A lot of bodily changes occur as we age – our bones lose density, our muscle strength decreases, and our body doesn’t bounce back as quickly as it used to (3). Like with any change in life, we have to adapt to our new bodies, which means altering our workout routines. You might be surprised to know that the best workouts for women over the age of 40 include strength training exercises.
Why Maintaining Proper Form In Your Exercise Routine Is So Important
Proper form is a key component of good workouts and strength-training exercises. When proper form is not maintained you end up putting stress onto unintended parts of your body (1). This makes for a less effective workout and defeats one of the main purposes of exercising – to train the right muscle groups (1,2).
Maintaining proper form is particularly important for women 40+ because the risk of injury is very high when form is incorrect (1). Continuously working out with bad form can result in tears or strains in your joints, muscles, and tendons (1). You may end up with chronic injuries that make your body weak and vulnerable (1). Since bone density and muscle tissue start to diminish after the age of 30, women approaching midlife are especially susceptible to these kinds of injuries (3).
Exercises to Avoid After Age 40
If you’re just now starting to incorporate exercise into your routine, it’s best to steer clear of high intensity impact strength training. This includes boot camp workouts and HIIT (high intensity interval training). These workouts often don’t emphasize proper form or technique, leaving participants injured after their high intensity workouts (4).
In one study on HIIT, it was found that participants who did the workout often suffered from rhabdomyolysis, also known as muscle trauma (5). If you’re a noobie, starting out slow is the best way to avoid the injuries that may result from high intensity impact strength training. This doesn’t mean you should avoid strength training altogether! When done properly, it can be beneficial.
The Benefits of Strength Training (Yes, for Women!)
Strength training is an extremely beneficial exercise, particularly for women over the age of 40. Of the 10 million Americans who suffer from osteoporosis, an age-related disease that entails having low bone mass and deteriorated bone tissue, 80% are female (6,7). After menopause, women’s estrogen levels drop, which is the hormone that protects their bones (6). Strength training exercises are one of the few ways women can actually make their bones denser (6).
Strength training can also help to counteract the decline in muscle mass that comes along with aging (8). If you don’t use and build up your muscles over time, they will shrink, making it difficult to do everyday tasks (8). Participating in strength training exercises prevents your muscles from deteriorating (called sarcopenia) and will keep you strong as you age (8).
Other benefits of including strength training in your exercise plan are a lower risk of type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease (9). In one study on 36,000 women ranging in age from 47-98, it was found that women who participated in strength training had a 30% lower risk of type-2 diabetes and a 17% lower risk of cardiovascular disease than those who didn’t do any strength training at all (9).
5 Best At-Home Strength Training Workouts for Women
Burpees are a full body workout that tackle a variety of muscles, and they’re pretty simple to do (10). The standard burpee goes something like this:
- Squat down and place your hands on the floor in front of you, a bit farther out than your feet.
- Jump on both feet and go into a plank position.
- Drop down into push-up position, with your chest touching the floor.
- Push up back into plank position.
- Jump your feet back in towards your hands.
- Jump into the air, with your arms reaching straight overhead (10).
2. Leg Raises
Leg raises are a great exercise used to build core strength and all you need to do them is a yoga mat (11). To do proper leg raises:
- Lay on your back, with your legs together and straight.
- Lift your straight legs up to the ceiling until your butt comes off the floor slightly.
- Slowly start lowering your legs back to the floor until they’re just above it, hold this position.
- Raise your legs back up to the ceiling and repeat (11).
Squats are an effective exercise that work your glutes, quads, hips, hamstrings, and core (12). To perform this strengthening exercise:
- Stand with your feet a little more than shoulder-width apart, your hips should align with your knees and your knees should align with your ankles.
- Keep your shoulders back.
- Extend your arms straight out and parallel to the ground, with your palms facing downward.
- Bring your hips back and start bending your knees.
- Keep your shoulders and chest upright and your back straight while starting to bend.
- Squat down until your hips are below your knees.
- Explode back up, and repeat (12).
Lunges are a good exercise for toning your lower back and legs (13). They’re simple to do but keeping the proper form is important:
- Keep a straight upper body, with your shoulders rolled back and relaxed. Your chin should be pointed up and your core should be engaged.
- Step forward with one of your legs then lower your hips until your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle. Your front knee should be directly above your ankle and your other knee shouldn’t be touching the floor.
- Keep your weight in your heels, push back, up, and start again (13).
Planks are a static strength training exercise that help strengthen your core muscles (14). The standard plank looks something like this:
- Put your hands on the floor, directly under the shoulders and slightly more than a shoulder-width apart. It should look as if you’re about to do a push-up.
- Keep your toes grounded into the floor and squeeze your glutes. Don’t hyperextend or lock your knees.
- Stare at a spot on the floor to keep your neck and spine neutral.
- Hold this position for 20 seconds (14).
Implementing strength training into your exercise routine doesn’t have to be difficult, and the fact that you can do a number of these exercises from the comfort of your own home makes it that much easier. The benefits of denser bones, stronger muscles, and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes is all the more reason to start strength training today. Read this next to learn about the benefits of super-slow strength training exercises.
(1) Why you need to practice proper form. (2015, August 2). Retrieved from http://healthandstyle.com/fitness/the-importance-of-proper-form/
(2) Talens, D. (2015, March 18). What “Good Weight Lifting Form” Really Means (and When It Matters). Retrieved from https://vitals.lifehacker.com/all-about-lifting-form-what-to-worry-about-and-what-n-1692058974
(3) Villa-Forte, A. (n.d.). Effects of Aging on the Musculoskeletal System. Retrieved from https://www.merckmanuals.com/en-ca/home/bone,-joint,-and-muscle-disorders/biology-of-the-musculoskeletal-system/effects-of-aging-on-the-musculoskeletal-system
(4) Lowery, M. (2017, September 19). HIIT: is the fitness scene’s biggest fad doing more harm then good? The Telegraph. Retrieved from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/health-fitness/body/hiit-fitness-scenes-biggest-fad-harm-good/
(5) Brogan, M., Ledesma, R., Coffino, A., Chander, P. (2017, April). Freebee Rhabdomyolysis: A Public Health Concern. Spin Class-Induced Rhandomyolysis. The American Journal of Medicine, 130 (4), 484-487. Retrieved from https://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343(16)31206-2/fulltext?code=ajm-site
(6) Oaklander, M. (2017, July 6). How Strength Training Changes Your Body For Good. Time. Retrieved from http://time.com/4824531/strength-training-women-exercise/
(7) Osteoporosis Canada. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://osteoporosis.ca/
(8) Bedosky, Lauren. (2017, September 28). The Healthy Benefits of Strength Training All Women Should Know. Retrieved from https://www.self.com/story/the-health-benefits-of-strength-training-all-women-should-know
(9) Shiroma, E.J., Cook, N.R., Manson, J.E., Moorthy, M.V., Buring, J.E., Rimm, E.B., Lee, I.M. (2017, January). Strength Training and the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 49 (1), 40-46. Retrieved from https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2017/01000/Strength_Training_and_the_Risk_of_Type_2_Diabetes.5.aspx
(10) Tamarkin, S. (2014, May 12). How to Do the Perfect Burpee. Retrieved from https://greatist.com/fitness/how-to-do-the-perfect-burpee
(11) How to Do Legs Raises. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/guides/well/activity/how-to-do-leg-raises
(12) McDermott, N. (2014, October 20). How to Do the Perfect Squat. Retrieved from https://greatist.com/fitness/perfect-squat
(13) Know Your Basics: How to Do a Lunge. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.shape.com/fitness/workouts/know-your-basics-how-do-lunge
(14) McDermott, N. (2014, November 9). How to Do the Perfect Plank. Retrieved from https://greatist.com/fitness/perfect-plank
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