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Female health in your 20s

Stay healthy throughout your twenties

This is the most forgiving decade as far as getting away with bad health habits is concerned. But while you might feel able to get away with late nights, smoking and drinking and still get up for work the next day, your 20s is an ideal time to lay down healthier habits that will see you in good stead later on in life.

One of the best habits to develop and maintain is weight-bearing exercise. This can improve your bone density during your 20s, but later on in life it will only be possible to preserve the bone that you’ve already got. Anything that requires you to bear your own weight — including jumping, running, dancing and skipping — counts. And don’t use period pain as an excuse! Research suggests that intense training can actually ease period pain more effectively than prolonged, gentler exercise. However, if you suffer more from PMS than period pain, research by Duke University suggests that aerobic exercise is more effective at decreasing symptoms than intense exercise such as strength training.

Women dancing

How can I maintain my health?

While you may not want to spend hours in the gym, fitting more activity into your daily routine is a good compromise in terms of getting that all-important cardiovascular exercise. Variety is the key to not getting bored, so keep your eye out for new fitness trends. Stay aerobically active for life and your heart could be in equally good shape at 60 as it is in your 20s — but remain on the couch and grandma might put you to shame! A study at Liverpool John Moores University found that veteran athletes who had all exercised regularly for around 30 years had a cardiac performance that was the same — if not greater — than inactive 20 year olds.

Vices such as smoking and drinking excessively can deplete your body of vitamins and minerals. Heavy drinking and smoking increase the need for the B vitamins and vitamin C, and may affect zinc absorption levels. These needs can be satisfied by eating meat, shellfish, dairy products and whole grains. Drinking also increases the need for folate (which occurs in yeast extract, beans and pulses, breakfast cereals, liver, and wheatgerm) and magnesium (in whole grains, nuts and seeds). Smokers may want to up their intake of vitamin E (in vegetable oils, avocados, nuts and seeds), as well as stock up on watercress and broccoli, which are high in phenethyl isothiocyanate — a phytochemical that has been shown to reduce the risk of tobacco-induced lung cancer.

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