According to a recent study recently published in JAMA internal medicine, they estimated that approximately 110 000 deaths per year could be prevented if US adults aged 40 to 85 years or older increased their moderate to vigorous physical activity by just 10 minutes per day.

In this episode, it’s all about finding the movement that fires you up. This is not about taking on the next marathon or joining Cross Fit — unless that’s your thing, of course. You’ll hear from women who’ve found fun and interesting ways to incorporate movement into their daily lives, and finding some unexpected benefits along the way. Maybe you’ll even find your future favorite activity through their stories.

I recently posted all over social media looking for women who’ve found an enjoyable way to exercise that might not be so mainstream for women over 40. And there was no shortage of amazing women doing hard things.

  • Weight lifting well over 60
  • Taking on martial arts in midlife
  • Yoga (seriously the headstands I’ve seen — so impressive)
  • Roller skating
  • Horseback riding
  • Swimming
  • Even Curling (appropriate as the Olympics begin)

Then there are women like actress and writer, Nicole Appleby who loves juggling as her form of exercise.

I love to juggle for fun, it’s kind of my sport of choice. One of the main benefits of juggling is concentration. When you juggle, you are absolutely in the moment focused on the one task of keeping those three objects in the air. Another great thing about juggling is you can start at any age. In fact, surprisingly, the older you get the better it is for you because it lubricates the joints and the arms and the shoulders, and it is a recommended exercise for senior citizens. It’s a portable workout, which is awesome. You can juggle in your hotel room. You could juggle in the middle of the street. You could juggle in your backyard. It’s just such a simple way to lift weights, relieve your stress and be in the moment and have fun all wrapped up in almost silliness, which is awesome.

Or women like Victoria Wyckoff — a model and artist — who bounces her way to fitness on her rebounder — or mini trampoline.

It is fantastic for cardio burning fat energy and it detoxifies your lymphatic system. It’s one of the best things to do, especially for older women like myself who don’t want to run anymore. I don’t want to go to a gym and it’s so much fun — just bouncing. It’s really one of the healthiest things you can do for your bones, your muscles and your cardiovascular. It helps with lower back pain. And it really gets your muscles working and your heart rate up. And it really helps with balancing and they come with a balancing bar that you could hold on to, while you do the exercises until you get more comfortable. My energy level just skyrockets when I rebound just for 10 or 15 minutes. That’s the best part of it.

Victoria recommends YouTube for finding a whole plethora of exercises you can do on a rebounder.

And then there’s Anna Gray, host of Live Big! Find Your Magic Podcast who channels her inner badass 2-3 nights per week.

I love to play ice hockey as my form of exercise. I’ve been doing it for the last 20 something years and I turned 50 this year. It is my form of stress relief. It’s my form of meditation. The benefits of actually playing are more than just the workout. It’s an opportunity for me to shut my brain off for an hour and a half each night, so I actually try and play two, three times a week for that reason. So it’s more of therapy for me than a workout, but the bonus is an hour and a half of an amazing workout.

Another great form of exercise is dancing. According to Prevention Magazine, dancing isn’t just good for the body, but your brain as well. Just ask professional belly dance instructor and performer Jennifer Sobel, who is passionate about empowering women to become their most incredible selves through the art of movement. “I want to make belly dance as approachable as possible because I want women to feel the joy and the freedom that I feel when I belly dance.”

As someone who can’t even hula hoop — true story — I asked Jennifer if belly dance is really something we all can do, because let’s be honest, it looks complicated.

Is belly dance easy? No, and usually it’s harder than most women think it will be, because it’s just like with anything else, right? Like if you look at somebody doing their art —  they make it look easy. Belly dance can seem intimidating at first because it requires a lot more internal muscle control, it does take some time to get that muscle control because you’re using muscles that you probably never used before in your life. These are not like activities of daily living, these muscles that we’re using. So it just takes a little while and I try to bring the fun and the patience into it to get women feeling confident. And yes, I can do this within 10 minutes. I literally have timed myself and taught women who’ve said that they were too uncoordinated, they’ve been a klutz their whole life, they have two left feet. In 10 minutes they are feeling the joy of belly dancing.

To Jennifer, who’s been teaching for over 16 years, belly dance is so much more than exercise.

“I think that belly dance can really become a metaphor for how you show up in different aspects of your life. To love yourself and your body more to really connect with the deepest aspects and essence of who you are. As an acupuncturist and a healing practitioner, I think that belly dance in its highest form is a healing tool for women, and I think that the dance is uniquely designed to help women in that way.”

So let’s talk the benefits. One of the most surprising side effects of belly dancing could be the answer to an extremely common problem. Belly dancing can actually help the millions of women who suffer from urinary incontinence, something that was studied and confirmed by the National Institute of Health and Jennifer herself wrote about for Woman’s World.

I never in a million years would have made that connection. But it was because of one of my students coming up to me after class one day, I used to teach at Gold’s Gym. There were like all mixed level people, and one of my regular students came up to me after class and she had this smile on her face and she was super excited and she said, “I have something to tell you.” And she said, “Well, since I’ve been belly dancing, I don’t have incontinence anymore.” And I was like, wow, that’s great. I’m so happy for you.

While Jennifer didn’t do anything with that info right away, she had a lightbulb moment a few years later.

I forgot about it for about four years; and I had wanted to create a product for my belly dance online. I was at the gym and I saw a commercial for one of those incontinence drugs, and I connected the two in that moment.And I thought, I wonder if I can help other women with this problem? And I ran some ads the next day to a free video and a lot of women had opted in. And I said, I think there’s something here.

And then when I did the research and I saw that 30 million women in the US alone have bladder leaking, one in three women will have this problem in their lifetime, it made me mad that so many women suffer from has been this dirty little secret that women have had this shame around. It shouldn’t be that way. And that shame is what keeps women from finding the resources that are actually going to help them, including belly dance. My student, she wasn’t trying to activate her pelvic floor muscles during class. It was just because you use your pelvic floor muscles a lot when you belly dance and they think belly dance came from that, it was developed as a dance to help women prepare and recover from childbirth. There’s a lot of controversy and disagreement around it, but that is one of the theories is that it was dance to help women prepare and recover from childbirth, which now makes perfect sense.

If you’re thinking belly dancing might be in your future, there are a few other benefits that might get you off the fence and into a class.

A 69-year-old woman’s leaking is pretty much gone and even her arthritis has improved dramatically.

Another woman had a shoulder injury and she couldn’t play the cello. Belly dancing helped her to get mobility back in her arm.

How often do you have to belly dance in order to see some of these benefits? Jennifer says you’d be surprised. The student that was in the article in Woman’s World? She did this 21 day belly dance bombshell challenge that I have. It was after that 21 days that her incontinence was gone and that’s only videos every day for 10 minutes. So it’s not this crazy belly dance class you have to do for an hour; and you can even incorporate it into your day, while you’re brushing teeth, or waiting for your water to boil… I belly dance during those times. It’s fun.

So if you’re looking for more movement in your life, belly dance might be the answer. And if you’re feeling the pull to heal some physical and emotional pain, it can help with that, too.

Your body can be your sanctuary and your refuge. It can be hard if you have a history of trauma; that could be physical, it could be emotional, sexual; your body is no longer a safe place. And so it can take a while to develop that relationship again. My body has always been my refuge and I want to help other women experience that as well, that your body can feel not only safe, but it can be the pathway to freedom, and feeling free and feeling grounded and feeling at peace and connected to yourself to where you remember again who you really are. And then you can start to create that relationship with your body as home. You can always come back into your body and get out of your head where all that madness is. And in just 10 minutes, you can feel free. You can remember who you are again.

For more of Jennifer’s interview and to see my personal belly dance lesson, scroll to the video below and subscribe to The Grown-Ass Woman’s Guide YouTube Channel.

About Our Guest:

Jennifer Sobel has been a professional belly dance instructor and performer for 16 years. She integrates her experience as a licensed acupuncturist and personal trainer to create holistic belly dance programs that help women heal in body, mind, and spirit. Her mission is to make belly dance approachable to all women so they can experience the joy of belly dance as quickly and easily as possible.  Her program, The Belly Dance Solution, helps women strengthen their pelvic floor with belly dance and appeared in the popular women’s magazine, Woman’s World.  Her recently launched Feminine Fire program is a membership program with the ultimate video library of 400+ videos and teaches a unique system to DIY your own belly dance routines. Connect with Jennifer on Facebook and Instagram.