Aikido is a Healthful Activity for Post-menopausal Women

This seems intuitively obvious, but it never hurts to have science that backs up a sensible idea:

“Women who exercise regularly after menopause tend to maintain their physical strength and mental acuity longer than those who don’t…”

Kathryn Doyle, Reuters Health
Exercise may slow physical and mental decline after menopause

Stunning revelation, right?

The Reuters article, Exercise may slow physical and mental decline after menopause, by Kathryn Doyle of Reuters Health discusses the research of Debra Anderson, Charlotte Seib, and Laura Rasmussen: Can physical activity prevent physical and cognitive decline in postmenopausal women? A systematic review of the literature.

“We found that all the studies showed that physical activity was associated with decreased rates of cognitive decline and that even becoming active in later life as opposed to a lifetime of physical activity still lowered the risk compared to those who were inactive,” said Debra Anderson.

From the above article. Emphasis mine.
Debra Anderson worked on the study at the Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation of the Queensland University of Technology in Kelvin Grove, Australia.

Current guidelines call for older adults to get the equivalent of 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times per week.

“For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) to 300 minutes (5 hours) a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) to 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. Preferably, aerobic activity should be spread throughout the week.”

Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, Executive Summary (PDF)
United States Department of Health and Human Services

To put those US HHS guidelines in a bite-sized bit of advice, each week we should all be getting:
– 150-300 minutes of moderate exercise
or 75-150 minutes of vigorous exercise,
or a combination of both,
spread throughout the week.

That’s a lot. At a minimum, that’s 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, or 50 minutes a day, 3 days a week, doing moderate-intensity exercise. That would be activities that get you breathing fasting, raise your heart rate, like fast walking, fairly intense housework, bicycling, yard work, hiking, or dancing. Minimum.

Returning to the article…

“We found that moderate to vigorous exercise is better than mild and gentle exercise,” Anderson told Reuters Health in an email. “There was a dose response in moderate to vigorous exercise which showed more was progressively better.”

You know what I call “mild and gentle exercise?” Not exercising. Yes, if you need to do lightweight physical therapy exercises for rehabilitation, great, do that. But if you’re doing a few curls with 5-pound weights and think you’re “getting your exercise,” no, you’re not. Yoga, Tai Chi, and stretch classes are great. Keep doing them. But they don’t count toward the amount of exercise we need to be getting.

Taking those guidelines further, the authors of the study discussed in the article suggest:

… doctors might consider ‘prescribing’ more intense exercise to older women.

Based on our findings we feel this should be 30 to 45 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity at least five times per week for midlife and older women,” Anderson said.

Previously, older women have been encouraged to keep their exercise moderate, but now it seems very important that women exercise to a point where they cannot finish a sentence while exercising and breathe hard and sweat, she said.

Kathryn Doyle, Reuters Health
Exercise may slow physical and mental decline after menopause

You do not have to wait for your doctor to “prescribe” more activity. Find something you love to do (or you won’t do it), and get moving. For you it might be hiking, swimming, dancing, training with kettlebells, or group exercise classes.

Conveniently, Aikido is a great activity to consider. Classes tend to vary between moderate and vigorous. In addition to the physical aspect, training is inherently social, and also cognitively challenging. These are great qualities for activities at any age, but particularly important for older people.

Another important point is that Aikido training improves mobility and balance, builds muscle mass and bone strength, and teaches us how to fall safely—a potentially life-saving skill for older women.