From nutrition and fitness to hormones and skin, our collective of experts explain what you need to do, when
We know that wellbeing isn’t one size fits all. Some people love meditation or yoga, whereas others enjoy a heavy lifting session or an intense HIIT class. But did you know that, as women, we should also be adapting our go-to wellness activities depending on our age, not just our preferences?
As we traverse through life our bodies go through different phases: puberty, menstruation, peri-menopause, menopause and beyond, and at each stage our bodies have different needs. That’s why we called on a collective of experts to advise on how to tweak everything from your workouts to your nutrition to suit what your body needs at every stage of life.
But remember, life is for living and having fun which is why we strongly believe in the 80/20 rule, if you can follow healthy habits 80 per cent of the time then you’re onto a winner. Find your decade below and try to incorporate as much as you can into your wellbeing routine.
Wellbeing in your 20s
Our twenties is a time when we often feel “invincible”, says Ali Gobold, consultant nutritionist and expert spokesperson for Eostre. It’s a time to have fun but also it’s a time to build the foundations for good health. “The problem is that our bad habits can take their toll later in life, they can contribute towards problems such as late onset diabetes, female hormone disruption, gut issues, thyroid and adrenal issues, so start now.”
Routine is your friend when it comes to nutrition. “Plan, shop and cook meals a few times a week so that your diet has more structure,” says Ali. “Focus on including plenty of varied vegetables, wholegrains, pulses, lean meat, fish and eggs, along with healthy fats from nuts and seeds and oily fish.”
Where possible, focus on your general wellbeing, “aim to have 4 nights a week alcohol free and establish a good nightly routine.” Check out how a sleep expert gets ready for bed here.
“Suffer from PMS, heavy or painful periods? In the week before your period, exercising and reducing sugar, caffeine and alcohol intake and getting seven hours sleep a night have all been shown to make a big difference,” says Dr Katie Armstrong, who specialises in menopause and women’s health and is an expert at Balance Holidays Realign and Thrive Women’s Movement Retreat.
The key to fitness at any age is having a plan. “In your 20s, aim for 30 minutes of weight training followed by 30 minutes of cardio three times a week, and 45 to 60 minutes of straight cardio three times a week. One day of rest,” advises Sarah Campus, PT from LDN MUMS FITNESS. “At this age your body is strong, so you can get away with more intense workouts.”
If you do one thing, start protecting your skin young, “using an SPF is absolutely vital, even during the winter months to prevent damage from the sun and premature ageing,” suggests Dr Shirin Lakhani.
Wellbeing in your 30s
For those who choose to have children, your thirties can be a real juggle balancing the demands of home, work and a social life. Taking care of your wellbeing during this time is crucial.
Plant-based protein was linked in one study to longevity, so now is the time to introduce these into your diet (if you haven’t already). “Aim for 30 different plant foods a week,” says Ali. “These can be vegetables (the more varied the better), fruits (berries have the least effect on blood sugar), wholegrains, pulses, lentils, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices.”
During this decade “you are still fertile but it is harder to get pregnant. The hallmark of this time is fluctuating female hormones,” notes Dr Katie Armstrong. Think worsening PMS, feeling hot and sleeping poorly. “Increase the amount of natural oestrogens in your diet by taking isoflavones.” You can get these in supplement form or by adding tofu, miso and tempeh to your diet
“During your 30s, you might start noticing that weight doesn't come off quite as easily as it used to,” says Sam. “This is because after your 20s, your basal metabolism drops by one to two percent every decade, and as lean muscle decreases and body fat increases, you don't need as many calories to sustain yourself.”
Focusing on a combination of cardio and resistance (bodyweight or weight-bearing exercises) is ideal at this time. “Aim for one hour of circuit training (cardio and resistance) four times a week, plus at least one day of cardio for 45 to 60 minutes at a high intensity. Take one day off,” suggests Sam.
If you don’t already, “use an antioxidant such as Vitamin C in the mornings,” says Dr Shirin Lakhani. This will protect your skin from pollution and promotes collagen production that declines during your 30s.
Wellbeing in your 40s
“The forties is the decade when things start to slow down,” says Dr Shirin Lakhani. Finding ways to balance your hormones, where possible, is key.
“Women at this stage often experience fatigue as their cells are less able to convert glucose to energy,” says Ali. “It is very important to work on balancing blood sugar levels as this helps to improve insulin sensitivity and reduces tiredness.” For tips on how to balance your glucose levels we recommend reading Glucose Revolution by Jessie Inchauspé.
“The first perimenopause symptoms can often appear in your early 40s, this is when the hormone progesterone starts to fall whilst oestrogen levels remain relatively high. Progesterone makes us feel calm and reduces feelings of stress,” says Ali. Offset this drop with L-theanine. “It increases levels of the calming brain chemical GABA, which can help with mood swings and stress. Green tea, containing l-theanine, is also thought to help increase GABA levels.”
If oestrogen is left to run high, it can affect histamine levels (making alcohol hard to tolerate) and affect the immune system which can lead to thyroid problems. “The health of the liver is key for metabolising oestrogen and getting it out of the body, eat liver friendly foods such as Brussel sprouts, sprouted broccoli seeds, broccoli, kale, cauliflower and cabbage,” adds Ali.
During your 40s is when your body can change the most. “In this decade gravity, hormones, and even slowing of metabolism as lean muscle mass continues to decrease and body fat increases all play a part.” Sarah recommends factoring in “one hour of full body weight training threw days a week, plus 45 minutes of lower intensity cardio five days a week. Take one day off.
The key here is to really take care of your wellbeing and be kind to yourself. “There is good evidence that yoga and pilates, acupuncture, mindfulness, meditation and cold-water swimming can all help [with hormone fluctuations],” adds Dr Katie Armstrong.
“Your lymphatic system, which is responsible for draining the toxins from your skin, can start to slow,” says Dr Shirin Lakhani. “This can lead to puffiness, often in the eye and cheek areas and can result in dark circles under the eyes.” Give your lymphatic system a boost with a daily dose of massage.
Wellbeing in your 50s
Wellbeing-wise, this decade is all about the menopause. “But many women who have spent a long time fearing the menopause actually discover that once they’ve it they actually feel empowered,” says Dr Shirin Lakhani.
“In your 50s focus on eating well, consuming foods that are rich in nutrients. Cut out added sugar and refined carbohydrates and aim to avoid alcohol as much as possible. Many women feel considerably better when they completely stop drinking alcohol,” says Ali.
“A healthy gut microbiome is closely associated with improved immunity and better mental health. Eat fermented foods daily to improve the health of the gut microbes; choose from sauerkraut, kimchi pickles, tempeh, miso, live yoghurt, apple cider vinegar, kombucha and kefir – something from this list every day.”
No more periods is a good thing, but it means your body has gone through a big change. “When your ovaries stop working, oestrogen levels fall by 90% and this has a profound effect on your long-term health particularly bone density and cardiovascular health,” notes Dr Katie Armstrong.
She advises taking 1000 IU of vitamin D every day (if you’re not in the sun), omega 3 three times a week (if you don’t eat oily fish) and consider a magnesium supplement. This combination will help support your body and mind.
Keep active! “Aim for 4 to 6 cardio sessions a week, 20 to 40 minutes each, with an intensity that lets you answer a simple question but not chat,” says Sarah. “Plus, half an hour of weight training twice a week. Be sure to always stretch afterwards.”
Annoyingly, the reduction of oestrogen takes its toll on the skin. “Oestrogen hormones play a significant role in holding off the signs of ageing and preserving your skin’s youthful quality. In menopause, oil production slows down and skin loses some ability to hold water, so skin can get quite dry,” says Dr Shirin Lakhani. Make sure to use a rich day and night cream.
“Some women find that sea buckthorn oil supplements help with eye dryness and dry skin,” says Ali.
Wellbeing in your 60s and beyond
Now is the time to really appreciate the small things in life. “Life is for living and our bodies are precious, if we look after them, they will look after us,” says Dr Katie Armstrong. “Eat well, don’t drink too much, keep active, keep social and prioritise sleep and you won’t go far wrong.” When it comes to movement little and often is key, and it’s important to listen to your body.
All being well, you have formed some healthy habits in earlier decades, so now it’s all about maintenance. “Continue to eat fermented foods and plenty of varied vegetables. Continue to avoid sugar, alcohol and refined carbohydrates as much as possible to maintain good blood sugar control, this helps with weight management, energy levels and brain function,” says Ali.
Osteoporosis is a risk factor at this age. To support this, Dr Katie Armstrong recommends continuing to take a daily dose of Vitamin D and “if your diet does not contain dairy also take calcium.”
Dr Shirin Lakhani notes that “your chance of getting breast cancer increases when you are 70. Make sure you go to all your screenings.”
Weight training is key at this age to support bone health and to improve balance. Sarah suggests “aiming for 3 days a week of challenging but not exhausting cardio, such as a slow jog, plus 3 days of weight training, using lighter weights and slower, more controlled movements combined with slow, sustained stretching. Walk whenever possible, and do daily balance exercises.”
In these decades, dry skin is still a concern, be sure to keep a hand cream on you at all times. Hair thinning can also be noticeable, a volumising mousse will work wonders for creating the look of fullness.