WORKING OUT FOR WOMEN OVER 40
Resistance training, resistance training, resistance training!
Unfortunately, from the age of 40 and beyond you really do "lose it" if you don't "use it." A study in 2012 (1) stated that inactive adults can experience a 3% to 8% loss of muscle mass per decade, a reduction in resting metabolic rate and more fat accumulation.
The same study (1) showed that 10 weeks of resistance training may increase lean mass by 1.4 kg, increase resting metabolic rate by 7%, and reduce fat mass by 1.8 kg. The study also stated additional benefits to resistance training such as decreasing visceral fat (internal fat around organs), reduced resting blood pressure, and a reduction in bad cholesterol. Resistance training refers to any form of exercise where you push or pull against resistance. Beginning with your own bodyweight, progressing onto the use of machines, dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells or anything else external.
Between the ages of 40 and 55 is the average time the menopause will begin. If you're already an active person with a healthy lifestyle but you're finding it difficult reducing your body fat, or you're becoming unexplained fatigued (2), it may be worth visiting your GP for a thyroid check-up or possibly starting HRT therapy if you have already begun the menopause. Being in the know will eradicate the frustration you are feeling, and you can focus on the controllable variables, such as exercise and nutrition.
Aside from the more well-known side effects of the menopause, such as hot flushes, you may be unaware it could be causing you to gain unwanted weight, begin weakening your bones, and increasing your risk of heart disease as oestrogen decreases (3). The weakening of the bones is a condition known as osteoporosis. It is a natural process of aging but is accelerated during the menopausal transition. Resistance training has been shown to promote bone development, with studies showing a 1% to 3% increase in bone mineral density (4,5).
What should I do about it?
Traditional cardiovascular exercise is great, but why spend an hour at a class or running all evening when you could have a resistance workout and cardiovascular work combined in 20 minutes? With our modern hectic lifestyles, challenging careers and family commitments, why don’t we focus on getting the best ‘bang for your buck’? Basically, let’s not spend hours working out!
If you’re one of the lucky ones who gets time for the gym, you firstly need to address the ‘hard hitters’, which are compound exercises targeting the LARGEST muscle groups. These movements are essential for melting body fat, improving functional movement strength, and increasing lean muscle mass. Compound exercises place a sufficient amount of stress on the skeletal system that will aid in new bone formation and stronger bone mass.
But we are here to save time so let’s look at some examples of them in combination with each other:
In the Gym
- Dumbbell Squat Press
- Deadlift to Bent-Over Row
- Kettlebell Swings
- Lunge to Curl
During these workouts, focus on real quality over quantity and lift a challenging enough weight for 8-12 repetitions. 3-4 sets on each exercise is a good target with 30-60 seconds rest in-between each set.
If you are unable to access a gym, then the workout below is an excellent option for you, combining the bread and butter body weight exercises with cardiovascular exercise. The goal is to complete all the exercises in one go, but try and complete what you can!
- Reverse Lunges - 10 reps
- Fast High Knees - 60 sec
- Squat to chair - 10 reps
- Jog in Place - 60sec
- Knee Tuck - 10 reps
- Lateral Shuffle - 60sec
- Push Up - 10 reps
- In-Out half squat - 60sec
For people over the age of 40 it’s not impossible, you can do it!
Just like a 21-year-old, you still need to work hard, and yes you may find it harder squeezing in the time to work out but it is doable, and it will pay off as you get older.
- Be realistic and patient with your training and training goals.
- Allow for greater recovery periods of 2-3 days between sessions.
- Incorporate compound (multi-joint) movements into your exercise routines.
- Weight-bearing activities are essential.
Regular resistance routines and proper nutrition will boost your energy and slow down osteoporosis and muscle atrophy., leading you on into a healthy life. We are slowing the aging process and preparing ourselves for later life. Exercise helps prevent frailty and falls, which becomes more of a risk factor in our 70s and beyond (4,6).
- Westcott, Resistance training is medicine: effects of strength training on health; Curr Sports Med Rep. 2012 Jul-Aug;11(4):209-16.
- Lavin et al, The Importance of Resistance Exercise Training to Combat Neuromuscular Aging. https://doi.org/10.1152/physiol.00044.2018
- Calatayud, Joaquin, et al.; Exercise to Improve Bone Mineral Density; Strength and Conditioning Journal: October 2013 - Volume 35 - Issue 5 - p 70–74
- Howe, Louis P., et al., Muscle Hypertrophy: A Narrative Review on Training Principles for Increasing Muscle Mass; Strength and Conditioning Journal: October 2017 - Volume 39 - Issue 5 - p 72–81