Modern women over 40 don’t feel middle-aged. In fact, many believe they’re in their prime, particularly because of this one thing that’s keeping their brain and body sharp. What is it? Well, without it, quality of life and bone health deteriorates. However, by including this one thing into your routine you’ll look and feel years younger than your natural age. Here’s the number one thing women over 40 must do.
Some ways your body changes over 40
There’s no stopping the aging process. And with each decade comes new bodily changes. However, if you’re proactive in your health and wellness, you can remedy, lessen, and even reverse the hands of time. But first, let’s talk about these inevitable changes women experience over the age of 40.
Metabolism slows — Unfortunately for women over 40, metabolism typically slows with age, making it easier to gain weight — and harder to lose it. Beyond your metabolic system naturally aging and being less active, muscle loss also plays a big role in weight gain, suggests research. What this ultimately means is that if you’re over 40 and haven’t been actively working your muscles, you likely need far fewer calories to maintain your current weight compared to when you were younger.
Muscle loss — Deteriorating muscle mass is simply part of aging — or so we’re told. But that doesn’t mean you can’t stop or reverse it. Sarcopenia is a natural part of aging and actually begins after the age of 30 when you start to lose three to five percent of muscle per decade, says Harvard Health.
Bladder leakage — Hormonal changes like estrogen loss can weaken the muscles that support the urethra and bladder. And when the muscles are weak, any sudden compression of the diaphragm can cause leakage. However, research suggests that losing a few extra pounds may ease pressure on the bladder.
Memory loss — We all forget things from time to time, no matter what age. But changes in your ability to remember things and age do go hand in hand, particularly if you’re doing everything wrong when it comes to cognitive health. According to Harvard Health, studies show that you can help prevent cognitive decline by focusing on a few healthy habits, such as: Getting enough sleep, limiting alcohol, not smoking, reducing sugars, and staying physically active.
Osteoporosis — This should be a concern for all women, suggests Harvard Health. Why? Because eight million women in the U.S. have osteoporosis. It’s responsible for millions of fractures each year, with the most serious being hip related. In fact, six out of 10 people who break a hip never fully regain a level of independence. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Many studies show that strength training can play a role in aging and bone loss. What’s more, strength training benefits your bones far more than aerobic exercise can. It targets hips, spine, wrists, and bones, which are the areas on your body most likely to fracture.
The number one thing you need to do right now
If you haven’t guessed it by now, we’re talking about strength training. By adding strength training into your routine, you can start to regain some of that muscle back into your body as it naturally declines. But that’s not all; through strength training, you can improve your memory, strengthen your bladder, speed your metabolism, and generally look trimmer and younger. However, if you’re going through menopause, then you’re likely dealing with hormonal imbalances as well, which can impact your ability to gain needed muscle. So, the sooner you start strength training, the better prepared your body will be as you age.
Strength training 101 for women over 40
If you don’t think strength training is something you need — think again. Losing lean muscle mass over the years lowers your metabolism, which makes it easier to gain body fat and more difficult to lose it. And, of course, excess body fat ultimately means you place yourself at a higher risk for a number of health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. The following tips can help you begin to strength-train safely and easily:
- Begin with a warm-up for about 10 minutes. You can walk on a treadmill or cycle on a stationary bike. Do whatever suits you.
- Focus on your form; not weight, suggests Harvard Health. Make sure your body is aligned correctly so that you can move smoothly through each exercise. The wrong form can cause injuries. In fact, when first learning strength training, experts suggest beginning with no weight or very light weight. Instead, focus on slow, controlled lifts that isolate a particular muscle group.
- As you lower a weight, count to three. Then hold and count to three while raising back to the starting position.
- Pay attention to your breathing. Exhale with resistance — pushing, lifting, or pulling. Inhale as you release.
- As you become stronger, increase your weight or resistance. If you struggle with the last two reps, then choose a lighter weight. If you complete your reps easily, then increase the weight by roughly one to two pounds for arms and two to five pounds for legs. Or add another rep for your workout. Remember, targeted muscles should not be tired on the last two reps.
- Finally, cool down for about 10 minutes. Stretching is a great way to cool down.
Strength-train two to three times per week — allow a day in between for muscles to recoup. Strength training causes small tears in muscle tissue. These tears are actually helpful, not harmful, and are needed for muscles to grow stronger. Just be sure to give them at least 48 hours to repair.
Strength training reshapes your body by increasing your percentage of lean muscle mass. But whether it’s bodybuilding or CrossFit or some other option, there are various approaches to strength training that can help you get lean and mean over 40. However, the approach you take ultimately depends on the goals you set for yourself. Hopefully, this inspires you to get fit and have fun. Because isn’t that what life after 40 is all about?