If you've been on Instagram in the last few years, chances are, you've stumbled across Lavina Mehta. A personal trainer, wellness coach, and mum of three, her infectious personality and can-do attitude shine through in every post. It was during the pandemic that she really came into her own, though, encouraging hundreds of thousands to incorporate "exercise snacking" into their day-to-day for both body and mind. This was no mean feat - she went live twice a day, every day, for months on end - yet the endless hours of live streams and boosting others paid off when she was awarded an MBE for her services to health and fitness in 2020.

Her ethos is simple: to incorporate small, sharp bursts of movement into your daily routine to gradually add up to the NHS-recommended 30-minute target and help keep people of all ages healthy and mentally positive from home. Her workouts are largely sans fancy equipment, free to stream, and doable from - well, pretty much anywhere. Also a patron of the Menopause Mandate, she's candid and open about her own experience with perimenopause online to normalise the conversation.

It might surprise you to hear, then, that she hasn't always been into health and wellness - far from it, admitting to MC UK that she didn't workout until her mid-30s, following the birth of her children. A living example of it never being too late to change your lifestyle, she wants all women and mothers to know that balance, happiness, and boosting your health can all go hand in hand if only you're equipped with the right tools and information. 

Below, she shares her story - one of resilience, inspiration, and it never being too late. 

"I didn't workout until my mid-30s - now, I'm an MBE-recognised personal trainer." 

"I'm a Gujarati who was born in London in 1978 as the eldest of two children. I was my parent's only daughter and was never into exercise or sport growing up - I did what I had to do at school to get through the classes but never really enjoyed it." 

"I was actually teased at my single-sex girls’ school for being underweight. I was conscious of my skin colour and how skinny I was, and so persuaded my mum to write sick notes so I could skip activities like swimming to avoid the embarrassment in the girls’ changing rooms."

"Being South Asian, there were never any role models when I was younger nor true understanding or awareness about the health benefits of exercise and lifestyle. After studying Management at University, I was quickly promoted in my early 20s and led a fast-paced career which I loved. I had a small health scare in my mid-20s, but this still wasn’t the lightbulb moment."

"I remember dabbling in some group classes at my work gym but I was never consistent and being young, I prioritised different things. Looking back now, I wish I knew how important it would be for my long-term health, especially being South Asian with an increased risk of chronic illnesses like type 2 diabetes, which is so prevalent in my extended family. I never knew that exercise is one of the most powerful tools to help reduce our risks of common conditions, including dementia which I lost my grandmother to, and can even reverse pre- and type 2 diabetes." 

"I never also knew how important building muscle mass is - you start losing it and bone density in your 30s. But as I say now, it's never too late to start your fitness or feel-good journey."

"I realised in my early 30s (a few years post-pregnancy) that I needed to do something as I wasn’t feeling good physically or mentally. Once all three of my boys were in school, I joined the local gym and started going to group classes."

"It was only when I hired a personal trainer that I was introduced to the world of strength training and saw how it transformed not only my body, but my mind, too. I felt so encouraged by my new lifestyle that I retrained as a qualified personal trainer to spread the word of joy through movement further." 

"Finding fitness later in life helped me handle so many of life’s challenges, including grief. That said, it wasn't always easy. At 46, going through midlife and perimenopause has been a challenging time and I’m going through the rollercoaster of symptoms myself (I've been perimenopausal since I qualified as a PT aged 40). South Asian women can go through menopause five years earlier than the average white female, for example, so their perimenopause could start in their mid-30s."

"We are all leading such fast-paced lifestyles and it can be so hard to fit in an hour-long workout, and we often struggle with motivation, energy and time to invest in our health. That's where my exercise snacking comes in, a tool I absolutely swear by. Studies show that breaking exercise into smaller chunks is just as effective as doing it all at once - you only need five to ten minutes to make a difference."

"Exercise snacking is a life-changing free tool. I want everyone to know about it as every minute counts - no amount of time is too small. These days, there’s even more added pressure from social media about what the "ideal" female body should look like. I’ve always said that health isn't just about your weight or aesthetic, but how you feel, too. I want us to change the narrative to focus on strength, not size, and by that, I mean physical and mental strength. We should exercise to love ourselves and feel good, in our body and mind."

"If I could give my younger self any advice, I'd say follow your dreams and passion. You will fail but it will make you stronger. I never imagined I’d be doing this in my 40s, especially as a mum who gave up her career for her kids. You can make an impact on this world if you work hard, believe in yourself and give back."

5 tips for improving your own fitness, if you're unsure where to begin

1. Try exercise snacking

Ever heard of exercise snacking? It's Mehta's go-to form of workout and simply means incorporating short, sharp bursts of movement throughout your day. As Mehta highlights, "It’s a quick, easy, fun, and time-efficient way of working out."

Her advice? "Start off small and remember that every minute counts." She recommends trying a one-minute snack, such as high knees, squats, or lunges, and building from there.

The most important thing, she stresses, is to find what you enjoy. That way, you're far more likely to stick at it.

2. Identify your "why"

This is a fairly common tip in the fitness world for a reason - if you have a clear "why", you're more likely to stick to your workouts when they get tough.

Reasons for moving could range from aesthetic to functional - think anything like feeling and looking your best self or building a body for life. "This is the deep reason you want to do this, and it will help with mindset, especially at difficult points in your wellness journey," the trainer explains.

3. Don't skip strength training

This one's important. While Mehta's entire ethos is about working out which workouts work for you, she does encourage you to include strength training in your weekly training plan, where you can. "I normally advise my clients to aim for a balance of mobility, cardio, strength training, balance and stretch each week," she shares.

So, why strength training, in particular? "Strength training is often overlooked or missed, but it's a key component when it comes to maintaining muscle mass as you age, reducing your risks of osteoporosis and helping to lower blood sugar levels," she explains. 

For more on the benefits of strength training, read our guides to strength training for beginners, the best strength training workouts, and the best strength training exercises for building muscle, too. 

4. Don't compare yourself to others

Almost as important as incorporating some element of strength training in your routine? Focusing on your journey and your journey alone. Sure, taking inspiration from others can be helpful at times, but when this slips into feelings of negativity about your own progress or journey, it's a slippery slope. 

"Try not to compare your journey with anyone else's," shares the trainer. "Instead, be realistic, set yourself small snack-sized goals, and celebrate your successes along the way." 

Bottom line: she stresses that wellness is a journey, not a quick transformation. "There will be ups and downs, but health is about consistency, patience and perseverance."

5. Respect the impact movement can have on your mental health, too

And last but by no means least, it's important to recognise that working out isn't just about looking good, but feeling good, too. "It can calm your mind, boost your mood, and increase your energy," Mehta explains. "Whatever your background, current fitness level, or mood, try a snack."

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