Able Body, Stable Mind, Noble Soul
A study by Harvard researchers found that women tend to gain an average of 20 pounds in 16 years as they reach middle age. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found an average gain of 12 pounds eight years after menopause. The bad news is this weight gain is not sudden – it creeps in so gradually that unless you are closely monitoring the changes in your body, you don’t even know!! Women begin to slow down on their metabolism by 1 to 2 percent every decade after age 20. Further as most women never pay attention to building muscle, their lean mass decreases and body fat increases reducing the number of calories they actually need to sustain themselves.
Very often we believe that this aging process is inevitable. Of course aging happens but it need not be at the pace so often experienced by most women. Exercise is the best preventive medicine. Aging gracefully is a choice you make right when you are five!
I recommend the following routine for girls / women of various age groups:
Age 5 to 12 – Everyone believes aging begins after 40. But truth be told, you begin to age from the moment you are born. Just that the first few decades are called ‘growth’ and then comes the concept of ‘aging’. Health begins at the fetal stage and fitness contributes right from the time the child begins to move. Movement is life! It is mandatory for every child to move in all planes as much as they can. We just call it games! Most motor skills are developed during this stage. Encourage them to explore their movement patterns across all planes to develop coordination, balance, agility, dexterity, speed, mobility and reactivity.
Age 12 to 20 – The C.H.E.K institute USA advices girls from the age of 12 to begin some form of strength training. At this stage, girls should also perform some flexibility exercises. As bone and muscle growth is not always uniform, the muscles tend to tighten as the girls enter their teens. Further with the development of breasts many young girls begin to slouch and need to be constantly reminded to stand straight. A lot of aerobic activities like running, cycling, swimming, sports, dancing should also be supported by 2 days of strength training a week. This may be in the form of calisthenics – exercises using body weight and no apparatus, or simple weight bearing exercises using small weights.
Age 20 to 30 – This is the age to be adventurous! Your body is capable of being pushed to perform as long as you don’t abuse it! Explore marathon running, cross country biking or any thing that gives you the sense of wonder and exploration. For the less adventurous try swimming, aerobics or dance. At this age you can have a lot of cardio activity. But remember to have at least two days of strength training with light to moderate weights. This may not look very interesting or even necessary at this age, but you will thank me 30 years later!
Age 30 to 40 – Yes! Weight doesn’t come off as easily as you would like it to! It is also probably the time you want to get back to shape after creating a family. If you have just finished delivering a couple of babies, getting back is certainly possible but give yourself time! It doesn’t happen overnight. This is the stage where you need to give more importance to strength training. Two to three days a week of moderate to heavy weights can make you feel and look so much younger. Unlike the 20s, you may want to switch to interval training for cardio as this helps you to both lose fat and have healthy muscles. You may also be ready to bring in a schedule to practice some work-in exercises or energy cultivating exercises like Taichi, Qigong or Zone exercises recommended by Paul Chek, founder C.H.E.K institute.
Age 40 to 50 – You definitely need strength training. If you haven’t already begun, its never too late to start! Moderate cardio on 3 days and three full proper strength workouts every week with moderate weights performing 2 to 3 sets. A circuit session may make it both effective and fun. The focus definitely shifts from ‘looking good’ to ‘feeling awesome’. Its that time when you can feel absolutely energized or totally let down – depends on how the last 20 years have been. And the fruit of a healthy fit lifestyle is when the world pays you back with the compliment as you walk with your daughter – ‘Oh my God! You could be sisters!’
Age 50 to 60 – Now the word cardio has a very different meaning. It is no longer about breathing heavily and pushing yourself to the max but learning to breathe gracefully where you can walk or cycle and still hold a decent conversation without panting for breath. Four days a week of ‘heart happy cardio’ and two days a week of strength training should keep you fit. Strength training? Oh Yes! Two 40 minute sessions of low to moderate intensity with 8 to 12 reps every week will energize you and keep you young.
Age 60 and above – Did you think I would say stop? You never stop exercising… When I was growing up, my grandmother, then aged 80, would get up every morning at 4 am to pump water using a hand pump. My uncle would be so upset. He would keep arguing that electricity had made it possible for a motor to pump water to the overhead tank for use right through the day. Why would you want to use a hand pump early every morning. She would reply with a grin – ‘That’s my exercise! Four pumps on the right and four pumps on the left… in a beautiful rhythm… every single morning!’
Wishing every one of you the same zest and enthusiasm for a healthy life at 80 !
Your daughter needs Nutrition!
Science reveals that the food cravings are acquired by kids right in the mother’s womb! The mother’s diet also seeps into the breast milk! So if you want your children to eat nutritious food right from the beginning – its very simple – you eat healthy food!
Its much easier to gain fat cells in adolescence. So if a child has a chubby stage in growth, it is likely to lead them to a battle of obesity later in life. It is crucial to give as much natural unprocessed foods as possible during the growing years.
Remember – digestion is a process. Your body asks for the raw materials from which it can extract the necessary nutrients. Don’t stuff the child with chemical mixes based on the labels. Go for whole foods.
Especially the girls ! She is born a woman and biologically every cell knows she is here for procreation. From the time of puberty, her body will store fat to provide for a young one. That is the way nature works. The healthier and more nutritive her lifestyle, the more relaxed her survival instinct. The more she leans towards unhealthy choices or skipping meals, the more her survival instincts will begin to store food in the form of fat for the sake of progeny. It is a lifestyle choice we have to make right when they are very young.
As you age…
Oh nothing fancy! You always remain a woman! Even if you decide you no longer want babies, it still continues to store for future use! Make healthy choices – avoid processed foods, add more raw vegetables and fruits. Most importantly remember – as you age, your metabolism slows down for a reason. Quality and Quantity matter!
By Gita Krishna Raj printed in Food & Health magazine in April 2014.