According to the American College of Sports Medicine, all healthy adults under age 65, regardless of gender, should do cardio exercise three to five times a week, depending on exercise intensity, and engage in twice-weekly strength training sessions.
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Yet some body parts become the object of particular concern, or perhaps unfair scrutiny, as a woman enters middle age. Whether it’s fair and politically correct or not, if you’re a middle-aged woman interested in exercising to “improve” certain areas of your body, you’re certainly not alone.
AskTheTrainer.com ranks lunges as one of the most effective leg exercises. Your quads, hamstrings, glutes, adductors and calves all work together to stabilize and move your body. Lunges also train your muscles and nerves to work together in movements you may perform in everyday life, such as balancing or moving an object low to the ground. Endless lunge variations exist to keep your workout both challenging and interesting as you get stronger.
Start with basic walking lunges. Stand square, feet hip-width apart. Take a large step forward with your right leg. Drop your hips straight down between your feet until both knees are bent at a 90-degree angle. Adjust your stride length, if necessary, to achieve this. Stand up, shifting your weight onto your right leg and moving your hips forward. Repeat on the left side, then continue alternating legs as you move forward.
Dips strengthen your triceps, the pushing muscle in the back of your arm. Building strong, toned triceps muscles helps prevent under-arm jiggle, giving you shapely, well-defined upper arms instead. Dips also mimic movements you may perform in everyday life, such as pushing heavy groceries across the counter or pushing yourself up from the floor.
If you can’t do full dips yet, try the assisted dip machine in the gym. Grasp one dip bar in each hand, palms facing in, and place your knees or feet on the support bar. Bend your arms and lean forward slightly as you lower your body between the bars. Stop when your shoulders are level with your elbows and press back up to the starting position; the machine’s counterbalance reduces how much of your body weight you’re lifting. Repeat.
Contrary to popular myth, there is no such thing as spot reducing. Even if you train your muscles to develop a well-sculpted midsection or rear end, you won’t be able to see the fruits of your labor until you’ve burned off enough calories to burn the fat your body has stored all over. Anything that gets large muscle groups, like your hips, thighs, back or chest, moving rhythmically will help burn calories, meeting the ACSM’s exercise recommendations and melting away the pounds to reveal the slim, sleek you waiting beneath.
Cardio exercises like running on a treadmill, hiking, biking or dancing also provide a host of other benefits that will serve you well in everyday life, including improved mood, better stamina, a stronger immune system and reduced risk of developing conditions like heart disease and high blood pressure, according to the Mayo Clinic.