Women are not men. Sure, women can run for president, fight in wars, hold the same jobs as men. But when it comes to health, they’re different.
“Number one,” says Katherine Coyner, an assistant professor in orthopedic surgery at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, “understand the genetic difference between men and women. From a hormonal level, there’s the difference of men having more testosterone and women having more estrogen.”
That translates to a couple of givens; namely, that men have an easier time building muscle and bulk. Women have more body fat and a harder time losing those last few pounds.
On the food side, observes Angie Russell, certified trainer, women “tend to underestimate their calories and overestimate protein.”
They also need more vitamin D and calcium than they often get, says Lona Sandon, an assistant professor in the department of clinical nutrition at UT Southwestern Medical School.
Russell, Sandon and other women health experts gave 10 tips – five about exercise and five on nutrition – that women need to be their healthiest.
Why? “Studies have shown one of the first muscles we as women start to lose are triceps,” says Michelle De La Valdene, a certified personal trainer. Pushups not only work those annoying back-of-the-upper-arm muscles, they also help your core, chest and shoulders.
How to do them: Lie on your stomach, elbows bent, palms face-down and slightly wider than your shoulders. If you haven’t done them before or in a while, start on your knees.
Try to make it to eight; build up to three sets of eight. If you have trouble, you can do them against a wall.
Why? Here’s that word again: Core. Having a strong one is essential to posture, balance and doing everyday activities.
Start in the same position as a pushup, but when you’ve pushed yourself up, hold that position with elbows bent or straight for as long as you can. Start with 15 seconds; progress to 30, to 60 and more. For reverse planks, lie on your back. With elbows bent and palms facing forward, lift your chest and hips up. For side planks, alternate balancing on each side.
3. Balance exercises
Why? Balance, quite simply, is imperative to walking, sitting, standing, running – plus it will help prevent falls.
How to do them: These can be as easy as “standing on one foot and trying to hold it,” De La Valdene says. In one of the classes she teaches, “I have them use light hand weights to do biceps curls and different arm exercises all while balancing on one foot.”
1. Low-fat milk
Why? “One of the biggies women tend to miss out on are adequate amounts of vitamin D and calcium,” Sandon says.
Know this: If you prefer soy or almond milk, make sure it’s fortified with vitamin D and calcium, she says.
Why? “It has good lean protein, good fiber,” Sandon says. Use it as a dip for vegetables, a spread for sandwiches.
Know this: Make your own so you know exactly what’s in it. Dump a can of chickpeas into the blender; add some garlic and olive oil, and voila. Russell adds a little lemon juice, cumin and tahini to hers.
3. Greek yogurt
Why? High protein, low fat.
Know this: “Throw in some walnuts and that adds more protein and healthy fat,” Sandon says. “I’m stuck on Greek yogurt with a teaspoon of Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa like you’d use in baking, walnuts and Craisins and a hint of maple syrup to give that hint of sweetness.”