A woman can get in the best physical shape through consistent exercise, coupled with a healthy eating plan. There is not one activity that is best. Instead, you need to combine cardiovascular exercise, resistance training and flexibility work to maintain a healthy body weight, lower your risk of disease and improve your quality of life. For the best possible results you also need a healthy, balanced diet to meet your nutritional needs. It is advisable to consult your physician before you begin any exercise and nutrition program.
Perform cardiovascular exercises three to five times per week for 30 to 60 minutes, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. Ideally your intensity should be moderate to vigorous, but even lower-intensity activities, such as gardening, can yield some health benefits. Choose activities that you enjoy and that keep your heart rate elevated. If you are new to exercise, start slowly with as little as 10 minutes at a time. Gradually increase your duration and intensity of exercise.
Resistance training will help you lower your body fat, give you muscle definition and keep your bones and muscles strong. Perform resistance exercises two to three times per week on nonconsecutive days. Do one to three sets of eight to 12 repetitions per exercise. Choose at least one exercise for each major muscle group: back, chest, shoulders, biceps, triceps, upper legs, calves and abdominals. You have many options when it comes to resistance. You can use machines, free weights, bands, balls, body weight or any combination. A certified personal trainer can help guide you if you feel lost so you can get in your best physical shape.
Flexibility refers to the range of motion around your joints. If flexibility is impeded you may have pain and/or be unable to perform certain motions. Stretching exercises improve flexibility and should be performed at least two to three times per week, or at the end of every exercise session. Perform one stretch for each major muscle group and hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. You should feel a pulling sensation but it should not be painful.
A balanced diet is essential if you want to achieve your best physical shape. Your diet should include a balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat. No food groups should be left out completely. Since each person is an individual with different caloric needs, consulting a registered dietitian is a great option. Your dietitian will evaluate your needs based on foods you like/dislike, your health, your activity level and your lifestyle. This does not mean you can never have dessert again, but portion size is also key.
- Illinois Department of Public Health: Facts About Women's Wellness-Exercise
- ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription: American College of Sports Medicine
- Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning: National Strength and Conditioning Association
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