As women, we are often pressured by health and fitness magazines, social media and our own ideas to fit into the “perfect” category.
To have the “perfect body”, to be the “perfect” wife, mother, etc. Yet is perfection really desirable, let alone achievable?
While striving to improve ourselves is certainly healthy it’s smart to guard ourselves from striving to fit into the stereotype of women we see on the covers of glossy magazines. After all, more often than not the bodies we see in those magazines, are enhanced, to an incremental or significant degree, by wonderful technology.
So what does a healthy lifestyle for women actually involve? First of all let’s agree on what’s not part of a healthy lifestyle.
It is certainly not jumping from one fad diet to another, sporadically going to the pool to do a few dozen laps or occasionally going for a walk on the beach to get some sunshine. Nor is it turning to special nutritional supplements or weight loss medications in order to lose weight and get the perfect six-pack.
The physiotherapists at Health Point Physiotherapy specialize in women’s health and we have developed our unique Health Maintenance program. Let’s review a few factors which are involved in attaining and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. These suggestions work best when implemented together rather than used in isolation.
Eating 2-3 servings of raw fruit and 5 servings of raw vegetables daily.
It’s extremely important to eat fruit and vegies raw as they lose their nutrients in the cooking process, plus we usually add cooking oils/sauces which does not help with weight loss and maintaining health.
Drinking 1.5-2L of water daily.
First of all water helps with detox. Secondly it’s often easy to disguise thirst as hunger, and then eating something when what your body really needs is water.
Eating higher calorie foods for breakfast or lunch and keeping dinner very light. Also trying not to eat after 6pm.
By having heavier foods earlier on in the day your body will have more time to burn the calories as opposed to eating late.
Eat good fibre and healthy fats.
If you are a lover of carbs you can still have bread, pasta and rice occasionally, just make sure it’s not the refined white flour. Healthier options include yeast free breads, such as sourdough, spelt or brown pasta and brown rice.
You also need to include good fats in your diet, as they help us lose weight. Examples include avocados, nuts and olive oil.
ADEQUATE SLEEP AMOUNT AND PATTERN
Research has shown that there is a direct link between sleep and weight.
The simple truth is that when we don’t get an adequate amount of sleep we are more likely to gain weight. So try to aim for 7-9 hours of sleep. This will help you to remain motivated and on track to reaching your goals.
Avoid watching action movies, listening to loud music, using caffeinated drinks and vigorous exercise before going to bed. Try to relax and keep your bedroom temperature between 18-22°C.
APPROPRIATE EXERCISE PROGRAM
- Strong core muscles which help to treat/prevent back, neck and joint pain and allow you to exercise safely and effectively
- Flat abs
- Generally improved muscle tone and strength
- Improved overall body shape
- Good posture
- Stronger pelvic floor muscles which will help to manage/prevent incontinence
At Health Point Physiotherapy the first step is always our thorough full body assessment. This allows us to identify your areas of strength and weakness, diagnose the cause of your aches and pains and develop a unique program tailored specifically to your needs.
The first session also involves the routine use of Real Time Ultrasound which allows you to see how your core muscles work, making sure that you are activating them correctly.
We are often asked whether Pilates alone will help to lose weight. The answer is no. While Pilates will help you to tone up and improve your body shape you need to do in combination with cardiovascular exercise in order to lose weight.
Cardiovascular exercise can include power walking, jogging, cycling, swimming and others – just make sure that it’s something that increases your heart rate and that it’s an activity you enjoy.
Another concern women often have is making sure that they don’t bulk up as a result of exercise. You can rest assured knowing that this won’t happen.
The reason why men bulk up is due to the hormone testosterone which is hardly present in women. So while exercising will help improve your figure it won’t make you bulk up.
Last but not least we want to discuss the importance of sun exposure. A lot of people believe that sun avoidance and regular application of sunscreen are necessary for good health. This, however, is not entirely true and needs clarification.
While it’s definitely true that excessive sun exposure is risky and should be avoided, sunbathing safely will help you look healthier as well as aid in the biosynthesis of vitamin D. Modern research has shown that vitamin D is necessary for prevention of osteoporosis, diabetes and many other diseases.
So how do you sunbath appropriately to get the best results while avoiding overexposure? The answer will depend on your skin type, work and leisure activities, health, and other conditions.
Here are some general guidelines though which will help:
- sunbathing for up to 15 minutes per day, away from the water, up to 11am and after 4pm is generally safe
- make sure you spend roughly the same time sunbathing on your back and on your stomach
- slowly build up your sunbathing time up to approximately 30 minutes in total
Remember that these are only general recommendations. Discuss this further with your doctor or physiotherapist.