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Health Information Women's Fitness from Discover Rush Online
The Architecture of a Woman
Orthopedic concerns for active women

May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. Fitness is a crucial aspect of maintaining good health for everyone. When women consider their fitness goals and needs, they should also be aware that their bodies are structurally different from men's.

Everyone, including women, should begin an exercise program by consulting with a doctor. If your doctor gives you the green light, you should start at a slow rate, increasing your workout and its intensity as your body grows accustomed to the new routine.

"The tendency is to jump in too quickly before the body can adapt. This can lead to soreness and, in some cases, injury, which may lead you to lose interest in working out," according to Kathleen Weber, MD, the Chicago White Sox team's primary internal medicine/sports medicine physician and one of the co-team physicians for the Chicago Bulls. Weber has combined training in sports medicine, internal medicine and exercise physiology.

Beyond getting a good start, women should be watchful for certain sports injuries, because there are some clear differences in the musculoskeletal structure of women's and men's bodies. One example of this is that women are eight to 12 times more likely to experience stress fractures than men.

Women are also more likely than men to experience fractures in these areas:

  • The femoral neck (the upper part of the thigh bone that attaches to the ball that fits into the joint socket)
  • Pelvic stress fracture
  • Metatarsal or central bones of the foot
  • Tibia or shinbone (this is common in both women and men)

"Women should also be watchful for knee problems," Weber says. "Pain in and around the kneecap is related to some subtle differences in pelvis and leg structure in women that can increase the stress that the kneecap experiences." Increasing core pelvic and hip strength, which can help stabilizing muscles around the pelvis, is a good way to prevent some of the increased forces at the kneecap.

Weight training is important for everyone, but especially for women. It can help with posture, prevent injuries and osteoporosis (weight-bearing resistance increases bone density) and support joints.

Dr. Weber stresses that women who do not get enough calcium and vitamin D through diet will need a supplement. She recommends 1200 milligrams of calcium and 800 IUs of vitamin D each day. Even though current guidelines call for 400, recent research indicates that a higher amount is needed.

Bone is a living part of the body, and it needs time to rebuild. A break or fracture may be an indication of some interruption in this process. Early occurrence of osteoporosis is not uncommon; that's why adequate nutrition is so important, especially for active people.

Exercise should be a regular part of everyone's life. A variety of activities is the best way to go. Your cross-training exercise menu should include activities that incorporate:

  • Strength training
  • Cardiovascular training
  • Flexibility

Choose things that you enjoy. "Think of health and fitness as a lifetime experience," suggests Weber. "Stay healthy and active throughout life. You will age better with a higher quality of life as you age." It's never too late to start. Remember to check with your primary care doctor before you start.

For more information on the Women's Sports Medicine Program at Rush.

For more information about other Women's Health Services at Rush

Looking for a doctor? Call toll free: 888 352-RUSH (7874)

Some of the physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are in private practice and as independent practitioners are not the agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center. All of the physicians featured in Discover Rush Online will be glad to clarify the exact nature of their relationship with Rush University Medical Center.

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