Pumping Iron Deficiency

While the need for exercise makes itself more and more obvious as they step across the threshold of their forties, women of that age may be doubly challenged to get themselves in shape--physically and culturally.

Women with iron deficiency find it more difficult to sustain rigorous exercise. This is compounded by the fact that women with iron deficiency also reap fewer benefits from exercise as compared to their iron-rich counterparts. Iron deficiency anemia, a condition common in one of five women and fifty percent of all pregnant women, is a condition in which blood lacks adequate healthy red blood cells, which carry oxygen to tissues. In other words, women with iron deficiency face the double whammy of not being able to exercise effectively, and whatever aerobic exercise they engage in leaving them feeling worn out and also unable to sustain their exercise regimen.

While the condition of iron deficiency anemia may be remedied by proper diet and iron supplements, cultural practices may be the worse culprit. Women who were raised to always keep themselves clean and fresh become adverse to the idea of exercise, equating it with sweat and “men's work”, and time-wasters when they should be working in the kitchen or doing something for another family member. As a result, women who are deeply involved with the daily chores of caring for their families find it difficult to justify taking time off for themselves to go to the gym to work out. Conditions at a typical gym such as noise and crowd levels may not seem to be the proper venue for the “quiet time” forty-something homemakers feel that they need for themselves.

Media is of no help so it seems. Advertisements for exercise equipment and work-out clothes present young, healthy, perfectly proportioned women, performing exercise routines that in reality are not realistic for women past their forties. The advertising implies that if women buy the equipment and wear the clothes they will have a successful exercise regimen, transforming them into the forty-something equivalent of a Carol Alt. When the women realize that this is folly, the exercise equipment is abandoned, the workout clothes put away, and women end up with a sense of failure coupled with guilt for the time and resources they had spent on it rather than doing something “useful”.

Fitness advisers try to help women in this situation by teaching them to equate exercise time with “my time,” planning out a reasonable schedule of activities with clear attainable goals. Women are encouraged to sit down and take stock of the resources they need: what they want to do (run, jog, swim, etc.), where they can do it, equipment or special clothing that might be required, time to do it. Women are encouraged to take a piece of paper and write down what they hope to gain from an exercise session, as well as the kinds of activities they might undertake to get those benefits.They have to consume healthy foods.

Women can choose just one of the activities, decide what resources they need and where they can exercise. Then determine all the possible times during the week when they can have time for it, keeping in mind that it need not be a 30-minute or one-hour time slot. The recommendation is for 30 accumulated minutes per day. Three times a week is considered adequate for starters, and women are also advised to come to an arrangement with other family members on what to do while mom is going through her workout regimen.

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