Shape Up: Life and soul of the party
Our story of how our bodies change through the decades has now reached the era of the 20-something, a time for many when partying reaches its peak.
The key characteristic of those in their 20s is that they incorrectly assume that they cannot make time for health and well-being. They feel they are still young enough to get away with doing things that are bad for their health.
Some day, they feel, they are going to have to invest more effort in looking after themselves or eventually face the consequences. But not for a while yet.
You may be like them. At work, you feel the only way you can meet the demands of your job is to work longer and harder hours. You'll invest all your energy in your work rather than your health -- it will be worth it in the long run. Taking care of your health is a luxury that you can't afford right now.
These are great stories. But not all great stories have happy endings. How much time we invest in our health in our 20s will have long-term effects.
Of those who do train during their 20s, there is a distinct difference between the sexes, as epitomised by TV shows like 'Jersey Shore' and 'The Only Way is Essex'. Here the guys hit the weights room while the girls go for a walk on the treadmill or spend time on the cross trainer. It is similar in real life.
The guys are seen training their chest muscles, arms and abdominals. The reason being, the first thing women see in a man's physique is his chest, arms, shoulders and abs and so that forms the focus of his training programs.
They tend to concentrate on their upper body to compensate for a poor diet of beer and takeaway foods. Guys in this age group release extra testosterone that could help towards building muscle but this is usually impeded by excessive alcohol intake. Alcohol can affect testosterone for up to four days.
Another training mistake that 20-something guys make is that they neglect the muscles on the back of their body as they only train what they see. This will lead to muscle and joint injuries and an altered posture. The shoulders round, the arms drop.
Females in this age category are often keen followers of the latest celebrity diet, failing to accept that it is through lifestyle changes that they will get and keep the body they want.
As exercise methods, these women choose aerobic classes, Zumba, spinning and outdoor bootcamps. They avoid resistance training at all costs for the misplaced fear of getting big and bulky.
It is so important for women in their 20s to weight train as it is the time when many build the peak of their bone density, which will deteriorate as the years go on. But osteopenia or osteoporosis are conditions far from the mind of a girl in her 20s.
To improve bone density the weight you lift must be one where you are unable to complete nine reps. It must be challenging.
Another common characteristic of women in this age group is that they often make the massive mistake of skipping meals, especially breakfast, or eating at the wrong times.
When the body is starved it leads to catabolism which is the loss of muscle. Because the body does not get food consistently it resorts to using muscle as energy.
As you lose this muscle, you slow down your metabolism. A slow metabolism makes it harder to burn energy to lose weight and body fat.
For both guys and gals it's all about the party scene. Their goal is to enjoy their nights out and possibly find a partner.
But the way women treat their bodies during this time will influence their ability to conceive. Functional medicine doctors recommend that females thinking of conception should spend circa two years of preparing their bodies prior to becoming pregnant. But it rarely is the case.
Our 20s are a time when we can shape health habits for the years that follow. When you are making time for your health, you provide a solid foundation for your relationships and your career to flourish. When you don't have a solid foundation, eventually the rest will start to topple over.
Health & Living