Following is a piece I wrote for 50+ Fabulous. The website aimed at women over 50, but the advice applies to women of all ages.
We all know that fitness at any age is beneficial, but keeping fit after 50 can be even more significant. In addition to the obvious physical advantages, a consistent program of exercise works like an almost miraculous combination of the fountain of youth and the ultimate beauty treatment. As we age, the benefits of a vital, healthy body are overwhelmingly positive. Why, then, is it so hard for women to make exercise a priority in their busy lives?
Working out, whether you choose a brisk walk, an afternoon of skiing, or a Pilates class is all the more fun and interesting if you do it with a friend or a group of friends, something I’ve learned by hard-won experience. At 5:30 most mornings, I join a group of women at the local library parking lot for an hour-long run. While this is a glorious pursuit in the summer months as we watch the sun rise over the ocean, winter is another story entirely. If it weren’t for those women waiting for me to start their day, I might be tempted to turn over in my warm bed and go back to sleep, avoiding the cold and dark of Maine’s winter.
Unlike many of my questionable life choices – my brief stint as a platinum blond comes immediately to mind as does a series of terrible post-divorce boyfriends – I have never returned from a run saying: “I wish I hadn’t done that.” No matter how hard it is to get out there, I’m always glad I did.
My women friends, my Running Girls, are a big part of why I love working out. The running is often secondary. Getting together with these women and sharing life’s ups and downs is often the best part of my day. We have supported each other through divorce and death, graduations and grandchildren, good times and bad. We borrow clothes and recipes and acquired wisdom, offering unsolicited advice, unequivocal honesty, and unconditional love.
Women who work out with a friend or in a group are more likely to keep up a regular schedule of exercise. There is also scientific evidence that women manage stress more effectively when they have a close circle of friends. Men, when faced with a stressful situation, experience the “fight or flight” response. Women, on the other hand, are biologically predisposed to “tend and befriend.” Studies show that the healthy effects of having girlfriends lower several factors that put us at risk as we age – blood pressure, cholesterol, and heart rate. Friendship among women is a balm not only for the soul, but also for the body.
So if you want to start an exercise program and stick to it, grab a friend and get going. I promise you won’t regret it.