A good fitness program involves cardiovascular (cardio) exercise, muscle toning, and stretching for flexibility — it can help keep you vital and ward off dangerous threats to women’s health, like heart disease, cancer, obesity, and diabetes. And while men and women can benefit from similar workouts, women can and should tailor their own fitness routine — one that’s just right for your body’s needs and wants.
Focus on Fitness for the Whole Body
“Women absolutely need a well-rounded fitness regimen,” says Kristy Altman, ACE certified group exercise instructor and managing director for the Knoxville Track Club in Tennessee. “Women need to lift weights to build strength, and they also need stretching to maintain their flexibility.” The third part of a well-rounded women’s workout routine? Cardiovascular exercise. Cardio gets your heart pumping, while weight-training exercises target your arms, abs, thighs, butt, and calves.
Just Add Weights
Many women shy away from heavy weight-lifting exercise, but strength training is still an important part of an overall women’s fitness routine. When lifting weights, start out using lighter weights and more repetitions for better muscle toning, says Altman. You can use weight machines or free weights at the gym or work your muscles with resistance bands — whatever is more comfortable for you.
Now Increase the Weight
Even if you start toning your muscles with very light weights — such as a 3-pound weight in each hand for curls — you can gradually add more weight as you develop strength and become more able to do the exercises with correct form. When you can complete three sets of 8 to 12 repetitions each, for instance, challenge your muscles by increasing the weight, says Altman.
Get Kicking with Cardio
Cardiovascular exercise is the cornerstone of women’s workouts. Cardio activities help you burn calories and maintain a healthy body weight — both very important parts of women’s health. “First, we all need cardio. Women tend to carry weight in their stomachs and hips and, because there is no such thing as spot training, cardiovascular exercise will help to keep that area lean,” says Altman. Running, biking, swimming, tennis, hiking, and walking — these are all good cardio choices.
Engage Your Core
You can accomplish more from your workout by targeting multiple areas of the body at one time. “Any exercises that multi-task are awesome for women — anything that’s working more than one muscle group at a time,” says Altman. “We can work out core-abs in almost any weight-lifting exercise if we focus on engaging those abdominal-core muscles.” Focus on your abs during your workouts, and you’ll have a taut tummy and strong core before you know it.
Raise Your Arms
Altman suggests adding balance bicep curls to your workouts. Stand on one leg and do six to eight bicep curls. Then stand on the other leg, repeating your curls. These curls provide muscle toning in your arms while also strengthening your abdominals. Overhead tricep extensions are a good addition to arm workouts: Hold a medicine ball or a weight above your head, with arms straight up; then lower it toward your back moving only your forearms. Now press up by straightening the forearms overhead to work your triceps — work your calves at the same time by standing on your toes as you do the movement.
Workouts for the Thighs and Butt
We all know that exercise isn’t only about good health — women want to look great, too. So don’t forget to tone your lower body. Lunges are a great addition to women’s fitness workouts, as they target the thighs and buttocks, areas where many women need to focus on muscle toning. Try doing your lunges while holding a medicine ball to make the movement a little tougher, and do wall squats to tone and strengthen.
Channel Your Inner Yogi
Great workouts for women don’t have to be all about the burn. Yoga can help you relax and de-stress before or after a long day — and it also works your flexibility to keep you limber as you age. Altman suggests yoga poses like the downward-facing dog, the forearm plank pose, side lying twist, and seated forward fold. These poses involve stretching and muscle toning, making them great choices to add to your fitness mix.
Tips & Tricks
1. Be Consistent
2. Follow an Effective Exercise Routine
3. Set Realistic Goals
4. Use the Buddy System
5. Make Your Plan Fit Your Life
6. Be Happy
7. Watch the Clock
8. Call in the Professionals
9. Get Inspired
10. Be Patient
Best foods to eat 2 hours before a workout:
- Protein smoothie made with milk, protein powder, banana and mixed berries.
- Whole-grain cereal and milk.
- A cup of oatmeal topped with banana and sliced almonds.
- Natural almond butter and fruit preserve sandwich on whole-grain bread.
Best foods to eat after a workout:
- Grilled chicken with roasted vegetables.
- Egg omelet with avocado spread on toast.
- Salmon with sweet potato.
- Tuna salad sandwich on whole grain bread.
- Tuna and crackers.
- Oatmeal, whey protein, banana and almonds.
- Cottage cheese and fruits