Pilates exercise program

Pilates was developed by a man named Joseph H. Pilates.  Pilates had asthma as a child and spent a great deal of time struggling with illness and frailty, which inspired him to develop the exercise routines now names for him.  Originally, Pilates called the form of exercise “contrology” because of the connection he felt existed between the mind and the body.

Pilates exercises are designed to improve the strength of the body’s core, that is, the muscles of the abdomen and torso, and were designed with the idea that the healthier the body’s core is, the less likely it will be to suffer from ailments like the asthma Pilates himself suffered from as a child.

The practice of pilates contributes to your health in several ways.  Not only does it improve your physical well-being by increasing your flexibility, giving you stronger muscles, and helping you slim down, but it also improves your mental well-being.  Starting a Pilates exercise program is simple: all you need to do pilates is your body and a mat. It has been a very popular exercise among gymnasts and dancers that has only moved into the mainstream in the last two decades.

Pilates 300x200 Pilates exercise program
Pilates exercises condition the body to improve flexibility and strength.  The exercises work the body’s core muscles allowing for better posture and a decreased risk of major injury.  Because Joseph Pilates believed the mental and physical health are closely related, the exercises are designed to incorporate concentration, control, and breathing.

Because of its popularity, it is easy to find beginner courses or even home videos that will guide you through the basic exercises.  Be sure you choose an instructor who has been adequately trained.  Pilates, if done incorrectly, can cause injury to your body.  Make sure you wear comfortable clothing that allows you to remain modest while moving into positions you may have never thought possible.  Move slowly and deliberately, and don’t worry if you don’t know how to do the exercises the first time you try.

If you experience any kind of pain or discomfort, stop.  Pilates can be used as a strengthening program in partnership with an aerobic exercise to give you all-around better health benefits.  It is something you can do alone in your living room if you aren’t the type to go to a health club.  Even a small amount of Pilates exercise can offer a great deal of benefit to your body.

Yoga

Yoga is a form of exercise that benefits your body, mind, and soul.  Its combination of muscle-focused strengthening exercises, breathing, and relaxation techniques have been proven to reduce tension and stress and help individuals who practice it be healthier mentally and physically.

Yoga has been proven to provide reliefe for arthritis, asthma, pain, high blood pressure, and depression.  It can ease the symptoms of diabetes, heart disease, and even migraines and other chronic headaches.  Yoga has even been shown to have positive results for those suffering from multiple sclerosis and other neural conditions.  Yoga also has the added benefit of improving self-esteem, concentration, and the immune system.

Yoga was developed in the country of India.  It is as much a spiritual practice as it is an exercise, and preaches love, compassion, and tolerance in addition to calming the soul, body, and mind. It was  originally designed in order for the followers to have a deeply spiritual experience.  Whether you are seeking the spiritual experience or not yoga can provide you with a path to healthier living, because no matter what else yoga is, it helps you feel better in both your body and your mind.
To do yoga, you either need to go to a yoga studio or class or buy an instructional yoga video.  For the woman who is more reserved, because of the nature of some of the positions involved, trying it first with a video inside your own home might be advisable.  Whether you go to a studio or practice yoga from home, it is best to invest in an exercise mat, which can be attained at nearly any store that has a small fitness department or sports section.

The most wonderful thing about yoga is that even if you have very little time – 15 minutes every morning, or 30 minutes at the end of each week – you will still notice the benefits of practicing yoga.  The physical motions of yoga will improve the function of your body; the breathing exercises of yoga will help you remove the stress from your life; the clearing of your mind will help you concentrate and stay more sharply focused.  These benefits are experienced even once you have completed your yoga practice.

Adding yoga to your fitness plan is a great place to start for those who are feeling the pressure of the world. What you may discover is that the more you practice yoga, the more you want to practice yoga.  You’ll find it easier to relax, you’ll notice improved flexibility; you may even begin to notice a new calm about you that stays with you.

For the over 40 woman, I would strongly recommend that you include yoga in your fitness program.  As you know, as women get older they start to lose muscle mass and also bone density.  The practice of yoga is a great way to combat these occurrences especially for women who don’t feel capable of dealing with the more stressful forms of exercise. Idealy yoga should be seen as an addition to your fitness routine rather than as a substitute of any other forms of exercise.

Try not to be intimidated by the mental picture you may have developed of yoga.  Often times we see yogi practitioners who are able to coax their bodies into impossible positions. We find this intimidating as we think we could never be able to do that. Well my resposne to that is, you are not expected to be able to do that, least right away.  like anything else, start with small steps and you will eventually be surprised at what you will be able to achieve. The key is to Start.

Rest

When people, even the experts, talk about health, they talk a lot about movement.  Get up and exercise, get off the couch, walk to the store, park further from your office, take the stairs – MOVE! MOVE! MOVE!  What many people fail to realize is that there is another equally important component to good health — and that is getting good rest.

Rest, both in the form of good, healthy sleep, and plain old down time are both critically important to good health – and something women over 40 rarely get enough of or prioritize the way they should.  Women in their 40s are more likely to be working, raising kids, and taking care of aging parents, which means even less time for taking care of themselves.

Studies have shown that poor sleeping habits and not getting enough sleep have been linked to obesity, high blood pressure, and decreased heart health.  Getting good sleep is literally a lifesaving activity, as much as getting exercise.

To rest well, you need to be able to put away the stresses of your day.  That can be very difficult and sometimes impossible in the world we live in.  There are things you can do, though, that will help.

First of all, eliminate any chemical contributions to your poor rest.  Do you drink a lot of caffeine (coffee, tea, soda) throughout the day or late in the afternoon?  Do you drink energy drinks to get you through the day?  Eliminate the sources of caffeine in your diet; a cup or two of coffee in the morning is fine, but after that you should switch to water and vegetable juice.

Second, learn to let go of stress.  When you are stressed out, you don’t rest well. Meditate.  Get a massage.  Leave work at work.  Turn off the TV if the news is making you crazy with worry.  Get out with some girlfriends and blow off some steam.

Third, improve your diet.  Reduce the amount of sugar and simple carbs you are eating.  They will make it more difficult for you to rest well. Increase the amount of whole grain fiber, fruits, and vegetables.  Eat oatmeal for breakfast instead of skipping or having white toast.  Eat a small piece of chicken and some broccoli for dinner instead of spaghetti made with white flour noodles.

Finally, exercise.  If exercising exhausts you, do it at the end of the day so that you will go to bed ready to rest.  If exercising exhilarates you, do it in the morning to help you get through the day without your caffeine crutches and you’ll still feel more like sleeping at the end of the day.

Try to practice preparing yourself for rest at nights. We often get into bed so weighed down we cannot sleep and even if we sleep, we don’t really get rested.  Try to carve out some quiet time for yourself, maybe 15-30 minutes before you get into bed. Do some deep breathing and relax your mind and body.  You will be pleasantly surprised at the difference it makes to the quality of your rest.

Girl’s Night Out

Not everything you do for the benefit of your health and well being requires you to get sweaty, breathe heavy, or worry about whether or not you are hitting your target heart rate and how many calories you are burning in an hour.  Some of the best things you can do for your health – things that ultimately benefit your physical health as well as your mental and emotional health – are a lot more fun than throwing on your sweats and running on your treadmill.

Connecting with your female friends, and developing some close, intimate friendships if you don’t have any, is a critically important aspect of good health.  Girl’s night out doesn’t have to mean a late-night bar scene in a loud club, although it’s okay if it does.  Some of the best girl’s night out moments are actually no further away that whichever friend is hosting, with all of you sharing some good wine and great conversation.

When it comes to your health, it is the conversation and connection that make all the difference.  Studies have shown that women who have close girl friends and spend time with them live longer, live happier, survive more successfully during periods of stress and after the death of a loved one, and are physically healthier.  Why?  Because our girlfriends provide us with a healthy dose of self-esteem.  They love us for who we are, no matter who that is; they pick us up when we’re down; they are our cheerleaders when we need them and our confidantes.

Women often think once they’re married and raising a family that their only priority is taking care of house, husband, and children.  You will be a better wife and mother, though, if you still take time for you.  Maintain your friendships, leave the kids with your husband once in a while, and get out (or in) for a girls night out.  Your husband will appreciate you more because he’ll realize how much he misses you.  He’ll also appreciate the relaxed, happy mood you are in when you return.

It is ok for your kids to miss you and learn to appreciate you too.  It’s also good for your kids to bond with dad.  If you’re a single parent, hire a sitter or send the kids to grandma’s house for the night – but don’t let excuses stand in the way of regularly occurring girl’s nights out.

Massage

Getting a massage from a professional, licensed massage therapist (not just having your husband rub your back for a few minutes) is more than just an indulgence.  In fact, massage should be seen as a component of your overall fitness.  There’s more to massage therapy than just pampering and relaxation. Massage can also be beneficial for those who have undergone heart bypass surgery (aids recovery, reduces pain and swelling, and aids in circulation) and may improve the function of the immune system by helping the body rid itself of toxins.

According to the American Association of Massage Therapists, massage therapy can effectively treat many health concerns, including back pain.  Massage treatment for back pain has been so effective, according to research, that it can actually reduce the sufferer’s reliance on medication and other more invasive medical treatments.

Massage is also very helpful for breast cancer survivors, both before and after surgery.  Not only is it therapeutic for helping breast cancer survivors deal with the traumatic emotional effects of breast cancer, but specially trained massage therapists can perform special massages that help drain lymph nodes and keep swelling and other painful symptoms.

There are several different kinds of massage techniques, depending on your health needs.  Swedish massage uses long, gentle strokes and kneading mostly for relaxation and stress relief.  Deep tissue massage uses much stronger pressure to help aid in the recovery from injury or to relieve chronic pain. Sport massages target specific areas of the body to keep the muscles loose and flexible to help prevent injury.  Reflexology massages are massages specifically focused on the hands and feet.

Massage can be an indulgence, yes, but it can be so much more than that.  Massage can help increase circulation, improve your posture, relieve tension headaches, and even lower blood pressure. Just try getting a massage and see how much lower your blood pressure is!

We women often put ourselves last on the list of priorities, and massage may be something you would not dream of indulging in, because of time or money.  If you are worried about time, schedule just 30 minutes – a lunch hour – for a massage.  If you are worried about money, ask for a gift certificate for a massage for your birthday or Mother’s Day.  Once you’ve experienced the benefits massage offers, you’ll find a way to make it a regular part of your health and fitness routine.