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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 continued...

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."

Fitness for women: The 30s

When you hit your 30s, you may find increasing job and family responsibilities have cut into your available work out time. Pregnancy and childbirth may also have left you with weaker abs and that pesky "baby weight." By focusing on time-efficient core exercises - such as Pilates - you can build abdominal strength. And strong abs mean a stronger back as well.

Don't forget the cardiovascular workouts either, says DiDio. Running, she says, is a good way to get the most benefit in the least amount of time. DiDio also recommends working out in the morning. Not only will you rev up your metabolism for the entire day, but you also will be less likely to find an excuse not to exercise --- as you might if you wait until later in the day. Additionally, exercising in the morning will help you make better food choices throughout the day since you will be motivated not to derail your good efforts.

Fitness for women: The 40s

The 40s are the decade when your metabolism starts to slow down and muscle mass begins to decrease significantly. So weight training becomes increasingly important. DiDio recommends three strength-training sessions a week.

According to the American Council on Exercise, there are three primary benefits to a regular resistance-training program.

1) Increased strength of bones, muscles, and connective tissue. Exercise not only decreases the risk of eventually developing osteoporosis, it decreases your risk of injury in everything you do.

2) Increased muscle mass. The more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns at rest. That can make it easier to control your weight.

3. Enhanced quality of life. This becomes increasingly important as we get older. What this means is that the things we do every day --- like carrying groceries in from the car --- will become easier as our overall strength improves.

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