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Lavina Mehta working out in blue gym gear with weights© Lavina Mehta

I'm a personal trainer and this is why 11 minutes of daily exercise can save your life

Personal trainer Lavina Mehta explains why women should be lifting weights during menopause

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Kate Lockett
Beauty and Lifestyle Editor
June 21, 2024
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Personal trainer Lavina Mehta is on a mission to get the nation moving. Awarded an MBE in 2020 for her services to health and fitness, the 46-year-old coach is known for the workout videos she hosts on YouTube with her mother-in-law Nishaben, as well launching the 'Get UK Asians Fit' campaign.

Now she’s released her debut book, The Feel Good Fix, in which she shares her personal toolkit of food hacks, workouts and wellness exercises, all designed to boost fitness and mood in the menopause years and beyond. “I want people to start moving, whatever their age. It’s never too late to start,” she tells HELLO!. “But midlife is the time that we really need to focus and invest in our health for our long-term wellbeing and future.”

The mum of three talks to HELLO! about her guide to exercise snacking and how she’s helping to break the stigmas around women’s health.

Lavina Mehta posing in black gym outfit on yoga mat© Lavina Mehta
Personal trainer Lavina Mehta tells HELLO! how she's helping to break the stigmas around women’s health

Lavina, how did you get into fitness?

"Growing up, I wasn’t into fitness – there isn’t enough awareness about the power of exercise for South Asian women. But 16 years ago, I gave up my job to become a mum and after losing my father-in-law very suddenly to a brain tumour and having some health scares of my own, I started to rethink my health.

"I joined the gym – I had put on so much weight, it was getting unhealthy, although it’s not about how we look, more how we feel and the magic of exercise. I invested in a personal trainer, who was a specialist in strength training, and lifting weights transformed my body and mental health. My slogan, ‘Exercise for sanity, not vanity’, got me through some of the hardest challenges.

"I qualified as a personal trainer and started training my friends in my home basement. Then, in 2019, I kicked off a national campaign because I was so alarmed about statistics around UK Asians being so physically inactive and the higher risks of diabetes and heart disease. The rest is history."

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What inspired you to write The Feel Good Fix?

"From my own experience and the menopause revolution. Also, so many of us are busy, juggling home, work and family pressures alongside the symptoms of menopause.

"This feel-good toolkit works for me and so many other women I’ve trained. It helps remove the barriers people have around exercise. The Government guidelines around physical activity can be really daunting, so this is a bit more approachable, flexible and sustainable. Hopefully it’s going to give a lot of people the confidence they’ve been lacking."

What is 'exercise snacking'?

"It’s short, bite-sized amounts of movement that you can do throughout the day, and the book has snacks that range from one minute to three, five and ten. Studies show that 11 minutes of daily exercise can substantially reduce a person’s risk of early death and heart disease, and science shows us that even a minute counts and that exercise snacking can be as effective, if not more, than the hour-long workout that we can’t fit into our busy lifestyles.

“I am very passionate about disease risk reduction, especially diabetes, dementia, osteoporosis, cancers and heart disease. Exercise snacking is so good at helping with metabolic health and maintaining a healthy weight, which reduces the risk of chronic diseases.

Lavina Mehta working out on pink yoga mat © Lavina Mehta
Lavina is a fan of 'exercise snacking' - short, bite-sized amounts of movement that you can do throughout the day

"Little and often is the best way to fit it in. You can piggyback these snacks onto your existing lifestyle, like brushing your teeth on one leg or doing a strength snack while the kettle’s boiling and a shoulder-floss snack at your desk."

What advice do you have for women who worry about bulking up by lifting weights?

"You’re not going to bulk up – let’s stop that myth straight away. Strength training is crucial for our health because we lose muscle mass and bone density from around the age of 30 and it’s accelerated through perimenopause, menopause and beyond, which can lead to osteoporosis. It’s important for our bone, brain, heart, muscle and mental health. Start off small, even with simple bodyweight exercises, and increase your weights gradually over time."

Are there any effective exercises to address low energy or brain fog?

"Squats are the king of lower-body exercises, and for energising your body, there’s one called the Superbrain Snack. It’s a holistic technique where you squat, cross your arms and connect your tongue to the roof of your mouth, and then clasp your earlobes with the opposite thumb and forefinger. Inhale deeply and lower into a squat. Repeat for 2-3 minutes or ten to 21 reps. This stimulates acupressure points on your earlobes and sends signals to the brain, boosting your cognitive clarity."

What was your first perimenopause symptom?

"On my 40th birthday, I noticed I was getting erratic periods, but like a lot of women, you suppress it and think: 'It’s because I’m busy, stressed and there’s a lot going on.' My family were getting frustrated with me, saying: 'I’ve told you that before, Mum, you’re forgetting everything.' My grandmother had Alzheimer’s and when I started forgetting people’s names or what I was doing at certain times, I was really worried it was early onset dementia.

With fellow menopause advocate Davina McCall © Lavina Mehta
With fellow menopause advocate Davina McCall

"During the pandemic, I had symptoms like numbness in my hands during the night, rosacea suddenly appeared and anxiety, but I never joined the dots. It was only when I watched Davina McCall’s documentary Sex, Myths & the Menopause two years ago, and saw the changes in the brain, the penny dropped that I was going through perimenopause."

How can we destigmatise conversations about the menopause?

"As a South Asian woman, there are so many taboo subjects around women’s health – periods and sex, let alone menopause. But South Asian women can go through menopause five or six years earlier than the average white female and perimenopause can be a decade before that. Women in their late 30s need to be aware, stay in tune with their bodies and log symptoms. Be prepared, not scared. Start normalising the conversation.

"I openly share my own experiences, but I’m also a patron for Menopause Mandate. It’s important to educate and empower ourselves with knowledge, and to advocate for yourself."

What do you wish you'd known before the perimenopause?

RELATED: 10 best menopause supplements with top reviews to have on your radar - plus expert tips

"The power of lifestyle changes and exercise. I wish I had started earlier, but it’s never too late, no matter what age you are. I’ve seen that with the free workouts I do for the elderly every week with my mother-in-law."

Lavina with mother-in-law Nishaben© Lavina Mehta
Lavina with mother-in-law Nishaben

The Feel Good Fix by Lavina Mehta (Penguin, £18.99) is available now.

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