fitness

The exercises you should be doing at each stage of your life.

Image: iStock

A twice weekly run, regular gym sesh or occasional yoga class — once you’ve got into the swing of a workout, it can be easy to stay there.

Before you know it months and years will have passed and you’ll still be doing the same routine. But are you still getting all the benefits?

Just like your wardrobe, your exercise routine should change as you do. According to personal trainer Michelle Wright, we should be altering it according to our life cycle stage.

It is a very masculine view to consider our different fitness goals and workouts by age rather than life cycle. Men have relatively few hormonal fluctuations over their life span. Women on the other hand, experience significant changes… not just on a monthly cycle, but also when we change from adulthood through to pregnancy, postnatal and then perimenopausal and post-menopausal periods of our lives,” she says.

“Each of these uniquely female ‘life cycles’ creates a unique and significant set of implications that impact our fitness goals and workouts.” 

Watch: Sam Wood shows us an easy circuit to do anytime, anywhere. (Post continues after video.)

Pre-pregnancy life cycle phase

Your mantra: start as you mean to go on. This is the stage where lifetime habits are made, so it’s important to find your groove and keep on moving.

“Girls, who are often active as teenagers with sport, often lose their exercise regime when shifting to full time employment. [Try] revisiting an activity that was enjoyed as an adolescent, like netball, soccer – look at corporate games,” says Wright.

“The goal should be to start or remain active. The best way to achieve it is to do an exercise that you enjoy.”

Workouts to try:

Anything goes here. Pick up social sport, try out all the classes, get into a rhythm at the gym or take your running to the great outdoors.

Things to avoid: Yes, your period can mess with your exercising ability. The most important thing is to listen to your body to avoid pushing yourself too far and increasing your chances of injury.

“Often during this monthly hormonal stage, women feel least likely to work out and if they are listening to their bodies might skip the gym and take it easy. It is a good idea to ignore the screaming PT that says ‘You can work through it’ and document how your hormonal cycle impacts on your work out via special apps like EVE,” says Wright. (Post continues after gallery.)

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Pregnancy life cycle phase

This stage in your life is all about maintaining a constant.

“Remaining active is key – this helps with maintaining a good pregnancy weight and research has shown that active mothers are less likely to have obese children. It is not the time to be joining a boot camp or get fit fast time. Ideally you should be under the supervision of a specialised personal trainer who understands that each trimester represents different challenges,” says Wright.

Exercises to do:

Pelvic floor exercises: “They are key, as women who have incontinence during pregnancy are more likely to have incontinence post-natally,” says Wright.

Squats: “These are are fantastic. If you can build your leg and butt strength, this will come in handy for labour (and lets face it – they don’t call it labour because it is a picnic!).”

"Remaining active is key – this helps with maintaining a good pregnancy weight." (istock)
ADVERTISEMENT

Breathing exercises: "These are also great preparation for birth and help build the synergy that lies between your diaghram and pelvic floor."

Bicep exercises: "Strong biceps can come in very handy – you will be lugging lots of things post birth, like your baby, capsule, baby bag, lifting pram etc."

Workouts to try:

"Walking is fantastic throughout pregnancy, and swimming is wonderful – the weightlessness during the later stages of pregnancy literally takes a load off," says Wright.

Other workouts are also fine, if they are approved by a specific and qualified pregnancy exercise specialist. "Many women worry about heart rate – rule of thumb, if you can keep up a conversation while exerting – you are good," Wright adds.

Things to avoid: Anything that places excessive strain on your pelvic floor, like lifting heavy weights, running, jumping, and crunches and sit-ups will place excessive strain on your abdominal. It's also important not to forsake your exercise program altogether. (Post continues after gallery.)

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Post-natal stage

Research from a 2014 University of Queensland study has shown women who engage in regular physical activity significantly reduce their risk of PND. While it's important to stay active, you mustn't overdo it, particularly right after having a baby.

"Even if you have no stitches and your birth was a breeze, you will still have soft tissue damage. We would not put our footballers back on the field with soft tissue injuries/stitches without rehab, so why should we do it to our postnatal women?" says Wright.

This life stage isn't just for new mums — it's for every woman who has had a child but hasn't reached the next stage of menopause yet.

Exercises to do:

Pelvic Floor: "Up to 30 per cent of women who think they are doing their pelvic floor exercises are in fact 'bearing down'," Wright says.

Squats: "Ensure you are engaging your glutes (backside) not your thighs (quads)."

Transversus abdominal exercises: "These will not make you break into a sweat, but they will help with returning your belly to a flatter state."

Rowing exercise: "Any pull or row exercise that counteracts the rolling forward of the shoulders that happens with feeding and holding baby and creates upper back and neck aches and pains is great."

essential exercise clothes
Ease yourself back into your routine, rather than jumping in. (Image: iStock)
ADVERTISEMENT

Workouts to try:

"Walking, every day – get out and have fresh air. Good for baby, good for you! A specific exercise program from a professional that has taken into account your concerns or needs is also good," says Wright.

If you're getting back to your old workout, it's important to ease back slowly and carefully rather than rushing back into it.

Stage 4

Peri-menopause, menopause, and post- menopause life cycle stage.

Your focus in this stage is to build bone density. "Bone density will be at the highest possible level going into menopause and will only diminish from there," says Wright.

Strength training is key for keeping bone density while balance work is great in minimising the risk of falls.

Exercises to do:

Yep, it's still all about that pelvic floor.

"Weight training programmes that are pelvic floor friendly and continued pelvic floor muscle training should be a focus," says Wright.

"One of the biggest reasons women are put into aged care facilities is because of incontinence. The changed hormonal state and loss of oestrogen makes them susceptible to pelvic organ prolapse." (Post continues after gallery.)

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Workouts to try:

Making exercise social is one way to keep it interesting.

"Group fit classes that incorporate Swiss ball, weights and low impact cardio vascular exercise, stretching and fascia release work and whole body vibration training are great," says Wright.

Walking, swimming, running and other activities can also be fine - just ensure you're listening to your body and not pushing it too far, as unfortunately as we age we become more susceptible to injuries.

Things to avoid: Anything that will put excessive strain on your pelvic floor.

How has your workout changed as you've grown older?

thousand girls project

Thank you - just by clicking on this and other content on Mamamia, you are helping to fund education for some of the world’s most disadvantaged girls.

Together with our commercial clients and charity partner Room to Read, Mamamia's goal is to be funding 1,000 girls in school each and every day, by June 2020.

Learn more here about our ongoing mission to make the world a better place for women and girls.

FROM OUR NETWORK
00:00 / ???