I was curious to see what information was on the web for “women over 50 and exercise.”
Specifically, I was looking to see if there was any article that I could relate to. I consider myself a healthy 50+ women who is trying to stay as fit as possible and who wants to increase the number of my healthy years, not years of diseases.
Needless to say, I became exasperated by what I was seeing.
One article I came across was on a celebrity women trainer’s website. What I don’t understand is that she didn’t even write the article herself. Then, at the end of the article, the trainer’s disclaimer was there. This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of **************
Why would you have a website selling fitness packages and have an article about exercises for women over 50 and not even agree with it?! Shouldn’t your website represent who you are and what you can do for someone?
Anyway, that is not what exasperated me.
What is exasperating is that most of the articles I came across did not talk to me! I am a women over 50, and the recommendations I read are mostly outdated and don’t even come close to how I train or how we train our women clients.
Most of these websites put 50+ women in a category of being very unhealthy and weak. Obviously, there are thousands of women who are in their 50s who have exercised their whole lives, lift heavy weights and want to stay healthy, strong and feeling good.
Don’t get me wrong; some women will be very comfortable doing what the articles suggest, but the suggestions will not propel them to better health.
Here are some of the patterns of misinformation I discovered:
Most of the articles only stated that keeping active is a key to aging successfully. Very true, but being active has many meanings for many women. I see women on a daily basis who tell me they are very “active,” but they have high body fat, low muscle mass and feel horrible.
Most of the articles suggest toning and strengthening muscles. What is wrong with building muscle? Toning? What does it mean? Is there such a thing? The majority of women who first walk into my studio mentioned they are afraid of getting bulky, so I guess using the term toning doesn’t seem as intimidating to them. I explain to them they will not get bulky. There are only a few percentages of women who have a genetic predisposition for hypertrophy. These women have to participate in high-volume and high-intensity training to see themselves become “bulky.” Most of the women I see over 50 don’t have the desire to train like this.
Some of the women who come to the studio even think that they will become heavier and just build muscle under their fat, and they will appear larger. I once again explain that this is a misconception. Strength training reduces body fat and increases lean weight which in turn will make you look smaller.
Yes I agree, we need to stay active, and we need to strengthen muscles. But I don’t agree with are the recommendations I saw so often in the articles I was reading.
This particular article that was on the famous trainer’s website stated that ”as women age, loss of muscle mass occurs, slowing down the body’s metabolic rate, causing high cholesterol and adding wanted pounds.” Very true to some extent, but let’s give women out there some hope!
This is a message we hear: as we age, we lose our muscles.
It is true you lose muscle, but you can slow down this decline if you are lifting heavy weights through a scientific strength training program, are eating the correct amount of protein, and are maintaining a healthy hormone balance.
I do acknowledge the added pounds as we age…but why? There are many reasons for weight gain as we age. It is a complex solution for women over 50 to lose the unwanted body fat. We need to address these issues: poor diet, stress, toxicity, adrenal health and poor hormonal balance.
Let’s clarify metabolic rate. In the trainer’s article, I am pretty sure the metabolic rate is referring to basal metabolic rate which slows down due to loss of muscle. Basal metabolic refers to the number of calories you burn at rest. Muscles are metabolically active; therefore, they increase your basal metabolic rate.
The article continues to say that we should do slow, steady cardiovascular training for weight loss. It states, “Cardiovascular training revs up your heart rate and burns calories.” What I can tell you after training hundreds of women over the age of 50 is that this type of training just adds body fat. We suggest our clients do leisurely walking, swimming or biking less than 30 minutes, and for some of our high-stress pattern women, it is sometimes 15 minutes or less. We have our women doing this type of activity on the off days from their strength training days. Some women who have had chronic stress throughout their lives tend to over stimulate the sympathetic nervous system. When a woman is in a high-stress pattern or favors the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight), steady state cardiovascular training will put weight on her, especially fat on the belly.
Since I tend to be more in the sympathetic state throughout the day, I look nine months pregnant if I do even 20 minutes of brisk walking.
Women over 50 should be strength training. Strength training is the type of exercise that improves muscle mass, and it is your muscles that burn the calories. There are hundreds of studies showing that strength training is superior to cardiovascular training for fat loss for women. Not to mention, strength training builds muscles that keep us healthier.
“Cardiovascular training revs up your heart rate and burns calories.” Let’s look at this statement again. Exercise should be efficient, not stressing out your body just to get your heart rate up. Plus, what heart rate should you go up to? All heart rate charts are predicted heart rates and everyone is different. If you have been exercising for many years, would you want to be in the same heart rate category with someone your age who has never exercised? There many studies that show you burn more calories with strength training than you do with cardiovascular training.
Even when these articles recommend building muscle strength, they give outdated recommendations on how to do this. For example, this article quotes from the National Institute on Aging which suggests, “low-impact exercises including repetitive arm raises, bicep curls with light dumbbells, standing from a sitting position, side leg raises and standing on your toes.”
I don’t know about you, but being a woman over 50, this sounds like a routine for someone who has been in a nursing home for years!
To slow the decline of the loss of muscles, we need to use training loads that will make a difference. Women need to train at an intensity high enough to cause adaptation in bone, muscle, ligaments, tendons and cartilage. When your intensity is too low, you will not gain the maximum benefit you could have if you trained with heavier weights that challenged your muscles.
The article also quotes a doctor that says “Resistance training utilizing resistance bands or light weights can help ward off bone deterioration. He recommends two to three 20 to 40 minutes sessions per week of strength training exercise, including bicep curls, Lunges, Knee extensions and seated arm curls.”
What’s with all the bicep curls? (Bicep curls and seated arm curls) To cause an adaptation in our bones, we need to use weights that increase our intensity to provide the stimulus to gain maximum benefits. Light resistance bands or weights will not increase the intensity that is necessary. What we need to do is train the “big” muscle groups such as Gluteus Maximus, Hamstrings, Chest, and Back at an intensity that will make a physiologic adaptation. You don’t necessarily to do bicep curls if you are training the chest and back. The biceps and triceps are the secondary movers in back and chest exercises: trust me, they will get worked.
Lunges? How many 50 plus women do you know that have knee problems? Also, this is one of the exercises that most people perform poorly. Anyone new to exercise should hire a professional to show them how to perform exercises correctly.
The baby boomers are the largest demographics now, and we want to stay healthy, fit and strong! Many articles on the web are still feeding into the misconceptions of how women over 50 should train—not to mention misconceptions of how a women of any age should exercise.
Bottom line: Don’t sell yourself short! Find a good certified personal trainer and preferably someone who is of the baby boomer age who understands the unique needs of women our age and lift some heavy weights! With good form of course!