Posted on Aug 23

Fitness Tips For Women In Their Forties

By: Holly Perkins, New Balance Fitness Ambassador

Fitness Tips For Women In Their Forties

Each decade of your life brings new and unique health considerations. Here are a few areas to explore if you are in your forties.

FITNESS
In your forties, the rate of age related muscle wasting accelerates into territory where it becomes harder to rectify. Holding on to your muscle mass is the best anti-aging device out there. Some important reasons to incorporate strength training in to your weekly routine are:

Injury Prevention and Bone Strength
Strength training supports bones and joints like the hips, knees and ankles from future risk of injury. This means that should an injury occur, such as a fall, you're more likely to walk away without serious trauma. Strong muscles mean a strong structural system. The specific action of lifting weights causes biomechanical pressure on the bones and joints around the muscle group being activated. The CDC reports that 90% of hip fractures in the aging population are caused by falls. Therefore, it's important to build muscle mass and strength train in your forties, to prevent the bone weakening that occurs in your seventies. Set yourself up for happy Golden Years by moving some weight in these years.

Optimize Healthy Hormone Influences
Hormones are the chemical messengers that control and influence nearly all of the body's activities. Whenever I mention hormones women automatically assume that I am talking about estrogen. While estrogen is on the list, I am also referring to the other hormones: testosterone, cortisol, insulin, growth hormone, thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), and more. Have you ever had a day where you felt balanced, grounded and "normal"? Many of us haven't felt that way since we were eighteen, when your hormones were at their peak of optimization. If you can recall a day like this, we might assume it was a day when all of your hormones, for some reason, were balanced. Balanced hormones are one key to well-being and longevity. Lifestyle, diet, medications, genetics, and exercise all influence the activity of your hormones. Hormones are linked with appetite, energy, disposition, mental acuity and even self-esteem. One very profound thing you can do to improve hormones is strength training. While research is conflicting, there is strong evidence that women are able to optimize their hormones by increasing muscle metabolism and mass. If you battle food cravings, energy slumps, mood swings, or are beginning to feel "old," a strength training program can help boost the hormones that will keep you feeling youthful into your fifties and beyond. Additionally, the hormonal benefits you get from strength training may help minimize the symptoms and onset of menopause and perimenopause. By creating a foundation of muscle now, you will absolutely feel younger as you progress through your forties.

Metabolism Support to Prevent Age-Related Increases in Body Fat
If you were to do nothing to prevent age-related increases in body fat you would gain approximately 2% body fat per decade. This means, if you have 22% body fat in your forties, you will be around 24% in your fifties. It's important to know that this increase also increases your risk of diabetes, stroke and cardiovascular disease. If you were to look into your future and imagine yourself at fifty, would you prefer to be 2% fatter or 2% fitter?

One of the most influential things you can do to avoid this change is increase your lean muscle mass. Beginning around the age of forty women lose muscle mass at approximately 5% per decade. This is serious business. There is a direct connection between the amount of muscle mass you have and your body fat percentage. As muscle mass decreases with age, there is a direct increase in abdominal body fat. More than simply being unsightly, this kind of body fat is connected to age-related diseases. Keeping your lean muscle mass up means you'll keep your metabolism up and your troublesome belly fat down.

Recommendations for Strength Training Program
In order to truly influence your muscles, metabolism and hormones as discussed above, it's essential that your strength-training program be effective. Picking up a dumbbell and performing some repetitions isn't good enough. In order to change a muscle, you have to make it work harder than its current ability. You have to push it a little more than you want to, let it rest, then repeat each week. As long as you use a mirror to watch yourself and perform movements with good technique, you don't have to worry about bulking up. The confusion for most women enters here: how many sets, reps and body parts to do? If you are new to strength training, try these suggestions for 2 months. You can complete all of the exercises in one workout, or split them up to your liking.

Work the following major muscle areas 1-2 times every week:
-Legs: leg press, walking lunges or squats to a chair
-Back: wide grip front pull down or assisted pull ups
-Chest: seated chest press machine or lying dumbbell flyes
-Shoulders: overhead dumbbell press or side dumbbell raises

Set and Reps:
-Complete 1 type of movement for each muscle area above
-Complete 3-4 sets of 12 repetitions for each movement
-Rest 60 to 90 seconds between all sets

Weight loads:
The secret sauce to this equation is intensity. Each set should feel pretty good in the beginning and almost impossible at the end. For example, if you are performing a leg press exercise at 60 pounds, the first 4-6 repetitions should feel confident, and then the final 4 repetitions should feel very hard. If you aren't making facial expressions, you're probably not working hard enough! After a few weeks when the final reps feel easier, you'll know it's time to increase the weight.

FOOD

Mind Your Omegas
One indicator for disease is the amount of silent inflammation in your body. The truth is, it's quite likely that we all have some level of silent inflammation coming from many influences. Your body's inflammatory response is vital. The problem is when the inflammation process continues and becomes chronic. The inflammation depends on your unique body chemistry, but common areas are around organs, the intestines and arteries. The key to true well-being is to reduce the cumulative inflammation that has grown in your body over the past forty years before it spells trouble.


Photo uploaded to Flickr by gkdavie. Some rights reserved.

While there are many ways to reduce inflammation in the body, I'd like to focus on the use of healthy fats. I'm sure you've heard about healthy fats, right? But I bet you get a little confused when it comes to identifying the difference between omega 3, 6 and 9. Omega 3 fats (fatty acids) reduce silent inflammation and are the superstars of the bunch. They've been linked to boosting brain health, relieving depression, relieving arthritis, and cardiovascular repair. While omega 6 fatty acids are beneficial, as well, they tend to make their way into most diets quite easily through plant sources, so there's little need to seek them out.

To keep it very simple, omega 3's will heal you. Some experts will debate, but the absolute best and truest form of omega 3 is from fish. If you are not a fan of eating fish regularly, look for a high quality fish oil supplement and aim for 1000mg of total omegas per serving. The highest sources from fish are sardines, mackerel, salmon, and halibut.

Pro's and Con's of Coffee
For many folks, the forties bring a new kind of busyness: juggling the demands of home and work life. Caffeine, coffee in particular, becomes one of life's greatest pleasures and requirements. While there is a ton of positive evidence to the benefits of coffee, it's important to understand the negative effects, as well. Because coffee is a stimulant, it's important to manage how, when and why you drink it, in order to reap the benefits.

The New England Journal of Medicine reports that drinking coffee may add years to your life. Other research has shown the ability of coffee to reduce cancer risk, boost mental cognition, mitigate diabetes, and reduce vascular disease. The newest research shows the superhuman powers of green coffee extract. While all of this may be true, we also know that coffee is a central nervous system stimulant. This means a few very key things for the already stressed out, overly extended American. Too much caffeine can also cause increased aggression, irritability, elevated stress markers, and reduced quality of sleep. Caffeine is also very taxing on the adrenal glands, which are your powerhouse for stress management and energy production. Even more confusing is that while coffee can stabilize blood sugar in some, it also destabilizes it in others. If you are battling any of these symptoms, it's wise to consider your coffee intake and adjust accordingly.


Photo uploaded to Flickr by puuikibeach. Some rights reserved.

If you're one of the lucky ones who tolerates coffee and caffeine you can boost the health benefits by:

-Drinking it without sweeteners
-Using freshly ground beans for brewing
-Buying organic beans

Some of the most interesting research shows tremendous benefits of using caffeine around workouts. Because caffeine frees up fatty acids to be burned for fuel and spares the use of muscle glycogen, it is fantastic for endurance training. Positive effects have also been seen in the gym as caffeine increases muscle strength and pain tolerance. If you sleep well and want to try using caffeine for workouts, drink one cup of coffee or strong tea 30 minutes before training sessions. If you know you tolerate caffeine very well research shows that anhydrous caffeine in pill form may be more effective.

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