Fitness / Senior Fitness

Top 5 Exercises for Women Over 50

Whether you’re a veteran or a rookie, by now you likely know well the overall importance of incorporating exercise into your daily routine. Regular physical activity can do wonders for your health, from helping you manage your weight and strengthening your bones and muscles to warding off a myriad of chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and even cancer, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

For women over 50, strength training exercise is particularly impactful. This is due to the simple fact that muscle strength declines as we age. Luckily, strength training exercises can help reduce the rate in which our bone structure breaks down, helping to reduce the risk of fractures and, inevitably, falls, later on in life, per John Hopkins Medicine.

Women especially are prone to this loss of muscle mass due to the hormonal shifts that occur during menopause. “During this change, women’s ovaries begin to produce less estrogen and progesterone and the pituitary gland tries to compensate by producing more follicle stimulating hormone,” explains Debbie Dy, P.T., D.P.TOrthopedic Clinical Specialist and a Doctor of Physical Therapy at Fusion Wellness & Physical Therapy in Los Angeles. “These changes in sex hormone levels can be the culprit of symptoms associated with menopause including hot flashes, vaginal dryness and atrophy, mood changes and bone density changes.”

To meet these changes and reduce the risk of osteoporosis, or decreased bone density that is typically associated with aging, women’s exercise routines should shift post-50. But not just any form of exercise will do the trick. It’s a consistent resistance training program that will make the biggest difference. “Your bones love to be loaded and lifting weights or other forms of resistance training can make them stronger,” says Dr. Dy. “Mobility is important as we age as well, however I recommend that if you have never participated in a resistance training program, making a shift in your exercise program can have great benefits for your overall health.” 

Fitness experts share the best exercises they recommend for women in the over-50 camp.

1. Lateral lunges

Lateral lunges are a great exercise to incorporate into a fitness routine. “A lateral lunge is where you shift your body weight to step a leg out to the side into a squat as the opposite leg stays straight,” says Hillary O’Connor, P.T., D.P.T., a pelvic floor therapist based in Alexandria, Minnesota. “You push through that bent leg to stand yourself back up and bring the straight leg back to you, repeating that as you move in a straight line for a few yards.” Since the majority of most of the movements we perform in a day are straight forward or back, O’Connor points out that this type of lateral lunge will help keep the outer hip muscles strong while simultaneously keeping the bones healthy.

2. Weighted step ups 

This type of lower-body exercise primarily targets the muscles of the legs, including the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes while also engaging the muscles of the core for stability. “Grab a weight you are comfortable holding in front of your chest with both hands or down by your hip in one hand, grab a box or stair and step one foot up to the box, bring your body weight forward onto that foot and up yourself up to bring the other leg up onto the box,” says O’Connor. “Safely step one foot down at a time and repeat leading with the other leg this time.”

3. Basic squat

Here’s an exercise you’re probably a pro at performing. Well, you should keep up your squat routine, since Dr. Dy points out that they’re a great “bang for your buck” type of exercise. “Squats are a full-body movement that requires good mobility and strength at many different joints,” she says. “After you have mastered the double leg squat, try single leg variations or hold a weight like a kettlebell in front of you for an extra challenge.”

4. Modified plank 

A modified plank is any variation of the traditional plank exercise that’s often used to make the exercise more accessible, especially for beginners or individuals with certain physical limitations. Since it is common to develop osteoporosis in the shoulders and wrists, Dr. Dy recommends this exercise to women over 50 to help create resiliency in these joints. “Start on an elevated surface like the kitchen counter or the edge of the couch, since the lower the surface, the harder the exercise,” she says. “Progress to doing a full plank on the floor and keep your belly button tucked into your spine to engage the deep abdominals.”

5. Brisk walking

Last, but certainly not least, walking, especially at a brisk pace, is a wonderful workout to continue well past your 50s. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity each week. You can do this through walking alone so long as you’re walking briskly. If you’re not a fan of walking, consider enlisting a workout buddy—talking while walking makes it go by much faster and it’s more enjoyable to boot!

Senior Fitness


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