If you're a 40-year-old woman who wants to get in shape, it's crucial to do workouts that are targeted to your changing body and slowed metabolism levels. As you age, it's normal to experience muscle loss, stubborn belly fat and reduced energy levels (hurrah, getting older!).
But there are specific exercises and workout programs you can do to combat these issues, including resistance training, Pilates, core exercises and short, intense cardio sessions. And, of course, diet and lifestyle play a key role in your overall wellness at this stage in life, more so than ever before.
The Best Workouts for Women Over 40
Many women in their 40s experience perimenopause, during which estrogen levels start to drop. According to a study done by the Women's Health Research Institute, there's a direct connection between body weight regulation and estrogen; levels that are too low can lead to fat storage, a lower metabolic rate and weight gain. Time isn't your friend when it comes to bone density, either; lower estrogen levels often cause your bone cells to break down, which can lead to osteoporosis. This is why it's crucial to a) exercise more in your 40s, not less, and b) adapt your workouts accordingly.
Resistance training, or any exercise that causes the muscles to contract against external resistance (in the form of dumbbells, bricks, your own body weight or the like), is essential for 40-something women. According to Pamela Peeke, a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, one of the most important factors that affect metabolism is muscle mass, and as women get older, muscle mass tends to decrease.
Resistance training can help you get your strength back and tone your muscles, which then helps you burn more calories. In an interview with Oprah.com, famed personal trainer Jeanette Jenkins advised women in their 40s to do circuit training (a series of intense, back-to-back cardio and resistance exercises) to see optimal results.
In addition, Pilates has many benefits for women over 40. An invigorating, challenging mind-body workout, Pilates places heavy emphasis on aligning your spine and keeping your pelvis aligned, which is important because as you get older, you tend to slump over more. Pilates is also wonderful for increasing flexibility, developing strong core muscles, helping reduce belly fat and conditioning your whole body, which are all important factors of a 40-something's workout.
The Benefits of Cardiovascular Exercise
Cardiovascular exercise is incredibly critical for women over 40; now is the time to cultivate intense, regular cardio habits if you want to look and feel your best. Aim to do cardio work at least three times a week to improve your muscle tone and bone density and maintain overall good health. This cardiovascular exercise could be in the form of short bursts of intense activity (like sprinting) or long, low-impact exercises like brisk walking or jogging.
How to Lose Weight After 40
As women get older, they lose aerobic fitness and burn fewer calories, so it's important to kick things up a notch if you want to shed a few pounds. Exercise-wise, try adding in intervals with spurts of higher intensity work, incorporating weight training into your fitness regimen (if you haven't already) and just generally exercising more than you did in your 30s. Diet-wise, it's also important to eat less sugar, processed foods and refined grains if you want to lose weight after 40.
Read more: Diet for 40-Year-Olds