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Health & Wellness

Exercise has special benefits for women, experts say

Observe National Women’s Health and Fitness Day with a trip to the gym.

Health Matters

Lace up your sneakers, grab your water bottle, and head to the gym, because today is National Women’s Health and Fitness Day.

The reasons for women and men to be fit and healthy generally are the same, says Rossella Avitabile Muller, director of fitness at the Fitness and Recreation Center. But in addition to decreasing body fat and the risk of injury and increasing metabolism and cardio-respiratory endurance, she says, there are several other reasons that make physical fitness even more vital to women’s health. Namely, women have a higher risk for heart disease than men. According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the number one killer of women. To stay heart-healthy, Avitabile Muller recommends doing cardiovascular activities such as running, walking, or aerobics at least three to five days a week for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Exercising also decreases the risks of osteoporosis, an ailment common among women that weakens the bones. “Weight training will increase muscle mass and when you have more muscle mass it causes the bones to become more dense and stronger,” she says. To educate women on how to lift properly, she encourages them to attend one of the women-only weight-training classes available at the Fitrec Center. Many women, she says, have an aversion to working out and to weight training especially because they think they are going to bulk up. “That is a complete myth,” she says. “How big you get depends on a lot of things, like genetics, how much you are lifting, and how you are lifting, so the class helps to dispel those myths.”

Not only does exercise keep you healthy, it also increases self-esteem, says Avitabile Muller. With the constant scrutiny of women’s bodies by the entertainment media and other sources, many girls feel pressure to be extremely thin, she says. “Exercise gets you more comfortable with the way your body looks and the way you deal with your body. It’s OK not to be waif-thin. It’s actually healthy to have some muscle mass and to be strong,” says Avitabile Muller.

Certified trainers, specialized in customizing workout routine, are available at the Fitrec Center for personal training or group training sessions. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 617-358-3760 or e-mail fitness@bu.edu.