I can say one thing for sure about researching a topic. It shows you what you need to look at about yourself. The topic I chose is the three best exercises for women over 50 to stay healthy and strong. Simple enough, and of course I know what those exercises are. Duh. I work out regularly. I’m in the know. Or, am I?
Let’s talk about those areas of exercise first, so we’re all on the same page:
- Aerobic Exercise
- Strength Training
No great revelations yet, but we’ll delve into these a bit and see how things develop.
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Exercises for Women Over 50
STRETCHING is Key to Maintaining Flexibility
and Range of Motion
As we enter our 50’s and beyond, joint motion becomes restricted and flexibility decreases because of changes in tendons and ligaments. That’s a fancy way of saying that our body doesn’t move like it used to. I’m sure you’ve noticed that.
Stretching before any type of workout will not only make your exercise routine more effective and comfortable, it will also reduce the risk of injury and muscle soreness.
A thorough warm up before exercise increases circulation, raises heart rate and body temperature, increases our joint range of motion and prepares our muscles for exercise.
How long should a pre-workout stretching session take? There is no magic number, but certainly more than a couple of toe touches or side stretches.
Most fitness experts will recommend anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes of stretching and light conditioning before an aerobic or strength training session. Here is an example of a simple warmup that would work for most women over 50
Pilates and Yoga are excellent forms of stretching exercise, and, they build core body strength as well as increasing stability, two benefits that we definitely need as women in our 50’s, 60’s and beyond.
What I learned about pre-workout stretching
Simply put, I’m not practicing it with any regularity. I work out faithfully, and have done so for years. But that pesky warm up tends to get pushed aside in favor of the ‘busy schedule’ I can wrap myself up in.
And I’m not doing myself any favors by skipping this essential step in the world of exercise and wellness. Any workout for a 60+ year old female like myself is essential.
If I will stop and read what I’ve written about the benefits of stretching to women in midlife, I can’t help but make the commitment to pre-workout stretching at a minimum.
Learning the basics of yoga or pilates would be a bonus for me, and they are both on ‘the list’. But for now the most realistic commitment is to a 5 to 10 minute stretch before an aerobic or strength training workout.
2022 update: I have confess that yoga and I are just not meant to be. But, I have learned the value of a pre-workout stretch and am faithful to that. Maybe I’ll give pilates another go in 2023!
AEROBIC EXERCISE is Good for Your Body,
and Your Heart
It is such a simple activity, but regular aerobic exercise is incredibly important for our health and well being as we age. It works the large muscles in our bodies, benefits the cardiovascular system and also helps us in our ongoing efforts to maintain our weight.
Specifically, cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise:
- Prevents disease
- Increases metabolism
- Helps control body weight
- Oxygenates blood
- Increases circulation
- Improves body awareness/mental acuity
What can we do for aerobic exercise as women in our 50’s and beyond?
Well, we can walk or jog, swim, dance, hike, ride a bike (indoors or outside) participate in a sport…there are many ways to get our bodies moving and our heart rates up.
What is so important, though, is to select the right activity for you and your health. If you’re considering a new type of exercise such as Zumba or Jazzercise, check out a class or two before you commit.
What I learned about aerobic exercise recently
A month ago, I moved from a warm sub-tropical climate to a midwestern climate…in December. So I am looking at snow outside my window now, and will continue to be somewhat home bound as far as outdoor activities go, for another couple of months.
Walking is my main aerobic activity, with stationary cycling being a close second. So I had to figure out what in the world I was going to do through the winter months. Even though my head knew what I was getting into, my body was still shocked with the temperature and climate change.
I decided to try something totally different for me, to replace my outdoor walks, and have been working out to Body Groove for about a month now as part of my morning routine.
Body Groove is a dance themed workout program developed by Misty Tripoli, and as a person who was born without the ‘graceful’ gene, I am loving it!
The workouts are about 30 minutes each, and I use 4 or 5 of the Dance Your Heart Out routines. There are a variety of workouts offered if I decide to try something different. But I love these! In fact, when I skip a morning I can really tell the difference.
Update 2021: I still love my dance routines, but have also created another method for including brisk walks and gentle jogging, all year round. How? I use my home as my ‘walking track’. It’s not a large condo, but I have become quite proficient at walking and jogging in circles, figure 8’s, from one end of the house to the other, and through all of the rooms.
When I add some light, 2 pound weight and include arm movements, it’s a great full body aerobic exercise, even then the snow is falling outside. Definitely on my list of best exercises for women over 50!
What did I learn? Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Aerobic exercise is no exception.
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STRENGTH TRAINING is Essential
for Women Over 50
What’s the big deal about strength training?
According to the American Council on Exercise, “Between the ages of 30 and 80, sedentary adults can experience as much as 30 to 40 percent loss of muscular strength as a result of reduced levels of muscle mass.”
I don’t know about you, but that statement definitely grabs my attention.
Of course, we are not sedentary, ladies, are we? At least I hope not! Unless there is a physical limitation that prevents us from moving around, we don’t want to spend our days sitting in a chair.
It’s not good for the rear end, and it’s not good for our health.
As women over 50, we reap the following benefits when we practice regular strength training:
- Decrease in body fat – yay! Anything we can do to control the unwelcome fat that becomes our friend after menopause is awesome.
- Increase in bone density – yes! As we get older the fall risk becomes more dangerous and can actually be life threatening. Keeping our bones strong as we age is essential.
- Maintain muscle mass – awesome! I don’t know about you, but I want to be able to take care of myself, my home and my everyday life without having to ask to help. Strong, healthy muscles will help me do that.
- Improve mental health – absolutely! As we age, the risk of depression can increase along with a loss of self confidence. When we feel strong, we feel better. I know that for a fact.
There are a variety of methods to strength training. Sometimes we use our own body weight, we might use free weights, workout bands or weight machines.
Some type of exercise that targets muscle strength and endurance is extremely important for us as women over 50.
In fact, lifting weights may be the single best way for women in midlife and beyond to maintain overall fitness and keep the inevitable fat gain at bay.
What I learned about strength training and exercises for women over 50
Actually, my strength training habits and routines are pretty good for a women in her 60’s. What I did learn more about though, is the addition of HIIT, or High Intensity Interval Training, in our workouts.
This type of training can be added to either a strength training routine or an aerobic routine. Interval training involves alternate bouts of higher intensity cardio with “rest” or easier periods.
Intervals create an “after burner” effect called EPOC, which stands for “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption.” That’s a state in which your body continues to burn a higher rate of oxygen and calories after you’ve finished your workout. How many calories and for how long depends on the intensity of the intervals.
What did I learn? I am going to incorporate some HIIT into my aerobic workout routine, the stationary bike specifically. My morning dance workouts with Body Groove already include some high intensity bursts…I just didn’t realize the name for it. 🙂
There is another type of exercise, LISS, which stands for Lower Intensity Steady State exercise, and that is also something I’ve recently started to incorporate into my workouts. It is a little different approach, and as the acronym implies, your aerobic exercise continues for about 20 to 30 minutes at a steady pace. Not a high-intensity pace, but steady enough that you know you’re getting some exercise.
The bottom line? Make sure you are physically able to perform any type of workout activity. Check with your doctor before starting anything new.
Then, find the best type of workout routine that fits your age, lifestyle and physical capabilities as a woman over 50, keeping in mind the three best exercises for women over 50 that were discussed here. Because…you’re worth it!
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