As a woman who just turned 40 last year, I consider myself to be a very fit and active person. Fortunately for me, I’ve been active and into sports or just any type of movement that will break a sweat, since I was 7 years old.
I remember growing up, my parents were always encouraging me to take up a sport. You name it I tried it; gymnastics, swimming, track and field, hockey, basketball, and even baton twirling.
I wasn’t sure if their motivation was specifically for health reasons, or to build my social skills and coordination or just because we were living in Australia where practically any sport was the national pastime.
Either way, I am extremely grateful they did and I’m sure all those years of “muscle memory” have helped me maintain a disciplined and active fitness regime without dreading it!
As I head into my 40s, I know my body is changing so it also makes sense to change our workouts accordingly.
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Your body changes as you get older, so why shouldn’t your exercise regime?
Most of my workouts have been cardiovascular (or “cardio” for short) based. I’m no stranger to intense cardio workouts.
When it comes to exercise, my mentality is “go hard or go home”. I guess it must be from all the years of playing competitive sports when I was in high school.
For me personally, I don’t feel satisfied after a work out if I don’t sweat bucket loads or if I’m not extremely sore the next day (think “HIIT” also known as High-Intensity Interval Training or Tabata styled sessions).
Historically, I avoided strength or weight training, thinking there was no cardio or weight loss benefit at all. I also feared instantly morphing into a female version of Arnold Schwarzenegger.
I was wrong. Evidently these are just a few of the many myths out there about strength training.
Alas, times have changed and so has my mentality around strength training.
I feel like no matter how much cardio exercise I’m doing, it doesn’t feel like it’s doing anything anymore. I think this is what some fitness enthusiasts call reaching a “plateau”.
I’ve discovered that while cardio is great for the heart, lungs, skin, and brain, I need to change the game as I get older.
Strength training is the game changer when it comes to breaking that plateau as well as helping to slow down the aging process in general.
Benefits of incorporating strength training as you get older (especially for women in their 40s).
It is not a secret that as we get older we start to lose muscle mass. The scientific term for this natural aging process is known as sarcopenia. This means the rate of decline in muscle mass starts to increase in your 40s.
But this doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do to help slow down the process. In fact, general physicians recommend for people in their 40s start to incorporate strength training into their exercise routines.
The sooner you start, the better chance you have at slowing down or even reversing the aging process through strengthening muscles. Even starting with light resistance training can help slow the aging process.
Here are just some of the many benefits of strength training:
1. Increases the ability to burn more calories; as we get older our metabolism slows down.
Cardio exercise alone will plateau and no longer cut it. Strength training combined with cardio helps to boost the rate at which we burn calories, helping to maintain a healthy weight.
2. Improves bone density; especially as we move into our 40s and beyond, the risk of breaking bones increases.
Strength training can help build stronger muscles, which leads to stronger bones and helps minimize risks of the effects of osteoporosis.
3. Alleviate perimenopause symptoms; (peri who?) the transition period before a woman heads into the inevitable menopause phase. When women reach their 40s, hormones can start to go haywire.
Levels of estrogen can rise and fall like a roller coaster from hell playing havoc on your menstrual cycle, mood swings, weight gain (and loss) and sleeping patterns.
Regular exercise including a strength training component helps to alleviate some symptoms of perimenopause and menopause.
How to ease into a strength training work out:
Contrary to what you might think, strength training doesn’t always have to involve big, heavy dumbbells or expensive gym memberships.
It can sound intimidating but if this is new to you, you can start with something as easy as resistance training (no weights, using bodyweight only like push-ups, squats, etc) even in the comfort of your own home.
As many personal trainers might tell you, there are 5 fundamental movements at the core (pun intended) of strength training exercises.
- Hip-dominant (deadlifts, hinges, and swings)
- Knee-dominant (squats and lunges)
- Pushing movements (planks, push-ups, dips, and presses)
- Pulling movements (rows and pull-ups)
- Gait patterns, such as walking and running
For beginners, the Ameican College of Sports Medicine recommends starting with 1 set of 8 to 10 exercises (also known as “reps”) for the essential muscle groups above, as frequent as 2 to 3 days per week.
A suggested workout routine incorporating the above fundamental movements would be to try 3 sets of 10 reps with a couple of minutes rest between each set eg:
Set 1: 10 x push-ups
Set 2: 10 x squats
Set 3: 10 x swings
As you gradually become consistent and stronger with each workout, you can add free weights like dumbbells?or bars, or even increase the resistance with bands and balls. If you are looking for good quality and reasonably priced equipment without breaking the bank?I recommend checking out these to start.
Start slow, go at your own pace and build consistency.
Alternatively, there are so many options out there to start with a strength training program that doesn’t necessarily involve going to a gym. You should start with something that you feel comfortable with. Everyone has different needs when it comes to fitness.
I took up boxing (not boxing-inspired, but the real “sweet science” as they say) just over a year now and I love it! It has a great mix of everything cardio as well as strengthening and conditioning.
You can even start your workout at home from online fitness to buying similar training machines that provide the same results like the ones in the gyms.
Remember to always see your physician for professional advice before embarking on a new fitness regime involving any heavy lifting.
Regardless of how you chose to do it, muscle strength is linked to just about every physiological system, so strength training is critical to general well being.
If you feel like you’ve plateaued with your current workouts, try mixing it up to get the best results. You can try combining cardio with strength training and stretching for a comprehensive workout that will help you look and feel younger.
What are some of your “go-to” exercises to keep fit? Has strength training made a difference? Let me know in the comments below!
Thanks for stopping by 🙂
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