Here we share some fitness and health advice for women, starting with a look at the importance of regular exercise, then we look at some common problems that modern women are facing, some advice on weight loss and healthy eating, and then finally some advice for women entering the menopause. If you are looking for advice on losing post-pregnancy weight, then read our articles How To Lose Baby Fat – Mom’s Workouts and our most popular article, Start Losing Weight Today.
Women Should Get Fit To Improve Health
Without doubt the best advice for anyone looking to improve health is to get fit and lose weight. However, if for some reason you can only do one, which is best? In a study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise in 2010 it was argued that women should focus on improving fitness rather than simply dieting to lose weight. This is something that MotleyHealth wholeheartedly agrees with!
The study followed 11,335 women over a 35 year period. Several biometrics were taken, including BMI, waist circumference, waist to hight ratio, waist to hip ratio, body fat percentage and fitness.
Results of the study found that regardless of the level of fat in a women, increased fitness improved health in terms of a lower mortality. Fit women with a higher body fat percentage were not at greater risk of death than fit women of a normal weight either, which suggested that fitness was of greater importance to long term health than weight.
The study found that fit women with high body fat percentage, high waist circumference, and high weight to height ratio had no greater risk of death compared with fit–normal-weight women. So being overweight did not make any real difference to life expectancy so long as the individual is fit.
This is possibly one of the most important (and overlooked) pieces of research in recent years into health, fitness and weight. Many women start to gain weight as they age. It is common for muscle tissue to reduce and fat levels to increase. People tend to become less active and this means that less food is needed, although diet is rarely adjust before weight gain commences.
The result is usually that a woman will “go on a diet”. Men and women really differ when it comes to weight loss as a majority of men will increase the amount of exercise they do to try to lose weight. Women are far more likely to try to lose a few pounds by making some dramatic changes to the way they eat.
However, the research suggests that although this may result in some fat loss, it does not make the dieter significantly healthier. A better solution is to start an exercise program and make every effort to get fit. Just taking the time to walk for 45 minutes every day will improve fitness and reduce body fat. If you can do a few more intensive workouts during the week, such as an aerobics class or go to the gym or swim then fitness levels should increase quicker.
One problem with the fitness route to health and weight loss is that many people tend to give up on fitness too soon as they expect more rapid result than are really possible. Fitness is about making your heart, lungs and whole body healthier and fitter and goes much deeper than just reducing the amount of fat you happen to be carrying.
Young Woman Urged to Take Up Sports and Exercise Too
A study published in 2011 investigated why some young women do not gain weight while others do. In the study 8,726 young women aged 18 to 23 years were followed. Over a 4 year period more than half of the women gained weight. The woman had their BMI, height and weight monitored. Their physical activity levels and diet was also monitored as well as other lifestyle factors such as alcohol consumption and socio-economic status.
41% of the women gained weight
In the 4 year study 41% of the women gained weight after their teenage years. 15% managed to lose weight and the remaining maintained their current weight.
There were some patterns amongst those who managed to maintain their weight. Generally, successful weight management was more common in women who:
- Start managerial or professional careers
- Are not married
- Still studying
- Not mothers
- Generally more active (spend less time sitting)
- Healthier diet (consume less takeaway food)
Many women do put on a significant amount of weight as they transition through adolescence to the late teenage years and then adulthood. There are many reasons why women tend to gain a lot of weight at this stage in life and the most common reasons are:
- The increase energy needs during puberty create a habit of eating more calories. Once puberty ends weight gain starts. A woman’s calorie needs are highest between the ages of 14-18 years.
- Women tend to play much less sport once they leave school and become less active.
- Those that get married and start families tend to stay at home where food is a constant temptation.
- Increased disposable income leads to more takeaway food and convenience foods that are high in calories and low in nutrition.
- Women gain weight after pregnancy and do not lose it.
The study also found that young women who are already overweight are likely to gain even more weight. The study concluded that for long-term weight management women need to start learning how to manage their weight during their teenage years.
Only through a combination of enjoyable exercise and a healthy diet can body weight be successfully managed over the long-term. It really cannot be emphasised how important it is to learn how to stay in good shape from an early age. Most women do not start to investigate how to manage a healthy weight until it is already too late, i.e. they have already gained weight.
6 quick tips for staying slim after your teenage years:
- Learn to prepare healthy meals as soon as possible
- Read advice on good nutrition and diet
- Find a few fitness activities that you enjoy
- Encourage friends to exercise with you
- Exercise no less than 3 times a week
- Keep a close check on your diet and weight so that you can take action quickly
These tips may sound simple but that is because it really is easy to stay in shape if you are motivated and organised. Most weight gain occurs due to lack of planning. A combination of junk food being bought instead of meals being prepared, and no exercise done because “there is no time“. There is always time for exercise and healthy cooking, you just need to plan it into your daily schedule.
Women are Developing “Wine Class” Bellies
For many women regular binge drinking is leading to an increase in women’s waist lines.
Whereas in the past only men suffered noticeably from the beer belly, more and more women are finding that they are putting extra fat on around their waists, rather than around the bottom and thighs, which is the natural place for women to accumulate fat.
This fat on the waist is far less healthy than the fat found on the thighs and hips. Visceral fat surrounds the internal organs which gives the beer belly bulge.
It is thought that when visceral fat builds up to high levels risk of heart disease and diabetes increases dramatically.
The fat is literally strangling the internal organs, reducing the efficiency and ease at which nutrients can pass and can result in long-term health problems.
The new shape that women have started to develop even has a name now – “The Wine Class Figure” – named really because increase bellies in women are often as a result of increased consumption of wine when out socializing, and entertaining clients.
Jacqui Lowdon of the British Dietetic Association says that women who are watching their waist line need to watch their wine glasses. Sound advice but something that many business women, especially, find very hard to implement.
For many business women especially business networking involves socializing in the evenings and drinking alcohol. It is practically assumed that you will drink and socially unacceptable to be an abstainer in some companies. It is this cultural change that women have experienced in the last 30 years that is causing such an increase in the “wine belly”.
Losing Fat and Tummy Toning
How to get fit, lose weight and flatten your tummy fat? That is the million dollar question! Understanding the secret of losing fat is the first step to achieving a lean and defined abdomen. All the stomach exercises in the World will not make your stomach flat if you do not burn the fat off first.
Many people accumulate some tummy fat, especially after having children. This tummy fat is often called baby fat, and losing it can be very difficult for some people.
Localized fat in the abdomen is a big problem for many women. Although men tend to have more fat around the waistline, what we call a beer belly, many women do develop a pot. Poor diet is always the cause – too much sugar and junk food. Emotional eating for women is like beer drinking for men. The small pleasures of life make us fat!
Fat loss can be painful and slow but it is worth it. You will feel better, boost your self-esteem and be healthier for it. Here are the main weight loss tricks that you need to follow to get a flat stomach. Not everyone wants solid ripped abs, but if you just want to lose some inches around the waist these fat loss secrets will help.
Diet, Food and Appetite
Take Control of Your Emotional Eating
Many women are victims of emotional eating. If you are feeling stressed at work you grab some chocolate and a coffee to calm down, if you have a difficult day at home the cookies and junk food comes out at night after the children have gone to bed.
If you are suffering a lot of stress you often will not realise that you are eating until after you have finished. Emotional eating can increase your daily calorie intake by up to 50%.
How to stop? First, take control of the food situation in your home. Hide away your cookies, stop buying junk food, eat a healthy protein rich diet that curbs appetite. Also set yourself tasks.
If you feel like you really want to have a cookie, go for a 5 minute walk instead, or do some exercise for 10 minutes, have a shower, anything to take your mind off the food. Some of us will re-program ourselves so that the cravings diminish. However, as soon as you cave in to the cravings you will have to start again.
Only Eat Nutrient Rich Carbohydrates
Eat less refined carbohydrates and increase your low GI vegetable intake. High consumption of carbohydrates increases insulin levels which affects metabolism. Consumption of excess carbohydrates is quickly converted into fat.
Try having a balanced diet with a good mix of protein, carbohydrates and vegetables. Your source of protein should be the size of a deck of cards, carbohydrates the size of the palm and the majority of your meals should consist of low GI vegetables.
There are 2 new diet plans that both tackle the carbohydrate problem very well to help you lose weight:
Stop Drinking Alcohol
I’m sure most people know that alcohol can cause weight gain, but I’m sure they do not know the magnitude of the effect that alcohol can cause. Alcohol in excess can actually increase the size of the stomach.
Most alcoholic drinks are full of energy in the form of carbohydrate and sugar. As soon as alcohol enters your system you stop burning fat.
Cutting back on alcohol is one of the key rules on how to lose weight. If you drink a lot and have gained fat, then reversing this situation requires that you also reverse your drinking habits.
Fitness and Strength Training
Do Intensive Exercise and Weight Training
The quickest way to lose weight is to combine exercise with a good diet. Aim to exercise at least 3 time per week for 30 minutes, although it would be best to workout 5 times per week.
This may not seem a lot, but you must ensure that all of your exercise workouts are intensive. If you are not sweating and panting after 5 minutes then you are not working hard enough.
Weight training is an excellent way to burn off tummy fat and boost your metabolism, and it is certainly not just for men. Read this Truth About Six Pack Abs Review to learn how weight training can help you to burn fat.
5 Day Per Week Fitness Routine
- Monday: Intensive Cardio Routine on a Cross Trainer, Exercise Bike, Rowing Machine or jogging/sprinting. This intensive cross training workout is ideal.
- Tuesday: Weight Training. Perform squats, bench press, shoulder press, dips and tricep extensions.
- Wednesday: Gentle exercise such as yoga, swimming or Pilates. Toning and stretching.
- Thursday: Intensive Cardio Routine
- Friday: Rest
- Saturday: Weight Training. Perform pull ups, chin ups, inverted rows, dumbbell curls and dumbbell rows
- Sunday: Rest
Resistance Training For Women Does More Than Just Tone Muscles
The latest studies into the health benefits of resistance training has shown that weight training has many benefits for women that are not provided by more traditional cardio workouts.
Researchers at the University of Missouri–Kansas City published their recent findings in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.
For some time now sports fitness professionals have known that resistance training provides many benefits, however the commercial nature of the fitness industry has meant that women’s demands for aerobic activities has sidelined the promotion of weight training for women.
However, resistance training has many health benefits for women of all ages and is a very effective way to tone and sculpt the body. See our article on strength training for women.
One of the main benefits for women is the ability of regular weight training to prevent a reduction in bone density, something that many post-menopausal women start to suffer from.
Older women who were encouraged to perform weight training exercises were found to have improved mental wellbeing as a result, as well as increased mobility.
It was not just elderly women that benefited though, students who started weight training were found to feel more confident about the way they looked. Fewer women in the weight training group were concerned about the way they looked.
There are two barriers between women and weight training. The first is that many women still think that they will “bulk up” if they perform resistance exercises. This is a classic myth of weight training – women do not bulk up. However, another barrier is the fact that in many gyms the weight training area is traditionally the mens area, and many women still feel uncomfortable exercising in a male dominated area.
Weight training is a very rewarding fitness activity, it can help younger people to feel and look better and it can also improve mobility for older generations. Weight training is without doubt a very healthy form of exercise so long as basic safety precautions are taken.
Exercise with a Friend
On average a woman will lose 10 pounds (4.5kg) more if they exercise and diet with a female friend. 20% of women that exercise alone do not lose any weight at all.
A study carried out by Diamond Car Insurance examined the exercise and dietary habits of 3000 women. A staggering 61% of these women hardly ever did any exercise at all by themselves, but they were more likely to exercise with friends.
Women also become competitive when exercising with friends so push themselves harder than they would if exercising alone. One of the best ways to workout with a friend or partner is to do circuit training workouts together. Or if you are feeling really brave then get some gloves and pads and do some boxing workouts which will bring out the competitive spirit in you and get your heart thumping and your fat burning systems fired up.
Women are at an advantage because they are naturally more social than men. When women are exercising with friends they consider it as much of a social experience than exercise. They essentially forget that it is all hard work and enjoy the time exercising.
The effect of exercising with a friend is like a psychological push (pushing is one of the 8 secrets of successful weight loss). Also when exercising with a friend or partner you become more focussed as you are less likely to become distracted.
70% of women that exercise with friends admit that exercise seems more like fun than work. Many do talk too much during a workout and fail to workout at maximum intensity though.
People that workout with their partner are also more successful in weight loss. If you are interested in finding new ways to workout with your partner or friends then we recommend that you look at the Great Shape Up Program which provides an excellent gym workout to help you lose weight and tone up.
Postmenopausal Weight Loss Diet
High protein diets can help postmenopausal women the lose weight. Also, a study in 2010 indicated that women who consume a diet high in refined carbohydrate are at greater risk of developing heart disease (Campbell, 2010). So more protein is once again the greatest dietary tool to losing weight.
High protein diets are required to prevent loss of lean muscle tissue. Loss of muscle becomes a greater problem in senior citizens that are dieting and it can become harder for them to regain that lost muscle after losing weight.
However, care must be taken when following a high protein diet. Researchers from Purdue University, Indiana, have discovered that a high protein diet in postmenopausal women can lead to a lower bone density.
Calorie Reduced Diet
Researchers at Purdue examined 2 weight loss studies. The first followed two groups of women who were put on a reduced calorie diet. Each woman was eating 750 calories a day less than their recommended daily allowance with the aim of losing 1.5 pounds per week over a 12 week period. The goal being to lose 18 pounds.
One group ate a vegetarian diet with most protein from eggs and dairy and the other ate a higher protein diet with protein from pork, eggs, dairy and poultry. Average weight loss per woman was 19 pounds in 12 weeks, which meant that almost all the group were successful in losing weight on the calorie restrictive diet. However, the women who ate more protein to lose weight lost more bone density.
Calorie Restricted Diet
In the second study a group of women were all put on a 1250 calorie a day diet, regardless of their total body weight at the start of the study. The diet lasted for 9 weeks. The women were divided into 3 groups. One group had 250 calories a day from lean beef, another 250 calories from chicken breast and the third 250 calories from cookies, chocolate and sugar.
All the women on the 1250 calories a day diet lost weight but the women on the high protein meat diets lost bone density.
“Purposeful, moderate weight loss is an effective way for overweight postmenopausal women to improve their health and well-being. However, research shows that older women are at risk of losing bone when they lose weight, and our findings highlight that amount and sources of protein are important to consider when choosing a weight-loss diet. Each individual needs to evaluate, or consult with a dietitian about how to achieve and sustain a healthy body weight and body composition, including muscle and bone.” Dr. Campbell, Purdue Uni.
These studies provide vital information for postmenopausal women who are wanting the lose weight. However, in neither study was there any research looking at the effect of performing weight-bearing exercise while also dieting.
Other past studies have shown that postmenopausal women who perform regular weight training exercises increase their strength and bone density. As protein is the key to building muscle and strength for older people, a higher protein diet with plenty of meat and eggs should be the best way to lose weight and remain healthy.
Finally it is worth mentioning that being overweight generally poses a greater risk to health than a reduction in bone density, so women should not use this study as a reason to not lose weight. Losing excess fat is also a very quick way to improve overall health, as visceral is an accumulation of fat around the internal organs that can lead to many health problems. Losing weight is the most effective way to improve quality of life, especially for senior citizens who experience a reduction in muscle mass which leads to a reduction in mobility.
Motivation, Willpower and Success
Losing weight and getting a fit and healthy body is a long-term goal for most people, so persevere and not give up. By following a weekly fitness routine it becomes easier to commit and after a while it becomes natural for you to get out and exercise.
Remember the 8 secrets to success which apply to weight loss as well as business. Find a female friend to exercise with – research recently showed that women who exercise with friends lose more weight.
You can do it, we know you can, and we are here to help. Got a question? Just ask below.
- “Cardiorespiratory fitness, adiposity, and all-cause mortality in women.” By Farrell SW, Fitzgerald SJ, McAuley PA, Barlow CE. Published in Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010 Nov;42(11):2006-12. Abstract: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20351588
- “Resistance Training for Women’s Health“, by Lisa Terre, PhD. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2010;4(4):314-316. © 2010 Sage Publications, Inc.
- “Who does not gain weight? Prevalence and predictors of weight maintenance in young women” by Ball, Kylie, Brown, W. and Crawford, David. Published in International Journal of Obesity (2002) 26, 1570-1578. doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0802150 Abstract.
- “Successful dissemination of a community based strength training program for older adults by peer and professional leaders: the People Exercising Program“. Layne J, Sampson S, Mallio C, et al. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2008;56:2323–2329
- “Resistive training and long-term function in older adults”. Brandon L, Boyette L, Lloyd A, et al. J Aging Phys Act. 2004;12:10–28.
- “Weight training and body satisfaction of body-image-disturbed college women”. Depcik E, Williams L. J Appl Sport Psychol. 2004;16:287–299.
- “Women who work out together are far more likely to lose weight” – Diamond.co.uk Press Release. 10th June 2010.
- Protein Intake, Weight Loss, and Bone Mineral Density in Postmenopausal Women. Wayne W. Campbell and Minghua Tang. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci (2010) 65A(10): 1115-1122 first published online July 6, 2010 doi:10.1093/gerona/glq083- Abstract