Mother’s Day, a day when we celebrate our mothers by showering them with love, is this Sunday, May 8th. But what you may not have known is that this Sunday also marks the start of National Women’s Health Week – a week set aside to encourage women across the country to take on a healthier lifestyle.
According to a statement from Secretary Kathleen Sebelius of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “We know that women are often the ones who make sure everyone – everyone else, that is – in our families are cared for. But too often, we put our own health last. [T]he reality is unless you take care of yourself, you cannot really take care of your family.”
Mothers often go above and beyond to nurture and heal friends and family members, but it is equally important for mothers, and all women, to take good care of their own personal health and well-being also. This includes not only taking care of your general physical health, but also taking preventative steps to avoid certain diseases and health risks that affect women more than men.According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), though there are a variety of ways that women can be improving their health, physical activity is one of the most important, “and has many benefits including lowering your risk for heart disease – the leading cause of death for women.” [To find out more about how heart disease affects women, check out our blogs on Wearing Red For Women and Heart Month.] Additionally, the CDC recommends:
- “Adults should do at least 2 hours and 30 minutes each week of aerobic physical activity that requires moderate effort. Get it in for at least 10 minutes at a time.”
- “Adults should do strengthening activities at least 2 days a week that include all major muscle groups.”
- “Strength training can help reduce the chances for falls which means fewer fractures. Fall-related fractures among older women are more than twice those for men.”
It’s very important to continue to exercise, no matter your age, in order improve your health and stay strong as you age. Not only is it important to stay active throughout your lifetime, but women should also make sure to consume healthy foods and maintain a balanced diet.
Our metabolism slows as we age, so it’s important that we fill our bodies with the proper nutritional substances to keep our internal organs and digestive systems happy. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables along with reducing your sugar intake are a few ways to have a healthier diet. According to an article from BBC GoodFood by Kerry Torrens, “Women have different daily nutritional requirements to men,” so they provided a general how-to guide on healthy eating around the clock, including the following table:
|Carbs like cereal/rice/pasta/potato||Your clenched fist|
|Proteins like meat/poultry/fish||Palm of your hand|
|Savories like popcorn/crisps||2 of your cupped hands|
|Bakes like brownies/flapjacks||2 of your fingers|
|Butter & spreads||The tip of your thumb|
Torrens, K. (n.d.). A balanced diet for women | BBC Good Food. Retrieved from http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/balanced-diet-women
It’s important to also make sure you are drinking lots of water every single day. According to an article by Mayo Clinic, the adequate intake of water for women “is about 9 cups (2.2 liters) of total beverages a day” rather than the popular “8-cup” rule.
Mental health is also a key attribute to women’s health and well-being. Your sleep schedules, stress management, and organizational skills can contribute positively or negatively to your mental health, so it’s important to make sure you are managing these things well.
According to WebMD, “An average adult needs between 7.5 and 8 hours of sleep per night.” However, it’s important to recognize your own unique sleep needs, as this range may not be applicable to you. Whether you may need less than 7 hours or more than 9, “‘The amount of sleep needed to function the next day varies from individual to individual, and is determined genetically and hereditarily,’ says Chokoroverty, who is also a neuroscience professor at Seton Hall University’s School of Health and Medical Sciences.”
Women can also be quick to multi-task, which can lead to stress and anxiety in the day-to-day life. By making sure to organize your to-do lists, your conflicts, and the areas in your life that cause tension, it can be the difference between daily peace and anxiety in your life. Everyone deals with stress, but finding ways to cope with stress in a healthy way is vital to positive mental health. The CDC has provided a variety of healthy ways to cope with stress, HERE.
Lastly, taking care of yourself through your behavior has an influence on your health. According to an article from the Office On Women’s Health for National Women’s Health Week, avoiding unhealthy behaviors “such as smoking, texting while driving, and not wearing a seat-belt or bicycle helmet” are just a few steps you can take to better your health. Not to mention, taking care of daily personal hygiene can help you feel rejuvenated and healthier, as well.
Women’s health is not black and white. Every woman is different and struggles with different health problems, which is why the Office On Women’s Health provided a guide called “Steps for Better Health by Age” so that women of all age groups can find healthy living tips to suit their needs and stage of life.
Taking steps to better manage your health could just be your mother’s favorite Mother’s Day gift this year. Whether you need help to quit smoking, to eat healthier, or to exercise more, the YMCA is here to help you live a healthier and more fulfilling lifestyle. Click on the links below for more information about how the YMCA could help you on your health journey during National Women’s Health Week.
- Fitness Programs
- Smoking Cessation Program
- National Diabetes Prevention Program
- Personal Training
- LiveSTRONG at the YMCA
– Emily Sanville, Digital Communications Coordinator