Ageing and Fitness for Women: How to stay fit through the decades.
We do not ascribe to the idea that we become less capable with age. We are here to empower you to integrate fitness into your lifestyle at whatever age you are.
As your body’s needs change with age, so can your movement practice. You get to meet yourself where you’re at and this is something to feel excited about. Your age doesn’t need to limit you especially when you are open to adapting your workouts as you get older.
Fitness and Exercise in your 20s
Your 20s is all about experimentation and setting your body up for success living a long, healthy life. Having said that, if you’re beyond your 20s, worry not! It’s never too late and transformation IS possible at any age.
You are at a great advantage in your 20s because this is when your body is most resilient and adaptable. One of the reasons for this is that cellular regeneration is at its highest. Put simply, aside from childhood, this is when we can test ourselves the most.
So, take advantage of this by breaking your glass ceilings and experimenting with different styles of movement. Showing yourself that you’re capable of more than you realise will give you confidence that you’ll get to take with you throughout your fitness journey.
Aside from specific goals such as these, you might enjoy periods of HIIT training, weight training in a gym, long-distance running, and even periods of power yoga or pilates. A nice balance of strengthening, stretching and cardiovascular exercise is bound to set you up for a fit and healthy body you get to enjoy throughout the years.
The most important aspect of exercising in your 20s is that you enjoy it. If your goal is to set healthy habits for life, enjoyment is undeniably the most important piece. If you don’t enjoy it, you’re not going to be able to sustain it over the long term. And rightly so, because life is too short to force ourselves to do unnecessary things we don’t enjoy.
So in your 20s focus on experimenting with a variety of styles, challenging yourself, and finding rhythm and enjoyment in your routine.
Fitness and Exercise in your 30s
In our 30s we want to start taking into consideration how we can take care of our bodies as they age.
Maintaining range of motion in the joints and muscle flexibility will be extremely beneficial. So, add in some mobility work and give your stretches some extra attention.
Mobility exercises you can try include a dead hang which involves hanging from a pull-up bar with the trapezius engaged without actually trying to pull yourself up (that can come later!), twisting poses, and resistance band work to gently work your joints in their full range of motion with the appropriate resistance. You’ll definitely want to start with lighter bands for this – resist any temptation to go straight for your toughest band!
Mobility work ensures your body can perform all the motions it is designed to. It also considers muscle flexibility, balance and strength. It’s a diverse form of training which covers all your physical body’s basic needs.
To continue improving flexibility, try holding your stretches for 30 seconds each. If you haven’t already, ditch the rushed 2 minute stretch at the end of your workouts for something that offers you a lot more care and attention.
Something else to take into consideration is that our metabolisms slow as we age. Faster metabolisms mean more calories burned even when not moving at all, so our metabolic rate really affects our weight.
Exercise is proven to increase metabolism. So, your workouts can help keep you maintain a healthy weight even when you’re not actually in the workout! This is as opposed to trying to burn excess calories during your workouts so you can lose weight – leave that out. You might have heard “you can’t out exercise a bad diet” and it’s true. So while your workouts can increase the amount of calories you burn overall in your daily life, you don’t want to attempt out running what you’re eating.
You can largely continue what you’ve been doing in your 20s – challenging yourself and having fun – and now you get to direct a little bit more of that energy into giving your body the intentional TLC it deserves.
Fitness and Exercise in your 40s
As we age, our bones become more brittle and susceptible to breakage and even osteoporosis. This is something that we can remedy with the right exercise. So, in your 40s you get to start exercising with bone health in mind.
Did you know that when we work out our muscles, they rub against our bones which stimulate new bone cells and keep our bones strong, dense and healthy?
Also, our joints are supported by our muscles. So stronger muscles equal muscles that are better able to maintain healthy joints.
Above are two very good reasons you might want to consider incorporating more weight training into your routine. Stronger muscles mean denser bones AND healthier joints!
The simplest and most effective way to do this is to add resistance (weights or resistance bands) to your workouts and then to ensure you’re using your joints in all their intended ranges of motion. By moving your joints in this way regularly you make sure they’re staying healthy and able to move in the way they’re meant to with ease and comfort.
For example, spending years doing the same kind of squat variation will reap repercussions for your joints. If you’re only moving your knees and hip joints in one way in one motion for years your joints will struggle to move in any other way. As a personal trainer, I love adapting exercises to ensure the joints are moving in a variety of ways to keep them healthy. For example, I love combining various squat and lunge variations into the same programme so that the knee and hip joints have to move in all the ways they’re meant to, and thus they stay healthy and mobile.
If you’re not already doing exercises that can easily be adapted with weights, such as cycling, swimming or HIIT, start your weight lifting journey with the basic compound movements that work your core as well as your limbs. Compound movements are just movements that involve more than one set of joints. So, squats and deadlifts are both compound movements because you move your ankles, knees, and hips! This is a foolproof way to strengthen your entire body and maximise the effect on your skeletal system.
So lifting weights and taking joints through their range of motion against some kind of resistance (whether that be bodyweight, equipment like dumbbells and kettlebells, or resistance bands) will all help to keep bones and joints nice and strong.
Fitness and Exercise in your 50s
A natural sign of ageing, aside from reduced bone density, is limited coordination and short-term memory.
And fortunately, it is surprisingly simple to make your workouts a workout for your brain too!
Anything which challenges your coordination in a low risk, safe way is bound to be beneficial. Challenge your coordination in a low risk way. For example, you might like to incorporate more balancing exercises. You can do this standing still and/or with something close-by to hold on to if you lose balance. You do not want to start by jumping around or balancing when there’s a long way to fall (such as standing on a bosu ball or box). This is a high risk activity and you might injure yourself.
We might like to choose lower impact exercise at this time as our bones are just not as resilient as they once were. Because our bones become more brittle with age, our bone’s capacity for shock absorption decreases also. However, low impact does not mean low intensity and so this isn’t to say you need to make your workouts easier. For example, you can decrease impact by limiting jumping and plyometric actions, while still increasing weight, time under tension, repetitions, and so on.
Exercises you might like to try for this include taking yourself from an upward dog position to a downward dog position, then repeating again and again, like a pendulum! Slow single leg exercises such as balancing, adding a toe tap with the leg you’re not balancing on, and various lunges can all be safe ways to keep your coordination abilities on point.
Fitness and Exercise in your 60s & 70s
At this time you get to bring together all the different pieces you’ve learned about exercise and ageing.
The body is most vulnerable to injury at this age. Being aware of the natural effects of ageing on the body, even if we are alleviating them with exercise, will ensure we reduce the risk of injury.
For example, awareness that our bone strength decreases with age highlights the importance of not only using resistance training to keep them strong, but also preventing falls. We can do this by increasing core strength and coordination which both in turn improve balance. At the same time, we can avoid fast, high impact movements such as plyometrics.
With all this in mind, you can continue as you were if that feels right. You can also start incorporating more slow, easeful movement like walking and swimming into your routine. These are very low risk but still highly effective ways to move.
In your 20s you get to experiment and play with all kinds of different styles of movement and create a strong fitness foundation. Into your 30s, you’ll want to think about maintaining flexibility and joint health by stretching and ensuring your workouts include exercises that take your joints through all the ranges of motion they’re designed to go in. Into your 40s and 50s, you want to start considering maintaining bone strength with resistance exercises. And finally, you want to ensure that while you’re working on bone strength and coordination, you’re doing so in a low risk way avoiding exercises that have the potential to seriously injure you (such as box jumps and jumping lunges).
The most important thing to focus on, whatever age you’re at, is that you enjoy the exercise you choose. If your workouts start feeling like a chore, another to-do on the long list you already have, reflect on what you’re doing and how you might like to change up your routine so you can look forward to it again!
Finally, this blog post has covered a lot of different aspects of fitness that need extra attention at certain ages. However, it’s never too early to start addressing all of these things. You don’t need to wait until you’re 30 to start working on your mobility for instance!
Our hope is that this post inspires and empowers you to honour yourself where you’re at and release the cookie cutter workouts for more intentional movement perfectly tailored to your individual needs.