5 exercise-boosting tips exclusively for women

October 9, 2015

With a few simple tricks, you can maximize your workouts in ways that play to your womanly strengths. Here's how:

5 exercise-boosting tips exclusively for women

1. Time your exercise to your menstrual cycle

  • Don't tell your health club manager, but the next time they see you working up an intense sweat, it's because you're in the latter part of your menstrual cycle.
  • One study found that women who exercise during this time of the month burn more fat for energy, leading to less exercise-related fatigue.
  • It may be because your body's estrogen and progesterone levels are at their highest.

2. Check your iron levels

  • A study from Cornell University found that women with low levels of iron find it more difficult to maintain exercise and training than women with normal levels.
  • An estimated 16 percent of North American women have a non-anemic iron deficiency and don't know it.
  • Women who are physically active, dieting or vegetarians are particularly at risk.
  • Supplementing with 100 milligrams a day of iron can double your exercise endurance.
  • Don't try this on your own, however — this is prescription-strength iron that should only be taken under your doctor's supervision.
  • Good sources of dietary iron include red meat, seafood, legumes, whole grains and green vegetables.

3. Ignore the mirrors at gyms

  • Observing your own stepping, lunging and arm swinging might actually work against you.
  • One study found that women who exercised in front of a mirror felt less calm and more fatigued after 30 minutes of working out than those who exercised without mirrors.
  • Some exercise gyms are now catching on and offering "reflection-free" zones. If yours doesn't, talk to the gym manager.

4. Pass on star-centred videos

  • There's an army of celebrities all hoping you'll buy their exercise videos. But experts say such videos may actually undermine your motivation to work out.
  • A McMaster University study looked at videos featuring super-slim models. They found that people felt less confident about their fitness and less inclined to exercise in the future.
  • Oddly enough, the effect was even worse with videos featuring an ultra-slender host leading a group of normal-looking women.
  • If you want a motivating exercise video or class, researchers say you should look for a teacher you can trust.
  • Find a teacher with a fitness background who, like the rest of us, needs to exercise in order to look great.
  • Videos created by personal trainers and exercise physiologists, or classes taught by them, are a good bet.

5. You can be both healthy and heavy

  • Many women think they're too heavy to benefit from exercising. Others get discouraged when they don't see significant weight loss after weeks of exercise.
  • The most important benefit of exercise is keeping your heart healthy.
  • Research shows that the amount of activity you get, not your weight, is the chief predictor of heart disease.
  • One study evaluated more than 900 women, three-quarters of whom were overweight or obese. They found that, when it comes to heart disease, weight didn't matter, but exercise did.
  • It wasn't the heaviest women who showed the most evidence of heart problems, but the least active women. So get moving, whatever your size.

There's no one-size-fits-all exercise plan, especially between men and women. But with a fitness plan that plays to your strengths as a woman, you can be healthier and feel better.

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