Time is the number one reason that women don’t make their
own health and fitness a priority. At least that’s what was reported by the
majority of the more than 2,000 women who participated in a recent study
looking at health, fitness, and nutrition habits. Researchers at Washington
University in St. Louis reported that age, ethnicity, or socio-economic
situation didn’t matter as much as time.
Part of the problem, they concluded, is that women often
think they have to be able to run a marathon or take a 60-minute step class
every day. But that’s not the case. Taking three 10-minute walks a day can
improve fitness. Or consider this type of interval workout: Warm up for five minutes doing your preferred
aerobic activity—walking, cycling, running, swimming, etc.—then alternate maximum
effort bursts of one minute with two to three minutes at your normal pace. Alternate
for 10–12 minutes, and finish with a five-minute cool down.
Don’t Skip Weights
Women need muscle just as much as men do. Yet many women
avoid lifting weights for fear of bulk. But unless you’re lifting very heavy
weights and devoting several hours a week to strength training, it’s just not going
to happen. Adding lean tissue (aka muscle) increases your resting metabolic
rate, so you burn more calories day in and day out. Strength training also
improves bone health, reducing your chances of developing osteoporosis.
Beginners Strength Training
This workout requires a slight monetary investment—about $20
for a couple of sets of dumbbells and a small weight plate. But all it takes is
two half-hour sessions each week. Start with one set of eight to 12 repetitions
for the first four weeks; the last two or three repetitions should be very
difficult. Increase to 12–15 repetitions for the next four weeks. When performing
15 repetitions is easy, add a second set (maintaining the same number of reps),
or use a heavier weight. If you switch to a heavier weight, you may need to
reduce the number of reps.
1. Dumbbell chest fly (targets chest)
Lie on your back with a firm pillow under your head,
shoulders, and upper back. Hold a dumbbell in each hand (start with 2–5
pounds). Push your arms straight up until your elbows are almost straight,
palms facing each other. The weights should be directly above your shoulders.
Inhale, and slowly lower your arms out to the sides, keeping your elbows
slightly bent. Continue to lower until your elbows are slightly below your
shoulders. Pause, exhale, and slowly close your arms back to the starting
2. Dumbbell overhead triceps extension (targets triceps)
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a dumbbell
(start with 2–5 pounds) in each hand with your arms extended overhead. Without
moving your elbows, inhale and slowly lower the right dumbbell behind your
neck, pause, and then lift it to the starting position as you exhale. Repeat
with the left hand.
3. Wrist roll (targets forearms)
Attach one end of a three-foot rope to a two-foot dowel (or
use a sawed off broom handle). Fasten a 2-pound weight plate (available at any
sporting goods store) to the other end of the rope. Stand with your feet
shoulder-width apart, holding the bar away from your body with an overhand
grip. Rotate your hands so the rope rolls up, raising the weight toward the
bar. Then rotate in the opposite direction to lower the weight. Be sure to
breathe naturally through the exercise.
4. Dumbbell shoulder press (targets shoulders)
Sit on a chair with back support, and put your feet flat on
the floor. Hold a dumbbell in each hand (start with 2–5 pounds), and bend your
arms so the weights lightly rest on your shoulders, palms facing forward.
Inhale and as then as you exhale, push the weights up until your arms are
straight, pause, and slowly return to the starting position.
5. Back extension (targets lower back)
Lie flat on your stomach with your elbows out to the sides,
your hands on top of each other, and your forehead resting on your hands. Exhale, and use your back muscles to lift
your head, neck, shoulders, and chest off the floor. Keep your feet on the
floor. Stop when you’ve raised your chest about four or five inches, pause, and
slowly lower to the starting position.
6. Single-leg squat (targets buttocks, quadriceps, and calves)
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms out
to the side, raised to shoulder height. Inhale and lift your right leg out in
front of you and slowly squat down, stopping when you feel like you’re losing
your balance. (If you need help balancing, brace yourself by placing one hand
on a wall.) Exhale, contract your leg and buttocks muscles to push yourself
back to the starting position. Complete repetitions, switch legs, and repeat.
7. Cross-over crunch (targets abdominals)
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on
the floor. Place your hands behind your head, elbows comfortably out to the
side, and keep your neck relaxed. Exhale, and then as you curl your head, neck,
and shoulder blades off the floor, rotate your torso, pulling the left side of
your rib cage toward your right inner thigh. Pause at the top, inhale, and
slowly lower back to the starting position. Repeat in the opposite direction,
alternating until you complete the repetitions.