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Women’s Health and Fitness

Jaclyn Bonder, M.D. discusses the importance of health and fitness for women. She explains the benefits of exercise, including disease prevention and mood improvement. She offers tips for women on how to establish a regular physical activity schedule, manage weight loss, and recondition for returning to the gym.

To schedule an appointment with Jaclyn Bonder, M.D.
Women’s Health and Fitness
Featured Speaker:
Jaclyn Bonder, MD
Jaclyn H. Bonder, MD serves as the Medical Director of Women’s Health Rehabilitation at Weill Cornell Medicine & New York Presbyterian – Weill Cornell Medical Center. She is also Assistant Professor, in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College. 

Learn more about Jaclyn Bonder, MD

Melanie: Thanks for tuning into Back To Health, the podcast that brings you up to the minute information on the latest trends and breakthroughs in health, wellness, and medical care. Today's special episode is part of our Women's Health Wednesday series, which features in-depth conversations with Weill Cornell Medicine's top physicians on issues surrounding women's health throughout the life course. Listen here for the best information and insights that will help you make the most informed and best healthcare choices for you.

I'm Melanie Cole. And we're delving into women's health and fitness today with Dr. Jaclyn Bonder. She's the Medical Director of Women's Health Rehabilitation at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center and she's an Associate Professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College.

Dr. Bonder, it's a pleasure to have you join us for these Women's Health Wednesdays. And what a great topic we're starting out with. I'd like you to reach out to women. Tell them the benefits of exercise in terms of disease prevention, feeling good. What does it even mean to get regular physical activity and how can it benefit really not only our physical health, but our overall health, our mental health, which is something that is really sorely lacking right now?

Dr Jaclyn Bonder: Thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here. I'm happy to tell you that exercise is a great passion of mine and I've made it my career in terms of physical medicine and rehabilitation. Exercise is medicine is one of the things that I do like to say because of all of the great benefits it has in helping our physical well-being as well as our mental health well-being.

From a physical standpoint, it helps build stronger bones. It also helps build stronger muscles. And more from a mental standpoint, it can reduce stress and help your mood. So there's lots of different ways to exercise and to affect things in that nature. And I'm excited to talk about it.

Melanie: And I think people don't realize. They think it's hard to start. Maybe motivation is an issue and you, and I will talk about that a little bit too. But really, once you start, then it really makes you feel all those things that you were just talking about. Now, as far as disease prevention, diabetes, heart disease, which the number one killer of women is heart disease, what kinds of exercise do you want us to be looking at to do? Because there are so many different types across the spectrum really.

Dr Jaclyn Bonder: So I think that the answer is try to vary it up. I mean, I think that, you know, for cardiovascular health and preventing diabetes, you know, any type of exercise, but mostly, physical activities, such as aerobic exercise is probably going to help lower your blood sugar, lower your blood pressure, even keep your heart rate under control. And aerobic activity has really been shown to show that. But I also think it's really important for people to prevent things like osteoporosis or low bone density by lifting weights, doing some walking, maybe some slow jogging, even dancing can be considered a weight-bearing exercise that's good for your bones. So varying it up is important.

And lastly, the other piece of information to kind of include would be to think about, you know, flexibility and thinking about balance because as we get older and as women get older, they're more at risk for falls. And so we want to make sure that women don't fracture their bones. And so improving your balance will help you decrease your risk for falling as well as having better bone strength, so that you're less likely to fracture if you do fall.

So in summary. I think it's really important to kind of just vary it up. Do some walking one day, maybe some dancing another day. Maybe a couple of days a week, you can do some weightlifting and body weight training or strengthening. And other days, do some more yoga or Pilates types of exercises.

Melanie: What good points you made. And thank you for telling us about the exercises for bone health, because women don't realize our risk for osteoporosis grows as the decades grow. I'm 57, so I certainly have had my DEXA scan a couple of times now, but I can tell you that those are the exercises that really build that bone mineral density and help us to keep falls from causing fractures, really. So how much is enough? I think that's the question that I've received in so many years, more times than any other question that I can even think of, is how much exercise? How much aerobic exercise? How much weight training? How much are we supposed to do?

Dr Jaclyn Bonder: So, you know, I think that the benefits really of exercise are cumulative. Everyone can kind of vary their schedule in terms of activity, but I really think that about 30 minutes of exercise a day and it doesn't have to be all at once, about five days a week is really looked at as to be most beneficial. If I tell people to do it seven days, they're not going to do it seven days. So if we suggest five days, hopefully they can do, you know, four days at least. But really, four or five days of some 30-minute, activity, whether it's a brisk walk or even just walking the dog, it can be considered physical activity.

And then from a strength training standpoint to kind of help build bones, doing some cardiovascular and aerobic activity twice a week, maybe some physical strengthening and weight training two times a week. And then that other day, kind of pick and choose, or maybe do a combination of some different types of exercise in one day. But really, the benefits have been shown that about 30 minutes of exercise over five days is really what's most beneficial.

Melanie: I think the other question I get the most is how do I lose weight? How does exercise help somebody lose weight? So Dr. Bonder, what types of exercise will help somebody lose weight? And they're looking for fat loss, they're looking for all that stuff. Tell us about that.

Dr Jaclyn Bonder: So, for weight loss purposes, we usually tell people to turn to starting with aerobic and cardiovascular exercise, that's the exercise that gets your breathing rate up your heart rate up and helps burn calories. So you really want to start to kind of slowly progress, if you're a new exerciser, slowly progress in a cardiovascular program at least three or four times a week. And even with trying to lose weight, you want to vary it up. So 20 minutes of high intensity exercise maybe or a goal of getting, let's say -- I don't want to tell everyone to just go start doing 20 minutes of high intensity exercise. You want to kind of work up to that point. Twenty minutes of high intensity though can sometimes produce the same amount of 30 minutes of moderate activity. So it's really about the exercises that you choose. And so we know that something like high intensity interval training, which is a combination of doing some quick high intensity, like, you know, running, running in place, jumping jacks activity for 20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest and doing that for 15, 20 minutes is almost equal to doing 30 minutes of moderate walking.

So it really depends on your health status, right? So, you know, if you already have some health conditions like arthritis or maybe even bone density issues, you want to be careful with all the pressure you will put on your bones and your joints. I would tell someone to focus more on the low impact exercise as we like to call it, low-impact exercise. There's always a foot on the ground. With low impact exercise, usually there's one foot on the ground. High-impact exercise, usually at some point, you have two feet off the ground, is sometimes a way to think about it and be able to tell the difference between the two.

But, going back to the weight loss idea, is that even for weight loss, we want to build muscle too. Building muscle helps us burn calories when we're not exercising. So the higher your muscle mass is, the more you're going to burn calories when you're not actually doing some exercise. So that's why we kind of really encourage both as a part of it.

Melanie: Now what about daily tasks then. I can tell you when I'm gardening, Dr. Bonder, I feel like I've gotten a really, really good workout in, and sometimes it makes it so there's not a lot of other exercise, formal exercise, I can do. Can we count daily tasks as exercise?

Dr Jaclyn Bonder: Yes, absolutely. I've alluded to it a little bit before, you know, things like walking. If you have a dog or want to get a dog, it's a great way to get your exercise in. But even some household chores really can be low impact type exercise. Getting down on the floor, scrubbing floors, or even sweeping all of those kinds of things can really get your heart rate up when you're doing it. So I definitely would count that. One day a week, if you're saying I'm going to clean my home and I'm going to walk up the stairs three times, go back and forth to clean up the bedrooms, then you're getting it in. So I definitely think that you can include that.

You know, standing is also a great way to get some exercise in and think about burning some extra calories. Anything that you're doing, you're sitting and talking on the phone. I mean, right now, we could be standing and talking as opposed to sitting and talking. And when you stand, you burn more active calories than sitting. So many of us have been home, especially with sitting at a computer during this time that we can think about standing a couple more times during the day, you'll burn some extra calories too.

Melanie: These are all such great tips. And as we get ready to wrap up this really informative episode, Dr. Bonder, people don't know how to get started. And certainly with COVID, a lot of us sat around, maybe got deconditioned. So setting those goals, because I think smart goals are one of the best ways. If you just jump into it, you never quite know whether you're going to keep that motivation going. But when you've got those goals and you're looking towards something, it helps to keep you moving forward. So I would like you to tell us how to set those goals, how to keep those goals and how to stay motivated for our Women's Health Wednesdays Women's Health and Fitness.

Dr Jaclyn Bonder: So I think that setting goals is really important. I think from a standpoint of just first starting to exercise, if you haven't been exercising in a while, you know, start slow. Make a goal that you're going to walk or do some sort of light exercise for five to 10 minutes a day and slowly progress up to 30 minutes. It's hard to do 30 minutes and it's harder than most people realize. So, one goal that's easy to set is to say, "I'm not going to do this fast. This is going to go slow and that's okay." Basically, start with five or 10 minutes and kind of slowly progress.

Another really good goal is to partner with a friend or even a colleague that you can be accountable to each other and kind of setting goals together and so that you feel like you're doing it with somebody and you're not alone and that helps our mental health as well in terms of just being with someone and the social interaction of that. And so I think that can be important to help set goals with another person.

And then in terms of goals, I think that you want to set realistic ones. So, choose the right weight that is going to be good for you. A good rule of thumb is to say, "The weight I'm going to start with is the weight I feel really tired after about 10, maybe 15 repetitions of a curl or a bicep curl or a tricep exercise or something like that." Any of those weight training exercises that you may start to learn. Pick up a weight that feels tiring and then say, "Okay, my goal is over the next six months."

Don't make such lofty goals. goals that are too high are going to be really difficult to achieve. And so we want to kind of set them on the lower side, so that you can go slow and then you can achieve those goals.

My last piece of advice is form. Proper form when you exercise is the best way to prevent injury, but also get the most benefit out of an exercise. So if you're not doing it correctly, that's when you're going to get hurt and you're not going to get the benefit from it. So whether you're walking, running, weightlifting or anything, and you're not sure if you're doing it correctly, talk to somebody, either your doctor or friend that might be an expert, an exercise physiologist, a physical therapist, so many people that know about how to exercise properly, because I think that that's a really important point to kind of prevent injury, but also see your goals achieved.

Melanie: Absolutely. Great information. Thank you so much, Dr. Bonder, for joining us today. And we're so glad listeners that you joined us for Women's Health Wednesday. We hope you'll tune in and become part of a community, and a fast-growing audience of women looking for knowledge, insight, and real answers to hard questions about their bodies and their health.

Please download, subscribe, rate, and review Back To Health on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts. For more health tips, go to and search podcasts. And parents, remember to check out our Kids Health Cast too. I'm Melanie Cole. Thanks so much for tuning in