 2020-21 National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing found 45% of females

aged 16-85 and over reported having a mental disorder at some point in their

lifetime. The most common disorders experienced are anxiety (35%) and mood

(affective) (18%) disorders.


In 2022, females accounted for 48% of all new cancer cases, with breast cancer,

colorectal cancer, melanoma of the skin and lung cancer being the most commonly

diagnosed in females of all ages.


Close to 1 million Australian girls and women live with endometriosis. Due to the

varied symptoms of endometriosis, it often takes up to 6 years to gain an official

diagnosis.


Pelvic organ prolapse affects 1 in 4 women in their 40s, 1 in 3 in their 60s and half of

all women by the time they reach 80 years of age.

Women make up half of the world’s population and yet there is still so much research

and advocacy to be done in relation to these conditions and providing the best health

care support to those who experience them.


Exercise Guidelines for Women

The Australian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend:

- 150 to 300 minutes (2 1⁄2 to 5 hours) of moderate aerobic activity each week

- or 75 to 150 minutes (1 1⁄4 to 2 1⁄2 hours) of vigorous aerobic activity each

week

- This can include biking, walking, swimming, jogging, sports or dancing.

- TIP: choose something you enjoy!

- Strength training is also recommended twice each week

- Reduce long periods of sitting or standing still


Exercise Guidelines for Pregnancy

The recommendations for pregnancy are much the same as those for all women,

encouraging physical activity on most days of the week – doing any activity is better

than none! Exercise is important for supporting a healthy pregnancy, preparing the

mother for when the baby arrives and reducing pregnancy-related problems. Pelvic

floor exercises should be performed to reduce urinary incontinence during pregnancy

and improve postpartum recovery outcomes. Pelvic floor exercises can be

prescribed by a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist or an Accredited Exercise Physiologist.


A word on Menopause

Menopause generally occurs between the ages of 45 and 55 and marks the final

period or the end of a female’s reproductive years. The hormonal changes that occur

are associated with increases in risk for some chronic conditions including elevated

cholesterol and blood pressure, overweight and obesity, coronary heart disease,

diabetes, dementia, and cancer. Bone mineral density can be significantly affected

leading to osteopenia and osteoporosis, where exercise is highly recommended for

management of these conditions.


Exercise is recommended as a modality for management for most, if not all women’s

health conditions and is important across the lifespan for prevention of chronic health

conditions. To ensure you’re exercising safely and effectively for your current health

or specific women’s health condition, get in touch with an Accredited Exercise

Physiologist today.


Useful resources:

Health-eBook.pdf


References:

healthy#reproductive_health

exercise-guidelines-for-all-australians

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