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The Role of Exercise in Women’s Mental Health

November 23, 2022

I’m Kim.
I’m an M.D.-turned-coach and I’m dedicated to helping you build your dream career + lifestyle. Welcome to my blog, where I write (and podcast) about wellness, business + success!
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Women tend to have lower aerobic activity levels and more barriers to exercise compared to men. As a health and wellness coach, it’s important to understand how this places them at a higher risk for both depression and metabolic syndrome, which only increases chances for coronary disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes. In fact, researchers at Binghamton University found that women are more likely to suffer from mental health disorders as a direct impact of less exercise than men.

This means that, used the other way around, eating healthy and exercising leads to better mental well-being in women over the age of 30! Let’s take a closer look at this relationship so that we can simultaneously encourage fitness and better mental health among clients.

Barriers to exercise

Women are twice as likely as men to hold the belief that they aren’t the “sporty type.” Many fear being ridiculed or embarrassing themselves by not being able to keep up with others, and as women get older their confidence often diminishes even further as they get caught up in work or childcare. Soon, they may end up believing it’s too late to start any new physical activity.

Exercise and the mind

Exercise isn’t just for fitness experts striving for the perfect BMI or muscle-bone ratio. It’s for anybody who wants to achieve a healthier mind and body.

Exercise is a physical activity that can improve your cardiovascular health alongside your cognitive health. A CNN report shows that a woman’s mental processing speed may benefit more than a man’s from an exercise boost. This boost could empower women to take better control of their brain health by staying physically active and cognitively engaged.

Improved memory is only one of the many positive impacts of exercise for a person’s mental health. An in-depth look at exercise psychology by Maryville University found that better sleep and a higher self-confidence, as well as body positivity, were also important benefits. At the same time, exercise forwards a sense of well-being because physical activity releases endorphins, serotonins and other natural brain chemicals that can improve mood. This can decrease the odds of individuals becoming depressed by up to 26%.

This is critical for older women who are undergoing menopause. Menopause is a period of decreasing estrogen in a woman’s body, and estrogen is responsible for stimulating the production of serotonin and endorphins. IMS records a 50% decrease in levels of serotonin after menopause, which corresponds to declining estrogen levels, which can be dangerous when preceding hot flashes. Exercise such as vigorous aerobic workouts can be steadily introduced to regulate the hormones while managing one’s core body temperature.

This especially helps to benefit obese postmenopausal women with hot flashes through weight loss. Weight loss from exercise also decreases the prevalence of depression and anxiety in women with PCOS. This can uplift one’s health-related quality of life and PCOS symptom distress.

Building a plan

Women come from different backgrounds and unique medical histories, and coaches need to know all about this in order to adjust to their conditions. That is why our previous podcast on Building A Health Coaching Business stresses trust as the key to becoming an effective coach. A workout plan tailored to one’s schedule, preferences, and needs is crafted in collaboration with the coach and the client. This allows women to understand that fitness is part of a personal journey toward healing and peace, and is for no one else’s satisfaction but their own.

It’s never too late to start becoming physically and mentally healthier. With a proper understanding of fitness, our community of women will be better safeguarded, and we can more effectively promote exercise among all ages and sexes.

 By JB Wright for drkimfoster.com


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