Manasi Y Mastakar speaks to experts and nutritionists about the various workout regimes and dietary plans that women of different age group should follow
Marika Johansson, fitness trainer and nutritionist: I recommend to start early, at the of age 18-20, and incorporate weights with functional training, bodyweight exercises, yoga and Pilates. The training can be continued in every age group with same level of exercises and pace. It is a misconception that women of different ages should train differently. Our bodies are the same and functions the same. Women of all ages need to build strength by functional training and weightlifting.
Dr Mickey Mehta, Corporate Life Coach and Global Leading Holistic Health Guru: I believe in striking a balance between workouts and sports. For a girl below 20 there should be a 50:50 ratio between fitness and sports. I would say lot of outdoor games along with Yoga, Pilates and low intensity training.
Vinod Channa, celebrity fitness trainer: I am of the opinion that workout plan should be same for women across ages, because they need to work on strength, stamina, agility, flexibility, mind and body co-ordination to get complete fitness, but the plan will change depending upon lifestyle and medical history. If a girl hasn’t done any kind of exercise in the past, then she will need to take special care to work on weaker muscle first to enhance flexibility and mobility, which will then allow one to slowly increase the intensity of workout.
Namrata Purohit, fitness expert: At this age girls must start looking at healthy fitness options which will protect them against old age issues like back problems, knee trouble, osteoporosis, diabetes, heart ailments, etc. A study conducted indicates that girls who are healthy and fit in their 20’s are healthiest over a long period of time. 20-year-olds at this stage have a whole lot of options available to them…strength training, Pilates, yoga, aerobics, zumba etc….Ensure that whatever you do, your form has to be perfect as this will help you avoid injuries at a later stage.
Johansson: For this age group, the exercises can be the same as the previous one: Bodyweight exercises, yoga and pilates. Yoga and Pilates will help strengthen muscles and maintain flexibility of joints. A combination of these training regimes is the ultimate fitness plan for women. It is a misconception that women should not lift weights. This is very sad and discriminating as a woman’s body functions the same as a man when it comes to muscles and joints. The only difference is that since women have less of the male hormone testosterone they don’t gain the same muscle size or strength. Women actually benefit more than men from weight lifting as it helps strengthen our naturally weaker bones and joints. By weightlifting the growth hormone that is needed to replenish and renew our cells (which keep us young) is increased,” she adds.
Dr Mehta: For the 30s the ratio should change to 30% sports and 70% fitness training. One can engage is physical activities like cycling, swimming, dance, yoga and Pilates.
Purohit: Women in this age experience a lot of pressure, for example, family pressure, work, etc. Hence, at this age it is important to fit in an exercise program which gives you great results in the shortest time possible and also something that you enjoy and helps reduce stress.
Johansson: If you are starting to train later in life, as in the 40’s, begin with body weight training to strengthen muscles. Woman in this age group can perform same exercises and training as a girl of younger age. What is important is to work around injuries or muscle stiffness (if any) and increase mind-body co-ordination which in turn helps in performing exercises in their correct form. Also women in this age group should do warm ups and reps and stretching.
Dr Mehta: Women in this age group should divide their physical activities into 20% sports and 80% agility drills, yoga, pranayam and posture training. From 40s, which also is an age group where most women start experiencing menopause, they should start talking walks, like say in society compound, beach or garden. Walking amidst as much nature possible will be good for health. Meditation, yoga, praying during the menopausal years will help in coping with the symptoms.
Channa: Age is just a number, and hence workout or fitness regimes shouldn’t change or stop as a woman ages. What can change is the intensity and pace. If a woman has not been exercising at all, or has longer workout gaps, then she needs to take special care, because as we age, the bone density gets affected and due to calcium deficiency. And since the recovery power is less, while planning exercises, high intensity workouts should be avoided.
Purohit: This is the age for consolidation. Women’s body this age group undergoes lot of changes. Workout should now consist of 45-60 minutes of cardio exercise thrice a week. Also fitness forms that increase strength and muscle mass are now more important than ever before as it will help you maintain bone mass and burn more calories at rest.
50 & above
Johansson: Women in 50’s will hugely benefit with weight training as, with ageing, muscles begin to decrease and bones become weaker. By weight lifting, women can prevent muscles loss or at least slow it down and strong muscles will help support bones. With weight lifting, body will get rejuvenated as it will boost natural growth of hormones and testosterone will increase as it did in young age. This will give more energy and a healthier, better looking body.
Dr Mehta: 50 up should be more of walking, I say 60% walking and 40% of yoga, pranayam, low intensity dance workout. They should engage more in spa and message therapies. Women in this age group should also start with ayurveda panchkarma. 60 up, I would say, more ayurveda with low intensity workouts.
Channa: Older women need more time compared to a younger woman to attain a certain fitness level. And, since, the recovery level is slower for women in this age group, so exercise should be moderate with a proper diet that gives them enough proteins, vitamins and carbohydrates.
Nutrition is important
Shonali Sabherwal, Macrobiotic Nutritionist and Chef: Women should avoid foods namely: dairy, sugar, caffeine, white flour, refined oils and processed foods, minimise alcohol and meat intake. Include whole grain, legumes, fish (if non-vegetarian), vegetables, good fermentation, nuts, seeds and fruits in your diet. The recommendations for the 20’s and 30’s remain as above. Post 40s, following should be included: Raw coconut oil (1-2 tbsp a day if weight is under 60 kilos), turmeric (raw), ashwagandha, amalaki.
Dr Mehta: Be a vegetarian, finish dinner by 6.30-7 pm and eat as much natural food as possible. Give up processed, coloured foods for a healthier life. 60% of nutrition should come from raw food. I would also suggest go out, get fresh air and sunshine which is a natural source of vitamin. And weekly exercise is a must. And lastly, add laughter to your life and make others laugh as well. Let wellness be religion number one, get energised, get mickeymized.
Johansson: Girls in 20s need to eat a balanced diet of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats. What you give to the body in early life will show in the 40’s and 50’s. Make sure to eat 3-4 balanced meals per day. To neglect any of the needed macros will make an imbalance in your body which can cause diseases or early ageing. Women in the 30’s can eat the same as in the 20’s, but keep the calorie intake lower as the metabolism slows down with age. Women in the 40s should eat more protein, calcium, fibrous vegetables, fruits and healthy fats. Metabolism is now slowing down and the growth hormone is lower which is why it is important to add more Vitamin D and calcium to the diet for bones and protein to maintain muscle tissue and cells. Since this is an age where diabetes often occurs, it is wise to eat more fibrous carbs and vegetables. Calorie intake should be lower than in early ages (of course, all depends of activities and lifestyle). Woman above 50 should add soy to the diet to boost Estrogens level and avoid sugar, sweets and saturated fats. If you are lactose-intolerant, eat hard cheese, yogurt, or kefir, canned salmon, broccoli and legumes.
For pregnant women
“To be pregnant doesn’t mean that you have to sit still and leave your gym activities. If you have been working out before, you can continue the same, if the doctor allows you to. Always consult with your doctor before doing any exercise. Also make sure that you do not overdo the workouts or go heavy on the weights. In the final term of pregnancy, stop doing dead lifts and squats, and include body weight exercises together with rubber band exercises, yoga and Pilates in your workouts,” says Johansson.
Going through menopause
“Menopause can be very hard for women as the hormones are changing and bone and muscle density is decreasing. The Growth Hormone which rejuvenates cells and the tissues in the body also decreases which in turn will lead to muscle loss, loose skin, fragile bones and weaker joints. By engaging in workouts such as weightlifting, functional training, yoga, Pilates the body will be able to retain and maintain muscles tissue for longer. By doing weightlifting the body does not only get stronger, but it also naturally releases growth hormone, which in turn slows down ageing,” says Johansson.