How To Get Fit In Your 20s – This Is Your Healthy Routine

How to get fit in your 20s? Easy. This is the decade in which you’re most likely to be in your peak physical condition; your reaction times are at their fastest, you can build muscle quicker and recover from tough sessions faster. You’re also developing your musculoskeletal strength. “Because bone density peaks in your twenties to early thirties, undertaking weight-bearing activity [where your bones are supporting your weight] like running, soccer or netball, in combination with a strength programme, can maximise your bone health for life,” says Dr Rebecca Robinson, consultant physician in sport and exercise medicine.

Embracing an active lifestyle now will not only benefit you in the present but will also pave the way for a healthier future. Let’s dive into how you can kickstart your fitness journey in your 20s and make lasting changes that will impact both your body and mind positively.

Strength Is Key

The workout you want to do is the one you should do (it’s the one you’ll keep up), but there’s resounding encouragement around strength training. “It’s great for increasing muscle mass and boosting metabolism and confidence,” says personal trainer Samantha McGowan.

The latter is particularly important in your twenties: several studies have shown that women’s confidence increases with age, while others show that strength training can seriously bolster self-esteem, as lifting heavier and achieving goals gives you a sense of achievement. Dr Hassan concurs. “Finding a balance of basic activity forms (cardio and strength) is key, but your weekly schedule should include at least one strength training session. The type is up to you – body weight, free weights or weight machines all reap the same rewards. I’d advise a combination.”

Understand Your Body

Track your menstrual cycle and practise pelvic floor exercises. Contract for three seconds, then relax and repeat. Do eight to 10 daily. Around 21 percent of women in South Africa suffer from a form of incontinence, but strengthening the pelvic area can be game-changing. “Monitor your workout performance during your monthly cycle and see if there are any patterns,” advises Dr Hassan. The four phases: menstrual, follicular, ovulatory and luteal affect hormones, energy levels, strength and endurance. For example, the rise in oestrogen levels post-menstruation means you may have more energy.

Make Time For Rest

While this is a great time to fall in love with exercise, over-exercising is common among women of this age
group. For many of the 20-something patients Dr Nicky Keay, an exercise endocrinologist, sees for amenorrhoea (loss of periods), it can be directly attributed to relative energy deficiency in sport (RED-S, pronounced ‘reds’). “It’s a disparity between food intake (the energy and micronutrients you’re consuming) and the nutrition required to cover the energy demands of exercise and the basic ‘housekeeping’ tasks in the body,” she explains. If you’re concerned that your workouts are taking their toll, Dr Keay suggests ditching high-intensity exercise and building in some slow strength and conditioning sessions, too.

Get Fit In Your 20s: How To Do This Bodyweight Mobility Workout

Each exercise done for 45 seconds with a 15-second rest. Repeat the circuit 3 times for a sweaty bodyweight HIIT session. If you have any injuries, please check with your medical practitioner to see if it safe for you to do the following bodyweight exercises. Remember to have fun!

1. Rolling cobra

Start in a hovering child’s pose and extend your legs up to a down dog (A) Shift your weight forward, round your back as you move through a plank, and then a hanging cobra-style position (B). Continue for 45 seconds.

READ MORE: Your 4-Week Home Workout Plan To Get Fit And Strong AF

2. Beast reach to high plank

From hovering child’s pose spring your knees forward to a high plank. Reach and repeat for 45 seconds (A).

3. Beast reach, high plank, runners lunge

Move from hovering child’s pose to high plank and then step your foot on the outside of the same side hand for runners lunge (A). Reach back to hovering child’s pose (B). Repeat alternating sides for 45 seconds.

READ MORE: The Best Back Stretches To Tackle Upper And Lower Back Pain, From A Yoga Instructor

4. Beast reach, high plank, runner lunge to sit through

Once in runner lunge, lift your back foot up through the middle of the body (A). Lift the opposite hand off the floor too, balancing on one hand and foot (B). Come back to your starting position and repeat for 45 seconds.

Foods You Should Be Eating In Your 20s

Remember, balance is key! Allow yourself occasional treats but aim for consistency with nourishing foods that support your fitness journey. Your body will thank you for it!

fitness in your 20s

Go for food high in fibre like beans, fruits, veggies and whole grains. High-fibre foods digest more slowly and are also more filling, which means they’re a good option for weight control.

Calcium plays a role in heart health, muscle function and nerve signalling. Many seeds are good sources of calcium. Cheese, yoghurt and sardines are also great sources of calcium.

Eat the rainbow. Aim for five servings of vegetables a day (1 serving = ½ cup cooked or 1 cup salad) and try to have a bigger variety of veggies each week.

Habits To Avoid In Your 20s

Overtraining. The idea that you’re near-invincible during your twenties is only natural – you’ve got energy for days and can sail through any sweat session with a hangover like it’s nothing, but the ‘too much of a good thing’ adage may apply. Over-exercising is something personal trainer Caroline Bragg sees in plenty of her clients in their twenties. “Overtraining can lead to RED-S [relative energy deficiency syndrome], when the body isn’t taking on enough energy to meet demand,” she says. “This can lead to your body fat dropping so low that you stop producing oestrogen, which in turn can nix your periods (amenorrhea). Later on, this lack of oestrogen can cause loss of libido, trouble sleeping and difficulty concentrating.”

This article written by Kirsti Buick first appeared in the July/August 2022 Issue of Women’s Health UK, additional reporting by Women’s Health SA team.

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