When it comes to health and fitness, women today are more aware than ever before. With doctors prescribing preventive measures to tackle age-related disorders, exercise has become a necessity for women. It is no more about trying to lose weight; it is about staying disease free, pain-free and having the strength and energy to live life to the fullest.
Fitness regimen over 40 has to be chosen with care, keeping in mind any limitations you may have. Women start to lose muscle mass, and their bones are not as strong as they used to be in their 20s. They need to add resistance or strength training to their fitness regime to add more lean muscle mass to the body composition.
A check-up first
Before you start off on any exercise routine, you should get a preventive check-up done to rule out any deficiencies or limitations. Consult a good trainer who can then work around your limitations and towards your specific fitness goal. Choosing a gym or a trainer or a particular workout regimen can be confusing with so many options around. Whatever you choose, start small and build intensity and frequency slowly. Years of lethargy or weight cannot be shed in a matter of months. If you do it right, starting off on a fitness plan in your 40s can add many disease free, active and graceful years to your life.
Here are a few easy workout options for women over 40:
Hydraulic circuit training
In the Indian scenario, 20% of women over 40 suffer from osteoporosis or brittle bones, while another 65-70% suffer from osteopenia or weak bones, it is essential to follow a fitness regime which takes care of the special needs of your body.
Hydraulic circuit training takes into account the fragile bone structure of 40+ women and helps them to stay fit without any risk of injury. Hydraulic circuit training is a type of workout that mixes and balances the strength exercises with aerobic activity combining the benefits of both cardiovascular and strength training exercises. Strength training is done on hydraulic machines — fluid-based machines (instead of weight-based machines) to make it safer for women. Together, they strengthen muscles and bones, and help prevent osteoporosis, and burn calories, all at the same time.
All of us know at least one woman who complains about back or cervical pain and has learnt to live with it. Today, many of us spend too many hours bent over a high desk or sitting in front of a computer with the body leaning forward to read or type. Because of this, we adopt a posture that wastes and compresses the spinal muscles, weakens the abdominal and pelvic muscles.
Pilates is a refreshing mind-body exercise programme designed with a focus on strengthening the “core” muscles, i.e. the muscles that surround and support the trunk, so you will feel fitter and gain better posture, ready to deal with your demanding schedule.
The saying that “you are as strong and young as your spine” is actually true. It is especially true for women in 40s as childbirth not only gives stretch marks but also leaves a mark on their spinal health. Pilates develops the whole body, giving it a more elongated, aligned and stronger spine. Talk about ageing gracefully!
High-intensity short burst workouts
If you are fit and want to add a challenging workout to your routine, try HIIT twice a week. Avoid high-impact moves if you suffer from joint pain. HIIT is a combination of brief, very-high-intensity bursts of cardio exercises, followed by equal or longer periods of recovery or rest. There are many short burst exercise programmes ranging from eight minutes to 40 minutes. It can be as easy as jogging for 20 seconds and walking for 20 seconds, repeated for 20 minutes, but if you are new to fitness, do it with a trained professional. With all the other benefits like improving cardiovascular health, weight loss, better stamina, short burst exercises have also been proven to reverse the age clock. A combination of circuit training, pilates/yoga and HIIT could be your fountain of youth you can reclaim in your 40s.
(The author is managing director, Vivafit)