If you were active and fit for the first 19 years of your life, keep it going! You can’t stop exercising in your 20s and think you will remain fit and trim. On the contrary, you will get fat and overweight by doing little or no exercise. If you were inactive and unfit growing up through the teen years, you need to get started exercising already!
Your #1 goal during this stage of life is to achieve peak bone mass. As for posture, you are not destined to have a “stooped posture” as you age. “Bone mass in your hips and spine peaks in your mid to late 20s,” says Kara Witzke, Ph.D., associate professor of kinesiology at California State University in San Marcos.
High-intensity strength training with free weights, dumbbells or bodyweight is critical to build muscle mass and improve bone mass. More muscle mass keeps your metabolism active because muscle mass is metabolically active tissue (fat mass is inactive). To keep your body lean and healthy, build and maintain your precious muscle mass.
Exercises like squats, lunges, deadlift, step ups, rows, bench press and shoulder press target multiple joints and major muscle groups.
According to the research, heavy weight lifting gives you exercise-induced testosterone increases. This will help you build muscle mass without fear of “bulking up” like a man.
To lift heavy enough, your repetition range for exercises should be between 3-5 (you would have a difficult time lifting these repetitions). You would typically do 4-5 sets of each exercise.
Rotate heavy lifting days with light lifting days (10-12 reps per exercise, 3-4 sets). Do circuit weight training with the lighter weights (little or no rest between sets). You will need more rest between sets when you lift heavy (1-2 minutes rest between sets).
Women can also burn more fat by increasing exercise-induced growth hormone. Growth hormone is also important for building muscle. Intense circuit weight training and interval cardio workouts will increase your body’s growth hormone.
Another good way to improve bone mass is to include high-impact exercises in your program, such as jumping rope, running, high-impact aerobic dance, basketball, volleyball, soccer and gymnastics.
What about healthy nutrition? “Good nutrition is always important, but during your 20s, it is even more vital,” according to registered dietitian Karen Ansel.
To maintain your body, boundless energy and tough workouts, you should develop healthy eating habits. Do not omit any of the macronutrients (carbs, fats, proteins) from your diet. For example, no-carb diets are off limits. Eat mainly whole, natural foods and drink mainly water and unsweetened drinks. Discuss with your doctor what dietary supplements you need to support your meal plan.
Flexibility is also important. Start a good habit now with daily flexibility and strength exercises that will help prevent injuries (like low back pain and neck pain) and maintain correct posture.
As our culture has become more sedentary (with sit-down jobs), more people are developing “stooped postures.” With proper core strength and flexibility training, your posture can remain upright and strong throughout your life, even if you have a sit-down job.
If you are a woman in your 20s, it is a good time to build a fitness foundation that will benefit you throughout life. Research shows that regular exercise can lower a woman’s risk of breast cancer, osteoporosis and heart disease. So, the best day to start an exercise program is TODAY!
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Mark Dilworth, BA, PES
Her Fitness Hut