Women face different challenges than men do when creating fitness plans, not only due to the dissimilar goals men and women have for working out, but also because of physiological differences. Depending on your age, your fitness plan should address strength, heart health and bone building, in addition to body shaping and calorie burning.
When creating a fitness plan, take into consideration the following factors: heart health, weight loss, sports participation, body shaping and bone health. An exercise that works well for fat-burning won’t necessarily help you in sports or increase bone density. Plan on combining strength and cardio in your daily workouts, or emphasizing each on different days.
Young women, especially those in high school and college, will have opportunities to play organized, club and recreational sports. Plan on adding upper-body resistance training and high-intensity interval training to your workouts to build muscle strength, increase your endurance and improve your ability to recover between points. Use dumbbells, resistance bands, kettlebells or a home gym to build muscle. Don’t worry about bulking up; by using half of the maximum weight you can lift, you can build enough muscle with a circuit-training workout to get fit for sports and build muscular endurance. Each week, perform three, 30-minute steady-state cardio workouts. Add two, 30-minute resistance workouts each week and perform 10 minutes of interval training at the end of each workout. Do this by performing 30-seconds of highly intense activity, followed by two minutes of walking.
Burning calories, “toning” muscles and achieving a flat stomach are three common goals for many adult women. Unfortunately, you can’t spot-burn fat and there’s no such thing as “toning” muscles. You’ll need to reduce fat with full-body cardio workouts and build muscle in problem areas to get the shape you want. Circuit-training workouts are effective for achieving both goals and helping build bone density. Using roughly 30 percent of the maximum weight you can lift to perform an exercise, create a circuit-training routine. Perform an exercise at a high intensity for 30 seconds, take a short break, and then start another exercise, keeping your heart rate high. Add more weight when you do exercises that target your triceps and calves to shape these areas. You can either do calisthenics if you don’t have weights or use resistance bands. Use both methods of exercising if you can. Perform a 30-minute circuit-training routine at least twice a week, in addition to a 30-minute aerobic workout without resistance.
Senior women should emphasize low- or non-impact workouts that include resistance. Some examples include power walking with dumbbells, bicycling, swimming, walking up and down stairs, step aerobics, water aerobics and resistance band exercises. Because swimming is not as effective for improving bone density as weight-bearing activities, supplement it with at least two, 15-minute resistance workouts on your feet each week. Use just enough weight that your muscles start to ache after 30 seconds. Aim for 150 minutes of exercise at a moderate intensity each week to improve your heart health and maintain your weight.
Sam Ashe-Edmunds has been writing and lecturing for decades. He has worked in the corporate and nonprofit arenas as a C-Suite executive, serving on several nonprofit boards. He is an internationally traveled sport science writer and lecturer. He has been published in print publications such as Entrepreneur, Tennis, SI for Kids, Chicago Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and on websites such Smart-Healthy-Living.net, SmartyCents and Youthletic. Edmunds has a bachelor's degree in journalism.