National Women’s Health and Fitness Day 2023: Empowering Women’s Health and Wellness
National Women’s Health and Fitness Day is an opportunity to reflect on health and wellness strategies that help women thrive. The day was established in 2002 by the Health Information Resource Center (HIRC). The organization works to help “find current, trustworthy online health information needed to make informed decisions about health.”
The purpose of National Women’s Health and Fitness Day is to promote physical fitness and health awareness among women of all ages. The day falls on the last Wednesday of September each year and serves as a reminder to women to think about and prioritize their health and well-being.
This includes making informed choices, practicing daily self-care, and proactively maintaining good health with preventive care. It also includes striving for a healthy lifestyle and actively engaging in healthy habits that positively impact the quality and longevity of life.
It’s common to assume that “women’s health” refers mainly to gynecological or reproductive health. But it’s so much more. According to Medline, “Women's health refers to the branch of medicine that focuses on the treatment and diagnosis of diseases and conditions that affect a woman's physical and emotional well-being.”
In essence, it’s human health with a lens focused on areas of preventive care, healthcare risks specific to women, and the inclusion of physical fitness activities to empower women to be strong and healthy.
The focus of National Women’s Health and Fitness Day spotlights women to remind them to be engaged in their healthcare decisions. It provides the opportunity for local events where women can gather to celebrate the day with healthy activities. However, while the day focuses on women’s health, many of the health topics around fitness, stress management, and seeking support can apply to anyone, regardless of gender.
Preventive care is the foundation of women’s health
Preventive care is a critical component of women’s health and wellness. Preventive screening allows for earlier diagnosis, treatment, and better health outcomes. Similarly, primary care in the form of regular checkups and lab work can catch health issues in their early stages. For women who want a more personalized primary care relationship, Direct Primary Care provides increased access to a dedicated physician, longer office visits, generally quick appointment turnarounds, and telehealth options.
Below are some commonly recommended preventive care measures for women.
Annual well-woman exams
An annual well-woman exam with a doctor or nurse is a key component of maintaining good health and identifying any issues early on. These visits should include a comprehensive physical exam, a breast exam, and a discussion about any health concerns.
Regular mammograms are considered essential for the early detection of breast cancer, one of the most common and potentially deadly cancers among women. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states, “Regular mammograms can find breast cancer early, sometimes up to three years before it can be felt.”
Pap smears and HPV testing
Regular pap smears are recommended for cervical cancer screening. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states, “Cervical cancer screening is used to find changes in the cells of the cervix that could lead to cancer. Screening includes cervical cytology (also called the Pap test or Pap smear), testing for human papillomavirus (HPV), or both.”
Osteoporosis bone density tests
As women age, bone health becomes an increasing concern thus osteoporosis prevention and treatment are vital. Bone density tests can help identify osteoporosis or osteopenia early which allows for preventive measures. The Mayo Clinic recommends some proactive measures to help prevent or slow down bone loss such as:
Include plenty of calcium in your diet.
Pay attention to vitamin D.
Include physical activity in your daily routine.
Avoid substance abuse.
Screening for sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
Screening and open communication with healthcare providers can help women make informed decisions about their reproductive and sexual health.
Fitness specifically for women
Fitness is essential for everyone’s health and there are different fitness components that offer numerous physical and mental health benefits. There are also specific fitness routines that can optimize workout results for women to help ensure the best fitness outcomes.
Strength training is essential for women of all ages and fitness levels. It helps to build lean muscle mass, enhances metabolism, and increases bone density.
Cardiovascular exercise improves heart health, boosts endurance, and can help manage healthy weight. Outdoor activities like walking, hiking, running, and swimming are great choices for women looking to improve cardiovascular fitness. And don’t forget dancing! Dancing is not only aerobic but also fun and a great mood booster. There are tons of dance workout videos online, but you can also pick your own tunes and move to your own groove!
Flexibility and balance exercises help keep the body limber and safe. Incorporating stretching and balance exercises into your routine can help prevent injuries, enhance overall flexibility, and improve your general posture. If you spend long hours sitting at your desk each day, flexibility stretches can also improve your desk posture.
Pelvic floor exercises can help maintain pelvic floor health which is especially important during and after pregnancy. These are called “Kegel” exercises, and they can strengthen pelvic muscles, aid in bladder control, and support reproductive organs.
Stress and relaxation exercises like yoga or meditation can reduce stress and improve mental well-being. These mind-body practices can be just as important as physical activity to improve overall health.
Breathing exercises are simple but powerful relaxation tools that can improve focus and reduce anxiety. WebMD states, “Box breathing, also referred to as square breathing, is a deep breathing technique that can help you slow down your breathing. It works by distracting your mind as you count to four, calming your nervous system, and decreasing stress in your body.
Heart health is a priority for women
Heart disease is the leading cause of death among women in the United States. Go Red for Women is the American Heart Association’s signature women’s initiative and is “a comprehensive platform designed to increase women’s heart health awareness and serve as a catalyst for change to improve the lives of women globally.”
According to Go Red for Women, “Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of women, causing 1 in 3 deaths each year, but the simple truth is that most cardiovascular diseases can still be prevented with education and healthy lifestyle changes.” Thus, knowing the risk factors and how to prevent heart disease is of the utmost importance for women’s health.
According to the Office on Women’s Health (OAC), “Over 60 million women are living with some form of heart disease. In 2018, heart disease was responsible for more than 1 out of every 5 deaths for women in the U.S.” The OAC states,
The leading risk factor for heart disease in women is high blood pressure.
Pregnant women with high blood pressure have twice the risk of developing heart disease later in life.
African-American women have the highest rate of death due to heart disease.
Heart disease affects women differently than men. Know the differences!
Key factors and strategies for maintaining a healthy heart
Know your risk factors for heart disease including family history, high blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and diabetes. Regular primary or Direct Primary Care can help monitor these risk factors.
Maintain a heart-healthy, balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Limit processed foods and high-sodium foods. Avoid foods with added sugar or high-fat content.
Engage in regular exercise — it’s vital for heart health. Aim for 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a blend of both. Add moderate to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least two days per week.
Manage stress by incorporating stress reduction techniques such as deep breathing, yoga, meditation, or hobbies that reduce anxiety.
Avoid smoking and the use of tobacco products. According to the World Health Organization, “Just a few cigarettes a day, occasional smoking, or exposure to second-hand smoke increase the risk of heart disease. But if tobacco users take immediate action and quit, then their risk of heart disease will decrease by 50% after one year of not smoking.”
The American Heart Association states, “A healthy diet and lifestyle are the keys to preventing and managing cardiovascular disease. It’s not as hard as you may think! Remember, it's the overall pattern of your choices that counts.”
Striving for a healthy lifestyle — A little effort goes a long way
A healthy lifestyle is not just about what you eat and working out. It’s about making your health and well-being a priority. Finding time in a busy schedule to check all the “healthy choices” boxes can be challenging and it may be unrealistic to check them all, all the time. Remember that every effort in the right direction is a step toward your best health and your best life. Some “boxes” to check include:
Choose a healthy diet for most of your meals. Doing so means that when tasty comfort food is on the menu, or it’s a special occasion, you can partake knowing that you’ll return to the healthy diet habit you’ve developed.
Avoid harmful substances.
Exercise on a regular basis including cardio, strength training, and flexibility exercises. No time to work out? Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
Stay hydrated — “Water is your body's principal chemical component and makes up about 50% to 70% of your body weight. Your body depends on water to survive.”
Get enough sleep. Some people need more than 8 hours, other people need fewer. Understanding how much sleep you need and making that a priority will give you the best result.
Seek ways to reduce stress. This may be minute-to-minute or a planned hour of meditation. When you feel stress and anxiety threatening to overwhelm you, take a beat to breathe, assess, and take action, even if it’s just two minutes of box breathing.
Stay connected with family, friends, and colleagues. According to the CDC, social isolation significantly increases, “a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, a risk that may rival those of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity.”
Seek support from friends, family, or a mental health professional if you’re feeling overwhelmed. And use the buddy system to keep your diet and fitness goals on track — a winning social and fitness combination.
Establish healthy boundaries to give you the time you need to focus on your health. Consider saying “no” to non-critical obligations.
And last, but definitely not least, don’t skip annual check-ups and preventive screenings. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force states, “Getting the best health care means making smart decisions about preventive services. Preventive services, such as screening tests, counseling services, and preventive medicines, are tests or treatments that your doctor or others provide to prevent illnesses before they cause you symptoms or problems.”
Sedera and direct primary care for health and wellness
Sedera is a Medical Cost Sharing Community that offers an affordable, non-insurance approach for managing large and unexpected medical expenses through Community sharing. Sedera Members are active and engaged participants in their healthcare decision-making, dedicated to a healthy lifestyle, and united by shared values.
The concept of medical cost sharing, also known as health sharing, can be traced back to the early 1900s. Now it’s a modern, non-insurance solution to the high costs of healthcare that brings price transparency, affordability, freedom of choice, and peace of mind.
Many Sedera Members pair their membership with a Direct Primary Care (DPC) membership which is also a non-insurance membership-based healthcare model. DPC provides expanded access to a primary care physician and high-quality, personalized care for a low monthly fee. When paired together, Sedera and DPC provide an affordable, cash pay solution to manage large, unexpected medical events and primary and preventive care.
While National Women’s Health and Fitness Day rolls around every year, striving for a healthy lifestyle is a daily, life-long journey. In addition to developing healthy habits and practicing self-care, having increased access to a primary care physician, and having a plan for large, unexpected medical events, can be instrumental in achieving and maintaining the best health outcomes.
SEDERA DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. The information contained herein is for informational and/or educational purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.