Whether you remember her from the aerobics era of the 80s or keep up with her health and wellness Instagram page today, personal trainer Denise Austin has long been a popular face in fitness. These days, Austin's focus in the industry has shifted to women in their 40s and beyond.
"We really need a voice," says Austin. "We really need to say 'You know what? I can't do what my daughter can do in her 20s. We need to focus on things that we can do to feel proud and feel attractive and accomplished.'"
In a time when exercise is defined by the fitness elite and their intense plyometric routines, Austin is an advocate for age-inclusive fitness. Whether you're in your 40s, 50s or 60s (or beyond!), add these moves to your routine to improve your strength, flexibility and overall health.
Best Exercises for Your 40s
The 40s are all about muscle conditioning. If you're entering your 40s, Austin recommends keeping up with cardio workouts to burn fat but focusing on building muscular endurance, too. "I'm a true believer in muscle conditioning in your 40s." Perform these exercises in succession to boost your heart rate and build strength.
Move 1: Elbow Strike
- With your elbows extended at shoulder height, hands in fists with palms facing down, shift your weight from side to side into a lunging position.
- Use the momentum and your hips to move you from side to side in the lunge position.
- Don't let your elbows and arms drop from shoulder height as you perform the move.
- Perform for 15 repetitions using both elbows.
Move 2: Back Lunge
- Start with your feet together, then take a step backward with your right foot, keeping your weight over your back toes and front heel.
- Bend both knees to lower yourself toward the ground with your front knee directly above your ankle.
- Keeping your back straight throughout the move, straighten your legs and return to standing.
- Alternate between right and left leg for one minute.
This move will work your entire leg, emphasizing your glutes and quads. For a challenge, add dumbbells.
Move 3: Back Strengthener
- Begin in a push-up position, hands directly beneath your shoulders and core tight.
- Pull one knee in and reach it slightly toward the opposite shoulder.
- Return to starting position and repeat on the opposite leg.
- Alternate between legs for 8 to 12 reps.
Best Exercises for Your 50s
For those of you in your 50s, Austin advises increasing focus on muscular strengthening, especially when it comes to your core. This series of exercises targets abdominal strength and endurance to keep your back healthy and improve your posture.
"People start to slouch in their 50s," says Austin. "You're your own architect by the way you sit, by the way you stand." Try these three moves to help improve your posture and strengthen your back.
Move 1: Bicycle
- Begin lying on your back, left leg straight up in the air, right knee bent toward your chest. Keep your back flat against the ground with no arch.
- Shoulders and neck relaxed, rest your head in your hands and exhale as you pull your right knee in toward your chest.
- At the same time, raise your left shoulder to meet your right knee.
- Straighten your right leg and return your left shoulder to the ground.
- Then, draw your left leg into your chest and tap it with your right albow.
- Avoid touching the floor with your feet, keeping the movement smooth.Repeat for 8 to 12 reps, 2 rounds total.
This move will strengthen and engage your inner and outer obliques.
Move 2: Upper Back Firmer
- Holding a dumbbell in each hand, sit on a chair, feet flat on the floor.
- Lean slightly forward with your back straight.
- Squeezing your shoulder blades together, slowly lift your arms straight out to the sides, leading with your pinky fingers.
- Return to the starting position.
- Perform this exercise for 8 to 12 repetitions, 2 rounds total.
Keep the movement slow, controlled and deliberate. This exercise is optimal for strengthening the upper back muscles.
Move 3: Bottoms Up
- Lie on your back with knees bent, feet flat on the floor, arms at your sides.
- Squeeze your glutes and tighten your abdominals as you lift your buttocks several inches off the ground, tilting your pelvis up.
- Hold the bridge for a few seconds then lower your bottom down one vertebra at a time, returning to start.
- Repeat this exercise for 8 repetitions, two rounds total.
This exercise will work your lower abdomen and glutes. For better results, place a towel or small pillow between your knees — this will help engage your inner thighs.
Best Exercises for Your 60s and Beyond
The 60s are a time to focus on flexibility and muscle toning. Staying flexible with age will not only help protect your back, but will keep you looking and feeling young, Austin says. Flexibility will also help improve your balance, keeping you injury-free.
Women in their 70s are often looking for arm exercises, Austin notes. "I'm a true believer that you have to keep your muscles firm, toned and taught so the skin stays close to your muscles."
Move 1: Triceps Kickback
- Holding a dumbbell in your right hand, stand with your left leg staggered in front of your right, knee slightly bent.
- For support, rest your left hand on your left thigh or lean on a chair.
- Abs tight and back flat, raise your right elbow until your upper arm is almost parallel to the ground.
- Keeping your elbow in close to your body, straighten your right arm and squeeze your triceps.
- Return to start and repeat for 8 to 12 repetitions before you switch arms.
- Perform this exercise for two rounds total.
This exercise is great for strengthening and tightening the backs of your arms.
Move 2: Side Body Stretch
- Begin standing with your feet close together.
- Walk your left hand down the side of your leg, reaching your fingertips down as far as comfortable.
- Extend your right arm up and out over your head, palm facing down.
- Hold for 10 seconds and repeat on the other side. Perform this exercise for three rounds.
This stretch will elongate the side of your body, open up your hips and strengthen your abs and back. You can also perform this exercise in a seated position if you feel discomfort while standing.
Move 3: Lower Tummy Tightener
- Lie on your back with your hands just beneath your glutes, palms down. This will help you keep your back flat.
- Lift your legs off the floor and bend them slightly, crossing your ankles.
- Exhale, contract your abs and draw your knees toward your chest, keeping them bent throughout.
- Your tailbone should lift only a few inches off the ground.
- Perform for 8 to 12 reps, 2 sets total.
If you have back problems, place a pillow beneath your lower back for extra comfort.