Strength training can provide many benefits, and for women over 50 it can be a great tool to add into their fitness routine. We spoke to Personal Trainer Karen King and asked her thoughts on strength training exercises and some of the key areas to focus on.
IMPORTANT: The ideas in this article are purely for information only – please do not start an exercise programme until you have completed a PAR-Q and, if necessary, received medical clearance to train. It is important to always warm up and cool down and never to do any exercise that you are unsure of without the support and advice of a qualified professional.
What are the benefits for women over 50 to do strength training?
Good question! There are in fact lots of benefits that I will describe in more detail:
- Confidence – you will feel more energetic, feel better about yourself, and believe in yourself more!
- Mobility - physical activity keeps our muscles, bones, and joints healthy so we can lead an active lifestyle.
- Keeping bone density - weight bearing exercise can help delay the onset of osteoporosis.
- Mental Health improved – exercise can help alleviate stress and help improve mental wellbeing.
- Clothes fit better – work towards the figure you desire and get back into those clothes.
- Burns off calories – strength training will burn calories in itself, and a higher muscle mass will see you burn off calories even at rest after your workout.
- Lifestyle can become far more manageable – healthy muscles can help you lead your daily lifestyle without undue fatigue.
As a general focus, what exercise is best for women over 50?
Providing you increase at safe intervals, many types of popular exercise are safe, unless advised against by a professional! Always check with your doctor first that it is safe to do so, before beginning an exercise.
Below are some favourite exercises of mine to help keep your muscles healthy -
- Resistance machines for strength training - this keeps your muscles bones and joints healthy.
- Walking frequently (daily if possible) - aim for 30mins if you can or start lower and build up.
- Swimming (as above)
- Free weights – such as dumbbells or kettlebells etc
It is also a great idea to mix it up and alternate your workouts to keep the body guessing. And ALWAYS remember to warm up, cool down and stretch!
Let’s focus on a couple of key areas and what you would recommend for women over 50 –
I would concentrate on getting your abdominals and glutes strong first. By doing this you will have so much more control to bring in the peripheral e.g., chest, back, arms and legs.
Also focus on arm exercises such as the following
- seated bicep twist and curl
- triceps kick backs
- tricep dips
- shoulder & chest presses.
You can also try some stomach exercises such as –
- dead bugs
- air cycling crunch
- reverse curls
- side planks
- bridge with a pullover
For some women over 50, their motivation could be on how to lose weight and exercises to lose belly fat – what would you suggest?
Firstly, there is no such thing as spot reduction. This means we can’t choose the areas to lose fat e.g., the belly. A well-structured exercise programme will help a client lose fat all around the body and not just in one area.
To lose weight and burn fat a combination of cardiovascular and resistance exercises would work well. This could include cardiovascular exercises like walking, running, swimming, or cycling, as well as resistance exercises using equipment such as resistance machines, free weights and or body weight exercises.
In addition to exercise, diet is also important. You should ensure adequate protein intake, eat your colours in vegetables and fruits, cut out alcohol and drink more water.
It is also important to factor in adequate rest for repair and recovery. With this in mind, it is useful to remember the 5 R’s -
R – Reps
R – Repeat
R – Rest
R – Repair
R – Result
Would you recommend weight training for women over 50?
Yes 100%! It is so important that women over 50 take part in some kind of resistance training to ensure they keep their muscles and joints healthy as well as maintaining bone density. As previously mentioned, it is also great for confidence and for mental health.
What weight-lifting exercises would be best for women over 50?
There are different types of resistance exercise you can incorporate into your workout. Below are some of my favourites:
- Body weight exercises - for example plank with shoulder taps. walk outs to plank and back up again to standing.
- Barbell training – you may wish to start with nothing on the bar, then gradually add and put up the weight. Some example exercises using a barbell could be squats, lunges, chest press and bicep curls.
- Free weight such as dumbbells or a kettlebell – here you can perform exercises such as bicep curls, tricep kickbacks etc.
Thank you, Karen for taking the time to talk us through some great recommendations for areas to focus on and possible exercises to incorporate into workouts. Strength training can be a real benefit to women over 50 and can be adapted to suit any level of ability, with the opportunity to build up the intensity as your confidence and strength develop.