Getting physical

Did you know that hot flashes and night sweats are less common in physically active women? Physical exercise has also been shown to enhance mood and promote daytime energy and restful nights. In fact, being fit not only decreases the long-term risks of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and obesity, it also plays a role in how symptoms of hormonal change affect you.

In addition to a healthy diet, a successful fitness program should include aerobic activities for your heart, bones, and general fitness; resistance training for your muscle and bone strength; and stretching for your flexibility and to decrease your risk of injury.

Start with a plan

If you haven't exercised in a long time (or ever), you should see your healthcare provider first to get a clean bill of health, and maybe even some personalized suggestions on the best way to get started.

Put exercise on your calendar – once a day, every day.

Write yourself a contract, making exercise a daily priority, and post it on your refrigerator. Signing your name may help you to live up to your word.

Get someone to exercise with you. A friend or spouse along for the ride means you can talk while you walk. If you miss a few days because of travel or illness, get right back on track again.

Things you can do without joining a gym.

If you're a lifelong couch potato and exercise sounds too hard, remember – you don't have to join a gym or even start a new sport to get in shape. You can exercise simply by:

Things you can do without joining a gym.

Walking everywhere! Get a pedometer and see how many miles you can log each week.

Things you can do without joining a gym.

Taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

Things you can do without joining a gym.

Parking a few blocks from your destination and walking the rest of the way.

Things you can do without joining a gym.

Cleaning the house by the longest route – go up a flight of stairs and do one room; then down a flight and do another, etc.

Things you can do without joining a gym.

Keeping some light weights at your desk and taking breaks with some easy lifting and ab crunches.

Things you can do without joining a gym.

Installing an exercise bike or rowing machine in front of your TV.

If you have not been exercising and feel out of shape, start slowly. Begin by taking 5- to 15-minute walks at a comfortable pace three times a week, and gradually increase your distance and pace, keeping in mind the goals mentioned above.

Types of dedicated exercise and how they help

Aerobic exercise raises your pulse and gets you breathing harder. Brisk walking, swimming, aerobic dancing, bicycling, and treadmill or outdoor running are all effective means of aerobic exercise. Choose the most enjoyable activity that fits your schedule.

Strength training involves free weights or exercise machines to strengthen individual muscles. Do a series of exercises that focus on your arms, shoulders, and torso two to three times a week. If you haven't done this kind of exercise before, seek instruction from your healthcare provider, a physical therapist, or a trainer.

Flexibility exercises should also be done two or three times each week. They can best be done after aerobic exercise. Flexibility exercises are most effective if the stretch is done slowly and held for 20 to 30 seconds. Your healthcare provider, a physical therapist, or a trainer can suggest appropriate exercises.