It seems that at every stage of life, a woman's body is changing — and your fitness routine has to change along with it. If you're in your 60s, you've survived puberty through menopause (hooray!). And while there are plenty of physical changes that come with this latest rite of passage (think: loss of bone and muscle mass, a sluggish metabolism, and more), staying active can help keep your body looking and feeling years younger. Read on for four exercises to torch fat, increase flexibility, and maintain bone and muscle strength.
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Boost Bone Density
Bone mass starts to naturally decline around age 30, but once women hit menopause that loss jumps by up to 20 percent, says Mitchell Krucoff, MD, co-author of Healing Moves: How to Cure, Relieve, and Prevent Common Ailments With Exercise. Fortunately, research suggests you can keep bones healthy with the right exercise. According to a 2017 study, doing just 30 minutes of high intensity resistance and impact training (HiRIT) twice a week improved and bone density, structure, and strength in postmenopausal women with low bone mass. Study participants did a combination of dead lifts, overhead presses and back squats, along with jumping chin-ups and drop landings (basically jumping from a step).
Study authors point out that the workout didn't increase women's risk of injury, but they add that supervision by a trained professional is essential. "This is not a program to simply be handed to a person with osteoporosis and told to go to a gym," Belinda R Beck, PhD, director of the Bone Clinic, in Queensland, Australia, told Medscape Medical News.
In addition to losing bone mass as we age, we also lose muscle mass — and, once again, women are even more prone to the decline, according to Washington University School of Medicine researchers. That loss of muscle can slow down your metabolism, leading to packing on extra pounds. To help you maintain a toned physique, turn to strength training. The National Institute on Aging recommends low-impact strength training exercises with light dumbbells or ankle weights, plus doing more reps (10 to 15) at a lower weight. Added bonus: Recent research suggests strength training may also reduce your risk for Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Related: Strength-Training for Women Over 60
Go for Cardio
Any activity that raises your heart rate can rev up your metabolism, helping you burn more fat and calories and keep your body fit. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends adults of all ages get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity each week. Moderate-intensity activities include a brisk walk, a steady bike ride on flat terrain, or water aerobics. Vigorous-intensity activities include jogging or running, uphill biking or biking at a fast clip and swimming laps. If it's been a while since you worked out, talk to your doctor about how to ease into a cardio routine.
Stretch It Out
As women age, changes in tendons and ligaments occur, decreasing flexibility and restricting joint movements. Decreased joint range of motion can impede your ability to perform simple tasks, including walking, climbing stairs, even cleaning up around the house, says Karl Knopf, MD, a consultant for the National Institutes on Health and author of Stretching for 50+. He recommends a variety of stretches including ankle and calf stretches, both of which can help improve your balance and prevent falls. And just in case you need another reason to make time for stretching: Research has shown that just ten minutes of stretching a day can help relieve symptoms of depression.
- "ACSM Fitness Book"; American College of Sports Medicine; 1998
- WomenFitness.net: Health and Fitness Needs Of Women at 50+
- National Institute on Aging: Sample Exercises - Strength
- "Stretching for 50+"; Karl Knopf, M.D.; 2004
- "Healing Moves"; Mitchell Krucoff, M.D.; 2000
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Effects of Aging