Yoga, a discipline practised largely by women, has some very obvious benefits for men. And resistance training, practised mainly by men, has immeasurable benefits for women.
Flexibility and strength are important for both sexes and while many women lack muscle power, men are more prone to being less supple than women
Regular yoga training can help both men and women strengthen their immunity by changing actual gene expression and improving our internal defence systems.
Those who sits at a desk for most of the day often find it easier to eat lunch at that desk and yoga can play a big part in curbing the temptation to overeat due to stress.
A 20-minute yoga session can do the mind a lot of good too, allowing us to focus and retain new information.
Yoga is even more effective than antacids when it comes to digestive problems because specific twisting postures massage internal organs encouraging food digestion.
Many studies link regular yoga to lower levels of stress and anxiety. Yoga activates the parasympathetic nervous system, a counterweight to the fight-or-flight response of stress, reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can harm thyroid function, damage muscle tissue, increase blood pressure and cause inflammation..
We all know that regular physical activity helps brain function, but some research claims that 20 minutes of yoga each day can promote increased brain waves and better mental clarity compared to almost any other form of exercise.
A regular yoga regime encompasses a good share of resistance training too because when we practise yoga we are using your own body weight as resistance. Sports such as hockey or tennis only demand resistance from about 15 per cent of our muscles, whereas yoga offers a whole body workout employing full support from the cardiovascular, skeletal, muscular, and endocrine systems.
And stretching our yoga muscles regularly goes a long way in increasing body awareness and self-confidence.
Although women usually have more flexibility than men, most are lacking in physical strength, particularly women over the age of 40 and the benefits of weight training far outweigh those of cardio exercise for women in this age group.
Most women who exercise spend more time at the gym on a cardiovascular workout and less time on challenging their bodies with resistance training.
The average woman who strength trains two or three times a week over a two-month period will gain about 1kg of muscle and lose about 1.5kg of fat. And as lean muscle increases, so does our resting metabolism, allowing us to burn more calories.
Unlike men, women typically do not gain size from strength training because women have 10 to 30 times less of the hormones that cause muscle hypertrophy. Women will, however, develop muscle tone and definition.
Weight training can increase spinal bone mineral density by 13 per cent in just six months and this, combined with an adequate amount of dietary calcium is a woman’s best defence against osteoporosis.
A stronger body improves athletic ability, decreases the risk of injury and means we are far less dependent on others for particular tasks. Research shows that even moderate weight training can increase a woman’s strength by between 30 and 50 per cent.
Strength training not only builds stronger muscles, but also builds stronger connective tissues and increases joint stability, which in turn helps to prevent injury.
Cardiovascular health is another beneficiary of weight training, which tends to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase HDL (good) cholesterol, lowering blood pressure. When cardio exercise is added, these benefits are maximised.
The risk of diabetes and clinical depression are other problems that research tells us are less likely among women who strength train. And it is never too late to begin. Studies show that women in their 70s and 80s have built up significant strength through weight training.