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Women's Health

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Healthy for Life: Fitness Needs for Every Decade of a Woman’s Life

Get moving: Fitness for women at any stage of life

A lifetime of fitness

By developing good exercise habits when you are young, Mieres explains, fitness becomes a lifetime habit, but it is never too late to start. And remember, always get your doctor's okay before starting any exercise program, but particularly if you have any chronic health concerns.

Most fitness experts recommend at least 30 minutes of exercise a day most days of the week to get the health benefits you need. Your exercise should include a mix of cardiovascular exercise (such as jogging, cycling, or racquetball) strength training (using, for example, free weights or resistance bands), and flexibility activities (such as stretching, yoga, and tai chi).

But if all this sounds like too much --- and it may be if you have not exercised in the past --- then moving even for short periods can be helpful. In fact, studies show that those who exercise for ten minutes three times a day achieve the same cardiovascular fitness effects as those whose workouts continue for 30 minutes.

Whichever decade you are in, you can tailor an exercise program to meet your age, fitness level, and individual health issues, says personal trainer Larysa DiDio, owner of Physical Fitness Xperts in Pleasantville, New York.

Follow this guide for a lifetime of fitness:

Fitness for women: The 20s

Your 20s are the decade when you are laying the foundation for your future, DiDio tells WebMD. "Unless you have a specific medical condition or challenge," she says, "you can pretty much do whatever you want." DiDio advises women in their 20s to work out up to 6 days a week, 3 days with cardiovascular training (such as jogging, vigorous walking, cycling) and 3 days of weight training.

And, she says, there is no need to go to the gym if you don't want to or can't afford it. Free weights between 5 and 20 pounds, depending on your fitness level, will allow you to work at home, according to DiDio. "At this age you're building for the future in terms of your bone density, muscle strength, and cardiovascular health," says DiDio. "So the more exercise, the better."

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