Fitness and staying active are important at every age. There was a time when as people aged, they slowed down. At that time the benefits of exercise and strength training weren’t necessarily known or studied. Now, no matter what your age, a healthy active lifestyle is encouraged and has been shown to improve the quality as well as the longevity of your life.
If you want to be healthy, strong and feel younger, the key is picking up weights and adding some strength training to your weekly routine.
Adding Strength Training To Your Routine
When we say strength training, your mind may immediately jump to a picture of you at the gym, with a weight belt on trying to dead-lift ridiculous amounts of weights. Calm down, you don’t need to go to those extremes. This is about building your strength to make even daily tasks such as carrying a hamper of dirty laundry through the house, rearranging your furniture and even opening a jar of pickles that much easier for you.
As you begin to build stronger, leaner muscle, you will increase your body’s natural ability to burn fat for energy. This will support a slimmer figure, stronger bones and even help with your ability to move and balance.
Regular exercise and fitness have been shown to combat depression and alleviate emotional frustrations that many women are faced with today. Women over 50 often experience these issues as part of their menopausal process. However, regular fitness combined with the exercise below, provide women with tools to live a fuller, more balanced life. (1)
The chair squat has a built-in safety feature; if you lose your balance or cannot stand up out of the squat, you can sit down in the chair. Chair squats are great for beginners learning proper squatting technique, as well as for anyone with balance or coordination issues. The chair minimizes the risk of falling and getting injured.
How to execute: Stand in front of a chair with your feet hip-width apart, keeping your knees over your feet. Slowly lower your butt toward the chair. Do not sit down. Tighten your abdominal muscles to help support your back. Knees should remain over your ankles, placing your weight in your heels during the full range of motion. You may place your arms out in front of you to help balance. Next, straighten your body upright and repeat.
If you are just starting out, try 1 set of 8 to 10 reps. Advanced exercisers, try 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps.
Body-Weight Push-Up To A Forearm Plank
The push-up to a plank is great for strengthening the upper body, anterior core, and the muscles of the posterior core and glutes. The push-up to plank is perfect when you are a beginner needing to gain the necessary levels of core stability and upper body strength.
How to execute: Begin in a straight-arm plank position. Slowly and in a controlled manner, lower your body halfway and then push back up. Begin with 10 reps and work up to 20 reps. Then lower to your forearms and hold 30 to 60 seconds.
Seated Overhead Press
One of the weakest areas of motion for women of all ages is pressing upward overhead. This muscle area reduces and weakens after 50, making it even more difficult to lift up overhead. By adding this into your workout, you will increase lean muscle around your shoulders. This decreases your risk for neck, shoulder and lower back injuries from lifting.
How to execute: Sit with your back supported and 2 to 3 pound dumbbells resting at your shoulders. Make sure your elbows are below your wrists. Keeping a straight back, press upward, bringing your elbows in front of your body, not out to your sides. Complete with the dumbbells over your head, palms facing forward, elbows extended, not locked. Slowly come back down the same way, ending at your starting position.
Work up to 10 to 12 reps (up and down is 1).
This move is the most effective strengthening exercise for a strong back. It strengthens the posterior chain muscles that guide every move you make and includes your core, glutes, back, and shoulder muscles. This exercise also helps open the hips and shoulders for increased flexibility and motion. (2)
How to execute: Lie on your stomach on a mat with legs extended, toes pointing away from your shins, arms extended overhead with palms facing in. Relax your head so it is in line with the spine. Exhale and tighten your abdominal muscles to support the spine and slowly raise both legs a few inches off the floor while raising both arms a few inches off the floor. Keep both legs and arms extended. Do not turn the arms. Hold your head and torso steady to avoid arching the back. Hold this position briefly. Inhale and lower legs and arms back to the starting position without moving the low back or hips.
Chest Flys On A Bench
Pectorals (chest muscles) are particularly weak for most women. Increasing strength through building this muscle group adds lean mass and contributes to overall health. Chest muscles support breast tissue and strengthening them lifts the chest.
How to execute: Lie face up on a bench holding a 2 to 3-pound dumbbell in each hand. Press them up so arms are extended – don’t lock out the elbows – over the center of the chest, with palms facing in. Keep elbows slightly bent, inhale and lower both arms out to the sides, allowing shoulder blades to retract. Stop when the dumbbells reach shoulder height. Exhale and squeeze to pull dumbbells back together over the chest and return to starting position.
Work up to 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps.
These are just a few of the many strengthening and lean muscle building exercises that are available to do when you are looking to improve fitness for longer, healthier life. It is important that you learn proper form and technique, so you are able to build muscle effectively and stay injury free. Many gyms now have free introductory sessions for new members when they are ready to start improving strength and fitness.