4 Women’s Health Trends That Are Worth the Effort

The latest trends for improving women's health and wellbeing include strategies to manage menopause, improve fitness levels on a tight schedule, boost nutrition, and overcome unhealthy boundaries.

Women are constantly bombarded with hot new fad diets, viral workout programs, and other health-related trends. Since there are so many to choose from, it isn't easy to know which are worth the time and effort. For International Women's Day, Healthnews takes a closer look at four worthwhile health trends that may help even busy women gain better control over their physical and mental wellbeing.

1. Sustainable exercise

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition, recommends that adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both, per week.

However, cramming this amount of exercise into an already-packed schedule can be challenging. For women, job-related demands, caring for children, and other obligations can make hitting the gym for an hour of cardio or resistance training almost impossible. Long gym routines can also impact a person's ability to sustain an exercise regimen.

However, according to one study, just 11 minutes of aerobic exercise can help reduce the risks of certain health conditions. Other reports suggest that short bursts of vigorous exercise may reduce the risk of cancer.

So, for some women, ditching long, arduous workouts, and opting instead for shorter sessions spread throughout the day might be a way to ensure they get the recommended amount of exercise each week.

In addition, choosing an enjoyable physical activity, such as biking, walking in green spaces, or working out with a friend, can help women sustain their fitness routine.

Wearable health trackers, like smartwatches or other devices that show step counts, miles walked, and other fitness-related data, can also help people stay on track with their workout plans. A woman might be surprised to see just how much activity she gets in a day, and that can be a huge motivator.

2. Hormone balancing for menopause

More and more women are embracing menopause and changing the narrative surrounding women and aging. Despite growing acceptance, women still want safe and effective strategies to manage menopause-related symptoms.

During the natural transition through menopause, a woman's hormones can fluctuate, resulting in a roller coaster ride of mood changes, hot flashes, and sleep disturbances. However, there are effective pharmaceutical and holistic approaches to help manage these hormone imbalances, including hormone replacement therapy, AKA menopause hormone therapy (MHT), and various herbal remedies.

Though research suggests that estrogen combined with synthetic progesterone may increase breast cancer risks, experts say MHT that includes estrogen with natural progesterone is safe if taken for five years or less within 10 years of a woman's last menstrual period.

Moreover, a national cohort study published in 2017 suggests that oral MHT, which is processed by the liver, may increase the risk of stroke. However, the study found that transdermal hormone therapy, typically delivered in the form of a skin patch, was not linked to a heightened stroke risk as it bypasses the liver.

Aside from prescription hormone replacement, herbs like black cohosh, red clover, chasteberry, evening primrose, fennel, and valerian are natural alternatives that may help calm menopause-related hormone disturbances.

Nutrition also plays a role in hormone balance. For example, reports suggest that eating a healthy diet with adequate protein, healthy fats, and fruits and vegetables can provide the nutrients needed to regulate hormones.

Moreover, women are embracing yoga as a natural way to regulate sleep quality, mood shifts, and other symptoms associated with menopause.

3. Adopting a 'nutrient-dense' diet

Popular diet trends like the keto and GOLO diet may be an option for women who want to lose weight or boost overall health. However, some women are abandoning the idea of food-restrictive diets and worrying about what not to eat. Instead, they are focusing more on adding nutrient-dense foods to their plates.

This "nutrient-dense" diet trend is about ensuring every bite and the calories that come with it are packed with the nutrition a woman needs for optimal health.

Lauryna Nelkine, a managing health content researcher at Healthnews, says that nutrient-dense foods are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, beneficial fatty acids, and antioxidants and supply relatively more nutrients than calories per serving size.

"The Mediterranean diet could be considered an example of a nutrient-dense diet since it focuses on a dietary pattern that not only provides energy but also nutrients that are essential for optimal functioning of our bodies," Nelkine explains.

Consuming a nutrient-dense diet is associated with increased longevity and decreased risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Moreover, nutrient-dense diets high in fiber, prebiotics, and probiotics are essential for optimal digestion and gut health.

Despite the potential benefits, Nelkine says that a nutrient-dense diet might not be right for everyone. For example, people with certain health conditions like anorexia nervosa or pregnant individuals experiencing severe morning sickness may benefit from a more energy-dense diet that's higher in calories.

Foods that are nutrient-dense include green leafy vegetables, brightly colored fruits, vegetables, berries, legumes, fish/seafood, garlic, onion, seeds, dairy products, and eggs.

According to Nelkine, easy ways to incorporate nutrient-dense foods in the daily diet include:

  • Adding green leafy or cruciferous veggies to smoothies.
  • Having vegetable sticks as a snack with hummus or yogurt.
  • Adding garlic and spices to salads and other meals.
  • Sprinkling seeds and berries on oatmeal or yogurt at breakfast.
  • Making egg dishes with beans and salad on the side.
  • Adding fermented veggies as a side dish.

Adding small amounts of nutrient-packed foods to meals throughout the day helps ensure every bite delivers maximum nutrition. And for women with a busy schedule, this may help make eating healthy feel less overwhelming.

4. Redefining boundaries

Setting healthy boundaries with children, friends, and family is critical for a person's mental wellbeing, as blurred or unclear boundaries can lead to feelings of resentment, relationship issues, and harm to mental health. Women may find it challenging to set boundaries because they have been conditioned to be nurturers and taught that declining requests or setting limits is selfish.

Moreover, a 2021 Pew Research Center survey found that among couples in the United States, nearly 60% of women say they do more household chores than their partner, and about 74% of mothers say they do more to manage their children's schedules and activities.

For these reasons, redefining and setting boundaries is a trend women may want to consider.

Kara Kushnir, MSW, LCSW, PMH-C, founder, and clinical director of A Work of Heart Counseling (AWOH) in New Jersey, tells Healthnews that healthy boundaries vary from person to person. Still, they reflect an individual's values and what feels authentic, doable, safe, and healthy.

"Boundaries help us to feel protected from manipulation, being used or violated by others, and can actually strengthen relationships by providing clarity about what both parties can expect," Kushnir says. "In a sense, boundaries define a person's sense of self and help maintain their autonomy, self-respect, and wellbeing."

Kushnir explains that clear and balanced boundaries are crucial for maintaining healthy relationships, fostering mutual respect, and preventing burnout or resentment.

According to Kushnir, signs that may indicate a person has unhealthy boundaries include:

  • Difficulty saying "no" or being assertive.
  • Feeling guilty when setting boundaries or prioritizing one's needs.
  • Frequently sacrificing personal needs or values to please others.
  • Allowing others to dictate or control decisions and actions.
  • Feeling overwhelmed, drained, or resentful due to constant demands or intrusions from others.
  • Experiencing frequent conflicts or feeling taken advantage of in relationships.
  • Ignoring personal discomfort or discomfort with other people's behavior to avoid confrontation.
  • People-pleasing behaviors, such as always yielding to the wants of others.

If a woman believes she needs stronger boundaries, Kushnir suggests identifying those boundaries by reflecting on personal values, needs, and limits. This will also help build more self-awareness of what's most important.

Once a woman identifies her boundaries, she can then begin to work towards strengthening them.

Kushnir's tips to boost boundary health include:

  • Practice building assertiveness by saying "no" or making a request. For example, a woman can practice saying "no" to someone's request when they already have too much on their plate.
  • Start setting limits by clarifying to others where personal boundaries exist regarding time, money, emotions, and personal resources.
  • Consider visiting a therapist to understand the reasons behind unhealthy boundaries, such as unresolved relational trauma, a negative experience with a partner, or a family of origin with poor boundaries.

"Be reflective and flexible - boundaries can be adjusted as needed, and as we evolve as people, our boundaries may too," Kushnir adds. "This is okay, and why reflection on them should happen as needed with flexible thinking."

Important
The health trends mentioned may not be suitable for everyone, especially those with pre-existing health conditions. Therefore, it's best to talk with a healthcare provider before starting any new diet, dietary supplement, or exercise program.


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