(Written by Dr. Jezamine Lim, Wellous Scientific & Research Advisor)
All of us really don’t want to overthink on what we should eat or what we should do to keep fit. All we need is just some basic guidelines to maintain a healthy mind and body. Besides, women’s requirements for certain vitamins and minerals are much higher compared to men. Hormonal changes associated with menstruation, child-bearing and menopause mean that women have a higher risk of getting various health conditions. So, here are some tips on what women can do to meet these changing needs:1) Take calcium-rich foods
It is the best to incorporate foods high in calcium in our diet like milk, chia seeds, yogurt, and cheese as calcium is an essential mineral needed to build healthy bones, teeth and to ensure our body is functioning properly. Calcium deficiency can lead to mood problems such as irritability, anxiety, depression and sleep disorders. If we do not get enough calcium in our diet, our body will take calcium from bones to ensure normal cellular function and lead to weakened bones or osteoporosis. Moreover, women are at greater risk of developing osteoporosis, so it is important to get sufficient calcium to support our bone health.
2) Plant-based diet with some fish and seafood
Red meat is delicious, but it’s not the healthiest animal protein to eat regularly. Seafood and plant-based alternatives are much easier on our body and won’t stay in the system too long either. Besides, seafood is rich in omega-3 fatty acids that may be beneficial for individuals wishing to optimise their diet for fertility. Apart from that, women are at higher risk of getting iron deficiencies from blood loss due to our regular menstruation cycle. So, make sure to also eat plenty of iron-rich foods such as white beans, lentils, spinach as well as dried fruit to help increase blood production in the body.
3) Eat smaller portions and track your food intake
Instead of regular portions 3 times a day, try eating smaller portions, 6 times a day. Getting our body used to smaller servings will help our stomach learn to stay satisfied with less in it while eating more frequently will engage our metabolism more so we burn through calories more efficiently. At the same time, try to track our intake using a food scale to avoid eating extra calories, so the possibility of getting obese will be reduced and aids in achieving a healthy weight. Keep in mind that being overweight and obese can impact fertility due to higher levels of leptin hormone produced in fatty tissue. This condition will disrupt hormone level in our body and might prevent us from ovulating.
4) Drink more water
Drinking plenty of water not only will keep us hydrated, but also important in maintaining good health. Besides, it might help prevent the risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs). UTI occurs when bacteria sneaks into the bladder from the urethra. Statistics show that around 40 to 50 percent of women will get at least once UTI in their lifetime and one in four will get a repeat infection. Left untreated, they might lead to other health problems. So, by drinking a lot of water, it will help flush out the bacteria in the bladder that can cause an infection. But, how much should you drink? It depends on your body composition, but a rough calculation would be to consume about 30mls of water for every kilogram you weigh.
5) Take prebiotics & probiotics
Prebiotics are compounds that help induce the growth of probiotics (good bacteria) in the gut. Many health problems related to our diet and general well-being start with what we put in our bodies. Giving our good bacteria a boost by consuming prebiotics can really assist with reducing our susceptibility to illness and disease. Moreover, women are prone to get vaginal yeast infections, urogenital infections and bacterial vaginosis that relate to bacterial imbalance. Thus, by boosting probiotics, it can help keep the vaginal microbiome in balance. Previous study also showed that Lactobacillus bacteria can improve vaginal flora and reduce the risk of getting infection.
Now that our body’s fuel is taken care of, it’s time to think about what our body does. Moving and keeping active is important to make sure we remain physically limber, capable, and strong. To get there, here are some fitness tips:1) Take a minimum of 10,000 steps or do aerobic exercise
Women naturally have lower testosterone levels than men, hence, women need to spend more time doing aerobic exercises to burn fat. Moreover, testosterone plays an important role in metabolic function such as fat metabolism.
Try to do at least one walk or jog before and after the workday to get that number. Take the stairs when we can, and try not to sit in one place too long when at work. We can start with a lot less than this number of steps, but it is important to make sure we move a lot every day.
2) High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
As far as workouts go, we can try High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). This type of workout is when we are alternate short periods of intense exercise with recovery periods of less intense exercise. This gives us the best results for the least amount of time.
A basic HIIT routine for beginners would be to:
● Run at a brisk pace for 30 seconds
● Jog at a slower pace for 2 minutes
● After we rest, shoot for another 30-second run
● Keep alternating until we get tired or after about ten cycles
The above routine would be the most basic stuff that anyone can start doing quite easily with minimal equipment. We can do these at least for 1 hour, 3 times a week.
Of course, before working out, remember to take 10 minutes to warm up, and afterward, take 3 minutes to cool down. People often forget to do these and risk injuring themselves.
HIIT not only helps to burn extra calories, but also aids to improve muscle strength. Moreover, HIIT training has been shown to keep female bodies in balance when done properly. The most important reason why HIIT is beneficial to women is because it helps reduce the rate of bone loss and conserves bone tissue that result in reduced risk of fractures and osteoporosis.
3) Lifting weight or self-defence training
Ladies tend to avoid lifting weights as they are afraid of getting big, muscular and gigantic, but in fact, lifting weights is a good exercise in building muscle and strength.
Unlike men, ladies have lower testosterone level and testosterone is a hormone that is important when building muscle and strength, hence ladies who lift weight like men will not be as muscular as men.
Other than that, if ladies find lifting weight boring, we can always choose another type of training such as Muay Thai to learn some self-defence skills. Learning self-defence skills allow us to protect ourselves when we are out alone or even staying at home alone.
A survey did on 1000 nationwide women reported 81% of them being sexually harassed, assaulted or both in their lifetime, hence, learning some self-defence skills can prevent or even get you out of these problems.
That’s really all to it! Staying fit and healthy in tough times especially for working mother seem difficult but it doesn’t ever need to be. Also, remember that you can still eat whatever you want (one day of the week), and working out is a great stress-reliever as well. Good luck women out there!