Today is International Women’s Day, a day when women around the globe are encouraged to fight for their rights and embrace their womanhood. It’s no secret that women often put their own needs on the back burner, prioritizing other parts of their lives such as family or work or caring for those around them. When there are so many responsibilities and obligations for women to juggle in their day-to-day lives, it’s also easy to neglect one’s own health. Yet, feeling empowered to be healthy is actually a great way to celebrate your womanhood. This International Women’s Day try some of the hacks below, which can help keep both you and your body happy and healthy!
Exercise Your Way
The benefits of physical exercise on overall health has been widely documented.1 But we know it can be hard to log miles or time at the gym while also juggling a busy schedule. Maybe you work at a demanding job or are the primary caregiver for your young children, and you can’t find the time to take an hour for yourself and exercise. Or maybe you just don’t want to spend that one hour to yourself sweating at the gym. Though the CDC recommends getting 150 minutes of exercise each week,2 during the busier times that might not be feasible. And while you continue to find balance within your schedule, that’s okay. What’s important is that you find ways to move each day. Whether you go for a 15-minute walk during your lunch break or do a few yoga poses before your morning coffee, slowly but surely, you can build into a healthy exercise routine that works for you and your schedule.
Strengthen “Those” Muscles, Too
While you learn to start integrating exercise with your busy schedule, it’s important to recognize there are other ways to exercise that don’t involve the gym, or even workout attire. What’s this magic exercise you might be thinking? Kegels! Kegels work the pelvic floor muscles (PFM) that extend as a sling across the base of the pelvis. Too little stimulation for these muscles can lead to future medical issues like stress urinary incontinence (SUI).3 Kegels are a simple way to flex your muscles, stay healthy, and avoid future medical complications.
If you’ve never done Kegels before, start by locating your pelvic muscles. Pretend you are trying to avoid passing gas or pretend to tighten your vagina around a tampon. If you identify the right muscles, you should feel the contraction more in the back of the pelvic area than in the front. Once you’ve located your pelvic muscles, lie on your back and contract your pelvic floor muscles for 3 to 5 seconds. Then relax for 3 to 5 seconds and repeat this cycle 10 times. Don’t contract your abdominal, leg, or buttock muscles or lift your pelvis.
Once you feel comfortable flexing your pelvic floor muscles, you can try doing them standing up or sitting down. As you get more comfortable flexing, gradually increase the length of contractions. Soon enough you’ll be able to flex them for 10 seconds. Try to do Kegel exercises at least 30 to 40 times each day, spreading them throughout the day.4 Follow these tips and you’ll be able to do Kegels anytime (not just on International Women’s Day!) and you’ll strengthen your pelvis too!
Track Your Cycle
If you are like many women who have abnormal periods or heavy flow, tracking your cycle is a great way to ease your menstrual burden. Your time of the month can be disruptive to your work, personal, and love life, so managing your cycle and knowing when to expect your period can be such a help. Women track their cycles for 5 major reasons; to be aware of how their body is doing, understand their body’s reactions to different phases of their cycle, be prepared, become pregnant, and to inform conversations with healthcare providers.5
Making sure you know when your period will arrive, how long it will last, and when it will end is essential for planning when to relax, when to exercise, and when to be intimate. There’s no better time like the present, and International Women’s Day, to take charge of your health and start tracking your cycle. While you begin to track your cycle, you may see some abnormal patterns and symptoms. Be sure to check in with your doctor and use your tracker as a tool during your appointment so you can discuss any helpful treatments.
Check In With Yourself
Don’t ignore your body’s natural signals. Celebrating your womanhood on International Women’s Day means respecting your body and listening to what it’s trying to tell you. If you experience abnormal health symptoms such as sharp pain in your abdomen or excessive heavy flow during your time of the month, it’s a good idea to reach out to your doctor. Similarly, it’s important to remember that being healthy also means maintaining positive mental and emotional health. If you feel depressed, anxious, or overwhelmed it’s vital that you reach out to friends, family, or a doctor to relieve the unease. Never be afraid to open up about whatever you may be struggling with; cultivating healthy mental practices is just as important as sustaining physical health. Having an open and forthright relationship with your doctor is extremely beneficial to maintaining a healthy and happy body. Your doctor can give you insights into your symptoms and discuss treatment options to make sure you feel your best. If you need to find a doctor, make sure you find the right one for you.
Always remember that you don’t need to wait for International Women’s Day to embrace your womanhood. Feel free to work these hacks into your weekly routines and reach out to your doctor to make sure you’re doing everything you can to keep your body happy and healthy.
- The Status of Pelvic Floor Muscle Training for Women, accessed January 16, 2020, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2997838/
- Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition, accessed January 16, 2020 https://health.gov/paguidelines/second-edition/pdf/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf#page=56
- The Status of Pelvic Floor Muscle Training for Women, accessed January 16, 2020 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2997838/
- How to Perform Kegel Exercises, accessed January 16, 2020 https://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/how-to-perform-kegel-exercises
- Examining Menstrual Tracking to Inform the Design of Personal Informatic Tools, accessed January 21, 2020 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5432133/