Exercise & Nutrition For Women – Dr Pradnya Parulkar


Exercise & Nutrition For Women

The human body undergoes changes from an early age. The most important changes begin at puberty. It is life-changing and challenging for children and parents. Healthy eating is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and it needs to start at an early age.

Diet during puberty

Diet plays an important role in maintaining good health during this phase. You should eat three main meals a day with healthy snacks. It is advisable to increase fibre in your daily diet and decrease the consumption of salt. Drink lots of water and avoid drinks high in sugar. Remember, whole fruit is better than fruit juice. Eat balanced meals, include baked or boiled food instead of fried. Reduce the use of butter and heavy gravies. You can eat more fish and chicken instead of red meat.

Some the nutritional objectives to be attained during puberty include: preparing the body for future challenges which may include pregnancy or unexpected illnesses. It’s important to prevent lifestyle diseases like Diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. A good amount of iron in one’s daily diet is needed for maintaining haemoglobin content in the blood, also include calcium-rich foods, which will make your bones stronger. Zinc boosts immunity. You need to reduce the consumption of processed food. It’s important to maintain a healthy weight.

Girls between 14-18 years of age

Daily requirement : 15 mg iron / day.

Sources: Baked beans, kidney beans, Spinach, Figs, Beetroot, Jaggery, Eggs, lentils.

Daily requirement: 1300 mg calcium 1 day.

Sources: Milk, yoghurt, cheese, tofu, soy products, spinach, among others.


You need to exercise daily. Start with 60 minutes daily cardio, weight training, dance, Zumba, Pilates or yoga. You also need to focus on quality recreation and keeping your mind healthy as well. Eat a healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight, get enough sleep, keep up with vaccination, maintain good dental hygiene and take care of your mental health.

In women, the next most important phase in life is pregnancy. During this phase, your diet requires utmost attention. A good and healthy diet ensures optimal growth and development of the baby. Adequate nutrition helps the maintenance of maternal tissues. A healthy diet also prevents nutritional deficiency in mother and/or child.

Diet during pregnancy

A good diet for this phase includes consuming a variety of foods. Your diet plan should include six servings of cereals and grain (roti, bhakri, rice, multigrain bread pasta), three to four servings of fruit, four servings veggies (cooked or raw, salads) four servings of dairy products like milk, yoghurt and/or paneer. Three servings of proteins like chicken, egg and/or pulses. Use fats and sweets sparingly.

Even in this phase, your diet needs to be rich in iron, which increases the production of haemoglobin for the mother and baby. Sources of iron which you can include in your routine diet include Jaggery, bajra, ragi, pulses and green vegetables.

You also need to include calcium, which is important for calcification of fetal bone and teeth and also for lactation. Sources of calcium to be included in daily diet are Milk and milk products, cheese, fish and eggs.

While planning a healthy diet routine during this phase you need to take into account health considerations like nausea, vomiting and/or heartburn in the first trimester, gastrointestinal disturbances, gestational diabetes, anaemia and hypertension.

Avoid the following during pregnancy :

1. Raw fish/shellfish, high mercury fish.

2. Undercooked raw meat.

3. Raw eggs.

4. Caffeine – (restrict to 200 mg in a day).

5. Unwashed fruits/vegetables.

6. MSG or Chinese food.

7. Alcohol.

8. Processed junk food.

In pregnancy, though you are eating for two, you don’t need twice the calories: 350-500 extra calories per day during the second and third trimester is enough. An optimal diet during this phase should mainly consist of whole foods with plenty of nutrients to fulfil the needs of the mother and child. Processed junk food is low in nutrients and high in calories, sugar and fats, both of which are linked to the development of gestational diabetes. Excess weight gain is linked to diabetes, hypertension and other complaints in pregnancy. Exercise increases the blood flow to the placenta and helps the healthy growth of the baby.

Exercise during pregnancy: Right from the first trimester the expecting mother needs to maintain an active lifestyle. Walking is a good form of exercise. Avoid vigorous or strenuous exercise. In the second trimester, you need to be regular with your exercise regime. Walking or yoga is best. Don’t lie on your back for long. Avoid crunches and sit-ups. In the third trimester, you can include gentle swimming, along with walking. Treadmill (Gentle). Consult a doctor in case of breathlessness, bleeding or pain.

Ageing and exercise

People become less active as they age. But exercise is more important than ever at this point. It improves mood, maintains weight and protects muscles and bones. Resistance training with weights or bands is highly effective in maintaining lean muscle mass. Recent research says performing more repetitions are better, in reducing abdominal fat. Aerobic exercise (cardio) is also a good option. A combination of the two promotes fat loss and prevents muscle loss which is common during menopause. Regular exercise maintains a healthy weight, relieves stress and improves quality of life. Some ideal ways of exercise include Cardio – walking, swimming and/or cycling. Strength training to is advisable: Dumbbells, weight machines an use free weights for stronger hands. Dancing provides adequate exercise and rejuvenation. Yoga and meditation take care of mental health. Be realistic, get creative and stay motivated.

To read more English blogs, visit our blog section.

Dr Pradnya Parulkar

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