fb The Benefits of Strength Training For Women Over 40

The Benefits of Strength Training For Women Over 40

It is just a fact of life that everybody ages, but the rate at which we do so, the length of time for which we can keep ourselves feeling and looking younger, is partly within our control. All age groups can benefit from strength training, but this is particularly important for women over the age of 40.
Many of the particular health concerns of women above this age can be alleviated by taking up such routines, but many are put off by the misconceptions surrounding strength training, that it will make you look bulky, or that if you stop the muscle will turn to fat. The truth is that many of these myths are easily disproved and that the health benefits can be significant.

woman holds kettlebell close to her chest

Benefits of Strength Training for Women Over 40

Beyond general health and wellbeing, there are benefits to strength training which particularly apply to women over the age of 40:

Improving bone density

Strength training increases bone density by building up muscles around the skeleton which protects joints from impact and better supports daily activities such as walking or carrying heavy items.

Enhanced muscle mass

Muscle mass peaks at 25 years of age, and starts to slowly decrease after the age of 30. Women over this age are at greater risk because menopause lowers their oestrogen levels, and oestrogen improves muscle mass and strength and increases the collagen content of connective tissues. This will not only help to keep you more active and flexible for longer but also helps to reduce the risk of injury from slips, trips and falls.

Greater stability

Muscles aren’t the only factor to affect your stability. Strength training also reduces the risk of injury by strengthening tendons and ligaments as well as increasing joint stability and flexibility.

Improved metabolism

As you age, your metabolism drops, and this can lead to gaining fat. Strength training can increase your metabolic rate – this is why athletes and bodybuilders have to consume so much food – which can lead to losing fat.

Reduced risk of chronic diseases

Strength training can reduce your risk of chronic health conditions later in life. Osteoporosis is more common in women than men, but improving your bone density and muscle mass will lower your chances of ending up with it, while the likelihood of heart conditions is reduced because it strengthens both the lungs and heart, decreases blood pressure, and helps lower cholesterol levels in the blood. All these factors lead to a reduced risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.

Better mental health

Strength training can give you a boost of the four ‘feel-good’ hormones; dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, and oxytocin. Strength exercise regularly may help to improve your self-esteem and confidence too.

How Does Strength Training Affect Body Composition in Women Over 40?

Strength training increases muscle mass and decreases body fat percentage while counteracting age-related decrease in lean muscle mass and resting metabolic rate, which can help to control the weight loss and accelerated muscle loss which are known to be connected to menopause. By increasing muscle mass, you can maintain a healthier body composition, which aids in menopause management.

What Are the Risks of Ignoring Strength Training After 40?

With the passage of time and wear and tear, our muscles and joints tend to become stiffer. Moreover, neglecting flexibility and mobility exercises can lead to decreased range of motion, stiffness, and an increased likelihood of muscle imbalances.

Strength training can counteract some of these signs of ageing, and that matters more and more, the older you get. Slips, trips and falls can become a serious health hazard as you get older. Strength training not only makes you more stable on your feet in the first place, but it can also help accelerate your recovery time should it happen to you.

Can Strength Training Improve Mental Health in Women Over 40?

Yes, it can! Your mental health is as important as your physical health, and strength training comes with tangible benefits for your mental health. The body releases the four ‘feel-good’ hormones – dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, and oxytocin – during exercise, and each of those improves your mood in subtly different ways.

It doesn’t end there, either. Strength training may also be beneficial to your mental well-being through the positive feeling that comes with having a plan and sticking with it, while it can help to improve your self-esteem and confidence too. If you have issues with your body image, strength training may help with that, as well.

Crop woman in sportswear with dumbbells

Key Considerations Before Starting Strength Training

Of course, nothing in life comes completely without risk, and for women over 40, some considerations should be taken into account before starting your regime. It’s best to speak to your doctor or healthcare provider before you start. They may wish to check your heart to make sure that there are no issues with that which need to be addressed.

It’s also important to go at a reasonable pace and to progress gradually. Strength training won’t have done you much good if you go straight for the heaviest weights and tear a muscle as a result! It’s best to start as slowly as you can. Master the basics and then ease up the difficulty levels. Your body will thank you for it!

Effective Strength Training Workouts for Women Over 40

You’ll want to focus on these if you’re to get yourself on the right track for a successful and effective exercise programme:

  • Focus on form and not on how much you lift
  • Use controlled, slow movements. You might even want to lift less than you think you can to get used to the movement
  • Work on breathing. Exhale as you lift, push or pull. Inhale as you release the weight
  • Stick to a routine. You should work all of your major muscles two times a week for a full-body workout
  • Take time off to let your body rest. Strength training causes tears in your muscle tissues, which need time to heal. Your muscles will grow stronger as the tears repair and form a compact shape

Examples of strength training exercises that may be suitable for women over 40 could include:

  • Lifting weights
  • Kettlebell exercises
  • Stability ball exercises
  • Working with resistance bands
  • Heavy gardening, such as digging and shovelling
  • Push-ups, sit-ups and squats

Choosing the Right Equipment

Choosing what type of equipment to use will depend on your experience and what is available to you. If you work out at home, consider investing in resistance bands and low-weight dumbbells, which can be purchased online or at any sports shop. You can find budget-friendly, quality weights on the market. If you work out at a gym, you should have access to a wide range of dumbbells and machines.

Free weights require some coordination and have additional benefits over machines because they require you to use your stabilising muscles. They seem to be more effective at producing overall muscular strength, and they are also more versatile, portable and inexpensive. Exercise machines might be a better choice than free weights if you have no experience with weight training. This is because most machines have a built-in range of motion, which makes lifting with proper form easier.

Woman in Gray Tank Top and Black Leggings boxing

Nutrition and Recovery

For optimal results from your strength training sessions, what you eat is crucial. To be fit and healthy during any kind of workout plan, your clients should be eating a balanced, nutrient-dense diet. But, to focus on muscle gains, getting adequate protein is most important.

Muscle tissue is made up largely of proteins, which is why this macronutrient is essential. Protein is made up of amino acids. These are often referred to as the building blocks of proteins, and they are most importantly needed for growth and repair.

But although protein is important, you shouldn’t overlook the other macronutrients. Balance is important, and carbohydrates are especially necessary for fueling the tough workouts that help build muscle.

Fat is important but it’s not as necessary to track. If you are eating enough protein and carbs, you likely have adequate healthy fat in your diet. Plus, fat is easier to store in the body, so it’s hard to be deficient. In general, try to skip trans and saturated fat. Unsaturated fat is considered the more healthy fat.

Rest days and recovery are also important. Every time you work out you create microscopic tears in your muscle tissues. When you rest, your muscles start to heal and grow back stronger, meaning you’ll be able to do the same workout with less effort in the future. They can also help you to get into the routine of strength training while minimising your risk of injury because you’ve been overworking your muscles, or even because you’re just tired and more prone to making mistakes while working out.

How Should You Balance Cardio and Strength Training for Optimal Health Benefits?

Balancing cardio workouts, such as running, swimming or cycling, with strength training will help you optimise the benefits of your strength training. Your training goals define the balance between cardio and strength training. For instance, someone looking to bodybuild will have a different training program than someone looking to complete their first 10k race.
Cardio, or cardiovascular exercise, is described as any activity that gets your heart pumping or beating faster. In the process, you are forced to take deeper breaths, which ultimately improves the functionality of your lungs. For optimum health results, use resistance training followed by cardio. An overall healthy body consists of lean muscle gain, body fat reduction, and great cardiovascular function. Combine anaerobic activities like lifting weights and aerobics such as running or walking to help achieve a balance between strength and cardio training.

Beginning a strength training programme can feel daunting at first, but the health benefits for perimenopausal, menopausal and postmenopausal women are clear. Not only does strength training help your immediate health, but it can also protect you against the rigours of ageing while also benefiting your mental well-being and self-image. And if you need assistance with planning and motivation, Coached can help. Through education, encouragement and generally being there for you, we want you to build habits and make choices that will lead to your health, fitness and overall well-being. Contact us today, and take that first step on the route to a better version of you!

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