By Jill Holden
TV shows and movies often feature “super women” who flawlessly handle life’s challenges. Work and family responsibilities are no obstacles for Lois Lane, Murphy Brown, Carol Brady and Clair Huxtable. Viewers are impressed with strong female leads. However, we rarely see how these “super women” help themselves.
May is Women’s Health Month, a reminder to prioritize health and wellness. Finding “me time” is essential. Women can balance health and wellness with careers, family and other responsibilities.
Commit to exercise
Any exercise, whether informal or under supervision of a medical professional, should include:
- Strength training: Resistance training using weights, bands or heavy objects to enhance muscle function.
- Endurance training: Long-duration aerobic exercises that strengthen the cardiovascular system.
- Flexibility: Stretching to improve range of motion and strengthen muscles and joints.
Physical therapy aims to optimize movement to improve the human experience. PTs advise on how to initiate and maintain healthy exercise habits. This is true for individuals with underlining medical conditions or history of injuries.
Much like athletes that are hyper-focused on their diets, women must prioritize nutrition to maximize their performance.
MyPlate, formerly the USDA’s Food Guide Pyramid, contains fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins and dairy. Physicians recommend these as the core of any diet. Some individuals cannot tolerate dairy, gluten or other foods, but alternatives are available. Consulting a licensed dietary nutritionist, especially as we age, helps address meal planning, weight management, healthy cooking, food allergies, diabetes and digestive concerns.
The American Heart Association lists areas of focus to enhance your lifestyle: mental health and well-being, sleep, stress management and quit smoking. Women should pause for a few minutes of deep breathing to increase oxygen levels in the blood, which increases energy levels, boosts immunity and reduces blood pressure. Oxygen improves stress management, reduces anxiety and clears the mind.
Insurance companies often cover annual visits to primary care physicians and dentists. They encourage visits because early detection and prevention are keys to good health.
These should be part of every woman’s health care routine:
- Primary care physician: general health, illnesses and injuries
- OB-GYN: reproductive health, menopause and women’s health
- Radiologist: annual mammograms for women starting at age 45, or earlier if they have a family history of breast cancer
- Dermatologist: skin care
- Optometrist or ophthalmologist: eye care and eye diseases
Physical therapists aren’t always listed among suggested visits. American Physical Therapy Association notes that PTs examine patients and develop treatment plans to improve ability to move, reduce or manage pain, restore function and prevent disability. Physical therapists are known for helping patients recover after injuries. They also treat patients with chronic conditions like arthritis, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, overuse injuries and muscle weakness.
Women’s bodies change after giving birth. Physical therapists address the musculoskeletal components of pregnancy and postpartum issues, including incontinence, pelvic floor muscle dysfunction and prenatal joint or muscle disfunction.
“Super women” can handle everything, but they must strike the right balance between careers, families, life and personal health.
About the author: Jill Holden is a physical therapist and clinical director for FYZICAL at Eastern Sky Drive in Traverse City.