Wellness & Fitness

Training the body to look five years younger

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Sylvia Mbithe a fitness trainer at Savannah fitness Exchange in Nairobi demonstrating how to do high plank on June 8, 2022. PHOTO | LUCY WANJIRU | NMG

Sylvia Mbithe, a fitness trainer, says to know if you are fit enough, you must live on the minus five (-5) mantra. She says you must always exercise until you look and feel five years younger.

Ms Mbithe has been helping people achieve a leaner, physically-fit body for six years now.

“I always challenge people to follow the minus five (-5) rule. For instance, I am 34, but I could pass for a 29-year-old,” she says, adding if you feel and look five years younger, you are likely gaining your lifestyle and health back.

Training the female body, especially women and men in their 40s and above, is usually a challenge. Older women and men are worried about losing muscle tone after 40 and gaining weight that is challenging to lose.

She says, maintaining a strong and healthy body is possible at any age, but by incorporating resistance training into workouts and watching your nutrition, you can build muscle as you enter your 40s.

What are the must-do exercises for older women?

“Squats will work on your entire lower body, deadlifts will strengthen your back, especially for those people who sit down for long hours, push-ups will work out the entire upper body, strengthening workouts like the lunges, sit-ups, and workouts that work on your cardiovascular system such as running, and skipping are also important to ward off health conditions,” she says.

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Sylvia Mbithe a fitness trainer at Savannah fitness Exchange in Nairobi demonstrating how to do seated close grip lat pulldown on June 8, 2022. PHOTO | LUCY WANJIRU | NMG

Ms Mbithe who weighs 64 kilos, says women should feel comfortable going to the gym and do away with the misconception that weight lifting will give them a masculine physique.

“I exercise four days a week, on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, and I do a lot of weight lifting and cardio exercises. Look at me, do I look masculine?” She says, adding that building muscle helps you tone the flabby skin around the abdominal areas, thighs, and arms.

Studies have found that such exercises increase muscle mass and decrease belly fat, waist circumference, and body fat.

Ms Mbithe did a Bachelor’s degree in science, recreation, and sports management at Kenyatta University and now works at Evolve Fitness, a fitness studio in Nairobi.

To lose fat and build muscle, diet is important. This involves eating more proteins.

“I try to reduce the amount of fat percentage in my food. Since I do a lot of cardio exercises to build on mass, I eat a lot of animal protein which I’m trying to reduce but generally, my meals must have carbohydrates, vegetables, fruits, and I drink a lot of water,” she says.

She warns against trainers who promise “a flat tummy in seven days” fitness or diet programme.

“The truth is it takes a lot of hard work, discipline and time to achieve a nice body,” she says, adding, "we get clients questioning why our programmes take long while some trainers have promised them a fix of seven days.

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Sylvia Mbithe a fitness trainer at Savannah fitness Exchange in Nairobi demonstrating how to do dumbbell goblet squat on June 8, 2022. PHOTO | LUCY WANJIRU | NMG

Consistency is one challenge most fitness enthusiasts struggle to master.

“A lot of people are depending on motivation, others depending on their trainers to motivate them. It is not every day that you will be motivated. So you must cultivate a culture of discipline. Discipline is what works out for me and that’s what I tell all of my clients,” she says.

There is also the constant pain of weighing yourself to see if you lost weight or not.

“I have seen people getting frustrated after one week or two months of seeing no change. The body changes gradually and when your health is at stake, you must make fitness a priority,” says Ms Mbithe.

Are there particular exercises that work for men and women?

“We don’t have exercises that work for women and men but rather what we have is beginner exercises, intermediate, and advanced. Push-ups, for instance, are just push-ups. If you come to our gym, you will find women doing the same exercise as men. We focus on full body workouts,” says Ms Mbithe.

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