Women’s bodies are built differently than men. They have a different metabolism, bone structure and even a lower center of gravity than men do. In order to get the most out of their fitness activities, women need to take these differences into consideration.
Both men and women have ‘problem areas’, which seem to contain the most fat. For women, this area is usually the lower body. Thighs, abs and glutes are target areas for women. Regardless of whether a woman has ever been pregnant or not, this area can easily become out of shape from lack of exercise, overeating or simply because of genetics. Developing a fitness plan that targets these areas can help you reduce fat, build muscle, sculpt and tone your body.
Understanding women’s metabolism and life stages
A key component of women’s fitness is metabolism, which is the rate at which biochemical processes occur in the body. Compared to men, a woman’s metabolism can vary greatly depending on a number of factors such as her age and which stage of her life she’s in. Fitness for women can be especially important later in life when a woman begins to go through major metabolic changes with menopause, as having a strong muscle structure and an overall healthy lifestyle can help delay or prevent bone deterioration.
Benefits Of Women’s Fitness
Women who take care of themselves physically and emotionally will lead more productive lives. Staying physically fit can help:
- Improve overall health
- Boost immunity and fight disease
- Relieve sleep problems
- Increase energy
- Improve memory
- Enhance physical appearance
- Preserve muscle mass
- Tone and straighten muscles
- Reduce risk of injury
- Control weight and make weight loss easier
- Reduce cellulite
- Reduce symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and menstrual cramps
- Boost self-esteem and self-confidence
- Reduce stress and anxiety and improve overall mental health
- Improve mood and alleviate depression
Depending on your genetic make-up, you may be prone to many types of illnesses and diseases such as heart disease, certain types of cancer and osteoporosis later in life. Creating a fitness routine that increases blood flow and oxygen intake and builds muscle can help women to combat these diseases or avoid them altogether.
Popular Fitness Programs For Women
Since a woman’s body is structured differently than a man’s, it’s important to recognize these differences and design fitness programs that aim to target specific muscle groups, reshape their body or help women relax while they exercise. Learning more about these programs can help you decide which one is right for you. Some women participate in one or two programs in order to build muscle mass and reduce stress at the same time.
A good aerobics program for women incorporates ab work, light weights and step training in order to target certain muscle groups including legs, thighs and abs. You can find aerobics classes at your local fitness center or buy an instructional DVD to do aerobic exercises on your own.
Most popular exercises in an aerobics class for women include:
- Leg lifts
- Squat thrusts
- Abdominal work
- Ab and leg exercises with light weights
- Thigh lifts using steps
Each of these exercises is done in repetition which allows the muscles to grow and make the fat to disappear over time.
Many women are afraid to start a weight training program for fear they will build large, bulky, unattractive muscles like men. However, this is not true as women don’t have the hormonal support or high enough testosterone levels to build muscle mass like men. When you create a proper fitness plan that includes weight training, you will start building longer muscles, not bulky ones.
Weight training can help sculpt muscles and give your body a defined shape. If you have never used weights before, this can be a good opportunity to try something new. Adding weight training to your fitness plan can only help you achieve your goals.
When beginning your weight training program, keep the following in mind:
- Use two or three machines in order to get used to them.
- Do ten or twelve reps using weights that are lighter and gradually increase the weight as the weeks go by.
- Use a combination of free weights and weight machines. If you are unsure which exercises to do using free weights, ask a trainer.
- Mix them up a bit after a week or so and then try new machines. The key to sculpting your body is to keep varying your exercise routine so you can target different set of muscles in your body.
- Don’t be surprised if you start gaining weight before you start losing it. Your body needs to adjust and will adapt as you continue.
Popular weight training exercises include:
- Leg extensions
- Leg lifts
- Full squats
- Dead lifts
- Upper body exercises
- Chest exercises
- Free weights
If you are overweight, you may need to lose some weight through other forms of exercise such as aerobics before you begin a weight training program. If you have a knee injury or you are recovering from a surgery or an illness, you should consult your doctor as to which types of exercises you can participate in and which ones you should avoid.
Incorporating yoga, Pilates, or Tai-Chi into your fitness program can help your body become more flexible and graceful. These programs will allow your body to relax while toning your muscles. Many women enjoy yoga because it is a way to block out nagging tasks and responsibilities for a short period of time.
If you want to try yoga, be prepared to stretch a lot. While yoga poses appear to be easy, many of them require you to have flexibility and stamina in order to execute them properly.
Women who have injuries or those who have recently had a baby may find yoga to be the perfect starting point to get back into shape. Yoga targets abs, spine, neck as well as lower and upper back. If you work in an office and sit at a desk in front of a computer for most of the day, you will benefit from yoga.
Walking and Running
For women, walking and running are easy ways to stay fit because they can be done almost anywhere when you have free time. Power walking will burn calories, reduce fat and help you increase thigh, leg, and abdominal muscle mass. Maintaining a steady pace will yield the best results. Walking and running will also help shape and sculpt your lower body.
Any type of sports activity, both individual and team sports, can help women get in shape. Choose a sport that you enjoy and want to be a part of. There are many local women’s sports teams, company teams, and other teams that you may want to join.
Other Fitness Programs
Other fitness programs for women include:
- Body sculpting
- Kick boxing
- Martial arts
- Circuit training
This is an exercise program that uses specific exercises and weight training techniques to shape the body. Different muscle groups are targeted and developed in this fitness program.
Spinning requires the use of a stationary bicycle machine. Spinning classes can improve endurance and develop muscles in your thighs and legs by increasing speed and resistance within a certain time limit.
Similar to weight training except that you move from station to station during your workout without stopping until your time is up. This type of fitness program will sculpt and tone your body using lighter weights.
This is a good overall body workout for women. It is a fun and challenging activity that will build lean muscle in the upper and lower body and increase stamina. Kick boxing will also improve coordination and flexibility
Boxing provides a good upper body workout while engaging your lower body. It enhances your strength and tones your body. Women can perform different types of exercises using a punching bag or sparring partner.
Women who want to combine fitness with meditation can try martial arts programs such as Karate, Kung Fu and Tekwondo. These programs work different muscle groups, increase strength and flexibility while providing a well-rounded cardio workout.
Women and Fitness Motivation
For many women, living up to societal expectations can become an obsession. While everyone wants to look perfect, the truth is that no one ever does. But having negative feelings about your appearance could inhibit you from getting the most from your life.
In order to stay motivated, you have to believe in what you are doing and the results you will get from your fitness program. Since fitness is something you should incorporate into your life, staying motivated to achieve your fitness goals is important.
There are several ways that you can stay motivated to stick to your fitness program such as:
- Stick with your fitness program even when you don’t see immediate results.
- Only use a scale once a week or so. You should pay more attention to how your body looks and how your clothes fit than what you weigh. Remember that muscle weighs more than fat.
- Ignore pictures and commentary in fashion magazines and other media as they are only for entertainment purposes and should not be used as a realistic comparison.
- Accept your physical appearance and maintain a healthy outlook on life.
Keep in mind that if you stay motivated, you will look forward to working out, meditating and eating a healthy diet.
Fitness For Pregnant Women
Even if you haven’t exercised regularly in the past, exercising can help yo to have a healthier and more comfortable pregnancy.
Exercising while you are pregnant has many benefits which include:
- Ability to handle the stress of having a baby much better
- Better mood and higher levels of emotional happiness
- Faster recovery time after having a baby
- Fewer leg cramps
- Lower blood pressure
- Less pain in upper and lower back
- Reduced pelvic pain
- Reduced risk of complications related to pregnancy
- Reduced odds of delivery complications
- Less time to get back into shape after the baby is born
The benefits of exercising during pregnancy can not only keep your own body healthy but it can be just as good for your baby.
Exercising During Pregnancy
Most mild exercises are considered safe during pregnancy as long as you exercise with care and do not overdo it. The safest and most beneficial activities include swimming, brisk walking, stationary cycling, steps, ellipticals and low-impact aerobics.
Once you become pregnant, depending on your exercise routine, you may have to reduce the amount of exercise and change the types of exercise in order to prevent injury to yourself and the baby.
Modifying your fitness program while you are pregnant may require you to:
- Decrease aerobic workouts.
- Eliminate abdominal workouts.
- Reduce the number of days you work out.
- Reduce the number of repetitions.
- Lower the amount of weight you want to lift.
- Eliminate lunges, squats and other exercises that could throw you off balance.
- Stop exercising if you feel pain.
If you don’t want to give up exercising completely but are afraid to use gym equipment, you should try to walk for 20-30 minutes each day at a brisk pace. This will help you keep in shape and make you feel good about yourself.
Who should not exercise during pregnancy?
If you have a health problem such as asthma, heart disease or diabetes, exercise may not be recommended. Exercising may also be risky if you have a pregnancy-related condition such as bleeding or spotting, risk of miscarriage or previous premature births
Before starting a fitness program, you should see your doctor who can provide you with healthier and safer exercise guidelines based on your medical condition.
Exercising After Pregnancy
Generally it is recommended that women should wait about six weeks to start exercising after they have had a baby and eight weeks if they have had a cesarean birth. After you have your baby, you may feel very tired and physically are unable to start your old routine. Once you have adjusted to having a new baby in your home, you should reevaluate your old fitness program to see where changes need to be made. As you may not have as much time as you used to, adjusting your fitness program may mean cutting the number of days you work out or finding other activities you can do during your free time.
Depending on where you gained the most weight when you were pregnant, you can try several fitness activities that will help you lose weight and rebuild muscle. Postpartum fitness programs target areas such as abs, thighs, butt muscles and legs since most women tend to gain the most weight in these areas.
The key to losing weight after pregnancy is to begin your fitness program as soon as you can after childbirth. While some women lose weight quickly, others will not. This is due in part to several factors such as:
- Number of children
- Prior fitness regimen
- Postpartum depression and its affects
- Support from those around you
Try to begin exercising as often as you can after having your baby and develop a new routine around the free time you have.
Women’s Fitness Centers
There are a number of women’s fitness centers which specialize in helping women to become fit in a safe and effective way while encouraging them to live a healthier lifestyle. These fitness centers are designed for women only so there won’t be the same potential issues of embarrassment or insecurity that many women feel at co-ed gyms that can prevent them from pursuing their fitness goals.
Women’s fitness centers are similar to other fitness centers except they cater exclusively to women. This means that classes, personal training sessions and equipment are tailored to fit the needs of women who want to get into shape.
When looking for a women’s fitness center, the same criteria apply as when you are looking at any other fitness center. Most women’s fitness centers are open until late hours to give working women a chance to to workout or take a class.
Benefits of A Women’s Fitness Center
Many women enjoy going to a women’s fitness center because they feel safe, are treated better and are able to meet other women with similar fitness issues and goals.
Other benefits of women’s fitness centers include:
- Additional classes tailored for women
- Seminars about diet and exercise
- Motivational and emotional support
- Spa treatments
- Weight machines and other equipment that is made for those who cannot lift very much
- Fitness counseling
- Weight loss groups
- Sports activities
If you are looking for an environment that caters to women’s fitness needs, you should look for a women’s fitness center. Meeting other women who have similar weight issues or body image concerns will help you stay motivated and on task.
Finding new friends can also help you learn more about fitness and what you are capable of doing while working out at the fitness center. You will find several fitness activities to choose from, and many will only take 30 minutes or less to complete. As these fitness centers cater to women, they understand the importance of time and try to create programs that provide the most benefit in the least amount of time.
Combining Diet and Exercise
In order to get the most from your fitness program, you will also have to learn how to follow a diet which is high in protein, vitamins and other nutrients. While you still need carbohydrates in order to function normally, however, if you consume too much of them, you will need to cut back.
Eating healthy takes the same amount of motivation and goal setting as maintaining a fitness regimen. If you need help creating a suitable fitness program or diet plan, you can:
- Consult a personal trainer
- Consults a nutritionist
- Join a weight loss group
- Learn more about exercise and diet
- Talk to others
It is never too late to adopt a diet and fitness plan. Even though many women have the responsibility of a job and family, there are ways to find some time during the day to exercise.
Final Words – It’s Never Too Late to Start!
Regardless of your age, it’s always a good thing to get involved in fitness. A good first step is to consult a physician about the changes you would like to make in your life. Then visit a fitness center and consult a trainer to devise an exercise routine that best fits your lifestyle. Remember that it doesn’t take much to get started, and the rewards of improving your level of fitness are well worth the effort.
It’s also a good idea for mothers to get their children interested in fitness when they are young, as it can help them to develop a good muscle structure and strong bones which will stay with them all their life.