5 Ways To Spring Clean Your Fitness Approach


Women's Health |

Five ways to get the most out of your workout, from losing weight and reducing stress to feeling great about yourself… 

1/ Phone A Friend

Women are more likely to exercise if they do it with someone else, so joining a running or hockey club maybe the motivational kick you need. “Women are excellent team players because they show a higher degree of cooperation,” says clinical and sports psychologist Dr Robert Heller. “At a critical moment, a woman is less likely to give up so as not to let the team down.” And once you get started, chances are you’ll go the distance.“Women pace themselves better,” says Liz Neporent, co-author of The Fat-Free Truth. “They’ll start at a steady pace and maintain it, where as men start stronger and faster, then slow down sooner.”

2/ Add Resistance

Women are naturally more flexible than men, which is one reason why we love yoga and Pilates. But too much flexibility can weaken your joints, especially if you’re slack on the strength moves. Signs that your stretching has gone too far: feeling pain or an ache in the joint rather than the muscle you’re stretching and taking years to develop enough flexibility to reach a specific position (if it takes that much work, your body just isn’t meant to go there). A regular programme of resistance training will keep your joints strong – and improve flexibility.

3/Upper-Body Matters

Women tend to be all about losing fat and toning our lower bodies, which means we often minimise our upper-body work. However, a balanced upper and lower body is key for strength, bone mass and joint stability, not to mention overall tone and shape. So include strength training for your back, arms and shoulders two to three times a week. Choose a heavy enough weight that you feel fatigued by the last few of each set of eight to 12 reps.

4/ Feel Your Natural High

Women are twice as likely to become depressed than men, probably because of a combination of factors such as hormonal fluctuations, low self-esteem and high stress. The good news: exercise, especially cardio, can keep these stressors at bay. “Completing a workout has a positive psychological impact and makes you feel better about your body,” says obesity researcher Dr Kelly Brownell. So whether you have the blues, PMS or simply had a stressful day, exercise will almost always make you feel better. “Aerobic exercises like walking or running are the best outlet for high stress,” says sports psychologist Dr Jack Raglin. How much should you exercise to enjoy these benefits? In one study, participants who did cardio workouts for at least 30 minutes a day on most days of the week felt less stressed and were less depressed over time.

5/Sweat More, Lose Fat

Life’s not fair. If a man and a woman both walk for 45 minutes at the same speed, on the same days, for the same length of time, the man will burn more kilojoules than the woman. That may be because he’s bigger, but it’s also because a woman’s metabolism is about 10 percent slower than that of a man the exact same size. In general, women also carry more body fat, as opposed to lean muscle, and have higher levels of oestrogen, meaning fat ismore likely to settle on our hips and thighs. Plus, we have more fat-storing enzymes. This may make you want to throw up your hands and just give upon losing weight, but all it really means is that in order to lose fat and burn kilojoules, you just have to sweat a little more and a little harder.

There are three ways to add to kilojoule burn. “You can do long duration aerobic activity, like walking or running for 45 to 60 minutes at a low to moderate intensity at least five days a week, or you can intensify your workout to save time,” says physiology professor Dr Len Kravitz. For instance, you could move faster by, say, cycling at a race pace for 15 or 20 minutes daily.

If you’re not up for the killer push, try interval training: alternate walking for five minutes with jogging for one minute, for 30 to 60 minutes in total. “Working at vigorous intensities, even for a few minutes at a time, revs up hormones that help your body burn more kilojoules during and after a workout,” Kravitz says. “You can burn an extra 80 to 120 kilojoules post workout, which adds up to increased fat loss over months of regular exercise.”

Can’t make it to your usual cardio session? Make up for it by moving throughout the day. A minute or two of extra movement here and there may not seem like much, but keeping your body moving can help with weight control.

And remember: weight loss is a balance of energy in take and output, so these exercises need to be combined with a kilojoule-controlled healthy diet.

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