Strength training can benefit absolutely anyone, but it can be even more important, and perhaps even beneficial, the older we get. Before we proceed, I must tell you I’m not 40. Heck, I’m not even 30 (but I will be next year). However, I do have an amazing mom who’s a beautiful 53 years of age and strength trains regularly, and, she too is a personal trainer. In fact, she specializes in senior wellness; her oldest client is 90 years old and she strength trains three days per week, and has done so for over two decades….
As you can see, age, no matter what number, is no excuse not to strength train.
We’ll begin by going over some of the more obvious reasons women should strength train as they gracefully age, and then we’ll dive into some of the lesser known (but totally awesome) benefits you can expect to achieve from a proper resistance training program.
Reason 1: Improve bone mineral density. Research has demonstrated the weight bearing activities, such as weight training, is effective at increasing bone mineral density. This is important because it can aide in reducing your chance of acquiring osteopenia and osteoporosis.
Strong bones are important, so this is a tremendous benefit especially as we get older.
Reason 2: Prevent muscle loss. As the saying goes – if you don’t use it, you lose it. Muscle mass is no exception. Research suggests that we lose muscle at an average rate of five percent every 10 years (about .5 to 1 percent annually) after the age of 35.
That is, unless, we do something about it. Strength training is incredibly beneficial for maintaining and increasing muscle tissue. This means you’ll be stronger, have a higher metabolism, and be able to achieve and maintain a “toned” appearance.
Lifting progressively heavier weights, gradually over time, is what I consider to be an important rule to lift like a girl because improving your performance consistently is what produces long lasting results.
Now that we’ve gone over the two main benefits people discuss in regards to women 40+ engaging in strength training, let’s cover some of the lesser know, but incredibly awesome, reasons women should strength train throughout their life.
Reason 3: Your participation in strength training can benefit others. You may be wondering, “How in the world can I affect others by working out?”
Well, not only will doing so improve your overall health which can provide you with a higher quality of life, thus affecting your loved ones in a positive way, but you’ll be a positive role model for your children, grand children, and the younger generation of women.
Think about it. We live in a time where we feel obligated to look, eat, dress, and maintain a certain type of physical appearance and to label ourselves by their standards.
As a result, young girls are going on diets at an increasingly younger age. They think “dieting” is the norm and they do so in an attempt to reach the standards that society promotes in magazines, on TV, in clothing catalogs, and other popular media outlets.
But when you strength train with the purpose of getting stronger and, what I call, being the most awesome version of yourself, you’re showing these younger women that it’s not about dieting and trying to, essentially, be less by losing fat and dieting, but you’re showing them it’s about being more, getting stronger, and building yourself up.
Those are the role models we need, now more than ever. And it should be you.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I was, and am, blessed with the privilege of having a mom who is a very strong woman (in numerous ways, not just physically), and she has always been my role model. Because of her I grew up knowing I was strong and that I should participate in activities and follow a lifestyle that builds me up as a person.
She showed me that eating well and strength training helped me highlight my unique characteristics and that is was a positive, motivating, and fun journey.
She showed me how to choose strength over dieting.
That’s my mom in action – walking the walk, talking the talk, and lifting heavy weights.
Oh, and I should mention that she did that powerlifting meet about half a year after undergoing a double prophylactic mastectomy. It was her way of proving to herself she could come back stronger than ever; and she did. My mom is a true Beautiful Badass.
So the next time you strength train, just remember who is watching your actions.
Blaze the trail for the younger generation of women who are watching you. Show them how to set their own standards, embrace the labels they choose, to discover how strong they can truly be, and to focus on building themselves up instead of wearing themselves down with diets.
Show them you work out because you love your body, not because you hate it.
Reason 4: Improve your activities of daily living. Strength training helps make your daily tasks easier and allows you to perform them more efficiently. My clients never cease to be amazed at how simple something like carrying in bags of groceries become after they’ve been strength training for several weeks.
Getting stronger in the gym will have tremendous carryover to your everyday life.
Furthermore, strength training can also allow you to participate in other activities you may not have done, or tried, before. Don’t be surprised if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous when you get stronger and build up your body, and mind, through resistance training.
Reason 5: Demolish previous self-imposed limitations. It’s been my privilege over the years to work with women 40 and older who had never performed a perfect push-up, let alone a bodyweight chin-up. And they assumed they’d never be able to do these things because, in their words, they’re “too old”.
Well, after a few weeks of dedicated training, they end up performing a flawless set of push-ups. Many after a few months of training (if not less) accomplish a bodyweight chin-up for the first time in their lives.
And they couldn’t be more ecstatic when they do these things!
“Oh my gosh! I had no idea I was so strong!” is a typical response after these events. Not only do these women achieve physical feats they thought were out of reach, they go on to achieve so much more.
It’s amazing what you find you’re capable of doing when you shatter previous beliefs about your limitations. Strength training allows you to discover the strength you truly possess.
Wouldn’t you like to discover your potential?
Reason 6: Be more awesome. I’m personally biased to this benefit of strength training because I always tell my clients to have the sole goal of training to be awesome. Many diets and fitness regimens operate under the principle that you’ll be happy once you achieve your goal.
You’re expected to suffer through a stressful diet, work out to a point of exhaustion, and otherwise be miserable all in the name of achieving your main goal. Because, once you reach the goal (e.g. lose fat), then you’ll be happy.
I don’t buy that.
In fact, I think that’s the worst perspective to have.
You don’t have to wait love your body once you reach your goal of losing fat or fitting into your favorite pair of jeans.
You’re already awesome. I don’t care if you’ve been working out for decades of you’re about to try strength training for the first time. You’re already awesome.
That is why the goal with your workout routine is to simply become more awesome.
When you adopt this perspective you’ll be free to love your body, right now. You’ll also be able to enjoy the journey instead of obsessing over the destination (i.e. getting the results you want).
You have six incredibly awesome reasons to strength train, no matter what your age, and now we need to move on to a very important topic . . .
There’s No Magic Cure and You Don’t Need to be “Fixed”
There’s a billion dollar industry that thrives from attempting to convince you that you’re “flawed” or you need to be “repaired”. And, of course, they can provide the solution! There are self-proclaimed miracle pills, powders, creams, and elixirs that can make all of your dreams come true (for three easy payments of only $97.99, of course).
Stop listening to this nonsense.
You’re not flawed.
You’re not in need of repair.
Strength Training Guidelines for Mature Beautiful Badasses
Before we wrap up, I will note that I apply a few guidelines to my mature Beautiful Badass clients’ strength training programs, and if you’re over 40, I suggest applying them to your training, too.
1) Stay away from failure. I suggest leaving a good 3 reps “in the tank”, especially with barbell exercises. For example, if you’re performing a deadlift, you should stop the set knowing you could easily perform three more perfect reps.
2) Liberally use dumbbell, bodyweight, and cable machine exercises. These tend to be more joint friendly, and that becomes increasingly important, in my experience, not only for mature lifters, but those who are a bit “beat up” from years of heavy lifting.
3) Include some higher rep work. I like to have my clients include some higher rep work in the 10-20 rep range on occasion with dumbbell, bodyweight, and cable machine exercises. This so called “pump work” increases blood flow, can help heal nagging injuries, can help strength tendons, and promotes an overall sense of well being.
I hope you’re convinced of the amazing benefits to strength training, at any age and that you’re ready to unleash your truly potential.
The only thing left for you to do is start lifting some weight and become more awesome.
About Nia Shanks
Nia is a personal trainer and health writer dedicated to showing women how to build a better body and become a stronger, more awesome version of themselves by following a sane and simple approach to nutrition and strength training. For more information please visit www.NiaShanks.com
Well-written Nia…I remember sleeping at my grandparents house, getting up early, and finding my grandmother doing floor exercises in the LR before anyone else was awake..I know her healthy life habits contributed to her living indepedantly until in her 90’s!
I am over 40 and having a very hard time finding a happy medium. I appreciate your rules at the end. I lifted my entire life until having kids. Then I just sort of stopped. Now I am over weight and having a hard time figuring it all out. When I go in and do it as I did before I just get so tired. I get pain. It is frustrating.