Why Strength Training is so important for women over 40. And how to get the most out of your workout
Every woman, regardless of age, should engage in strength training. The benefits are well documented and include combatting a slowing metabolism, managing menopause, fighting chronic disease and keeping your bones strong!
It’s important to note that you don’t need to become a weight lifter or a gym junkie to enjoy the benefits of strength training on your body. The workouts you did in your 20’s are no longer as beneficial in your 40-60’s! You need to listen to your body and adjust your workouts to ensure you continue to gain the benefits of strength training.
So, what are the benefits of strength training?
1. Your metabolism is slowing down. Do you find it harder to lose weight or even maintain it now? Around the age of 30, women start to lose approximately 8% of their metabolic activity each year. In addition to this, women need to contend with age related muscle loss and hormonal changes. The good news? Regular strength training boosts your metabolism, increasing energy and improving weight loss.
2. Exercise helps you manage menopause. Perimenopause symptoms can begin to appear in your 40’s and these can have a huge effect on a woman’s body. Your metabolism and body composition change, and it’s much easier to gain weight, especially around the belly. Amongst other things, your sleep quality gets worse and your moods can fluctuate. These symptoms are caused by fluctuating hormones. However these can be managed with exercise (again in particular strength training) and a healthy diet.
3. Exercise fights chronic heart disease. Hormonal changes during menopause redistribute fat cells and accumulate them around the belly. This increases your risk for chronic disease. Regular strength training is key to reducing these risks.
4. Regular workouts keep bones strong.
Bone density isn’t something a lot of us think about until well into our 50’s. However bone density can begin to decrease as early as your 20’s and once your periods stop, this bone loss is accelerated dramatically. There is a lot of publicity around the benefits of a diet rich in calcium to help with bone density, however strength training exercises also play a big role in making bones stronger. They do this by triggering bone building cells to start mineralizing bones, making them stronger and tougher.
How to get the most out of your strength workout!
There are tips we can use as we get older to ensure we stay safe and pain-free with our strength training and ensure we get the most benefit out of our workouts.
1. Don’t skip the warm-up!
A warm up prior to strength training is essential to get the most benefit out of your workout. Low-impact activities that mimic the movements you will be performing in your workout and movements that will bring blood to the relevant muscles. This can be done in 3-5 minutes or you can focus a longer time such as 10-15 minutes to ensure your muscles are ready to go.
2. Perform a warm-up set before strength training exercises.
Rather than using heavy weights for your first set, start small and give your muscles time to adjust. Try increasing the weight gradually while decreasing the reps. Take the time to prepare your body for the work it’s about to do.
3. Do more compound exercises
Compound exercises work several of your muscles at the same time rather than isolating just 1 muscle. This increases the muscle growth and strength you can experience while working out; without spending more time exercising.
Compound exercises can also help to build core strength which in turn improves balance. Examples of compound exercises are squats and push ups!
4. Always use proper form.
So, you have your exercises ready to go and know what works best for your body. Ensure you’re using correct form to ensure you are actually using the right muscles and don’t get injured.
This is where getting a Personal Trainer can be so useful. A good trainer will not only be able to create an over 40’s strength training program that will work for your body, but they can also ensure you are moving correctly and activating the right muscles, reducing the chance of injury.
If you’re not sure whether you’re performing the exercise correctly, reduce the weight and focus on technique. You can also slow down the movement.
5. Allow time for recovery
This includes taking time during your workout and also between workouts sessions!
During your workout, ensure you have enough time between exercises to rest. At a minimum you should rest for 30 seconds between sets. Recovery time gets longer as we age.
Ensure you have enough recovery time between workouts too. It’s not helpful to go from 0-7 days a week of training straight away! Your body needs at least 1-2 days of rest. It would be beneficial to include a yoga or stretch session on these days.
6. Less of the high impact and more of the strength!
Just because you’re over 40 doesn’t mean you need to stop HIIT training. Smashing out those burpees or jump squats can still be great for cardiovascular fitness and working up a sweat. However if you’re starting to notice those knees getting really sore or that it’s taking longer to recover for your next workout, you may want to consider re- structuring your workout to include these as a finisher at the end or slowing down the burpee to ensure you are using the right muscles.
7. Get enough sleep
Sleep serves a valuable purpose when it comes to getting the most benefit from your workout. While it allows your body to rest and recover, sleep also plays an important role in allowing your body to repair and builds muscles as well as reducing your appetite.
It is recommended to get between 7-8 hours of good quality sleep per night.
8. Get yourself a healthy eating plan
It doesn’t matter how much you exercise if you have a bad diet.
Eating right will ensure that your muscles are in the best position to strengthen and grow. It will also ensure that you have a steady supply of energy throughout the day; preventing unhealthy snacking and allowing you to perform well throughout your entire workout.
9. Set yourself goals and stay accountable to someone.
Your goals in your 40-60’s will not (and should not) be the same as your goals in your 20’s! Those high intensity sweat sessions with 100 burpees that you used to love will now cause aches and pains for days! You no longer have 2 hours to spend in the gym (you barely have 30 minutes!) Now instead you want to focus on improving energy levels, toning up, reducing body fat and improving overall health.
Make sure you reassess your goals and prepare an action plan to get there. This is where a good Personal Trainer will come in handy. They will be able to structure a workout routine and exercises that will help you achieve your goals. They can also help with staying accountable. Whether it’s a Personal Trainer, friend, workout buddy or partner- having someone to share the journey with can help keep you on track :)
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