Best Workouts & Exercise for Women Over 40

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As we age, our bodies change, and it becomes more important to prioritize our health and fitness. For women over 40, exercise can effectively maintain bone density, manage weight, and reduce the risk of chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. It can yet be challenging to know what types of exercises are best for women over 40, and we explore some of the most effective exercises for women over 40.

Strength Training
Strength or resistance training is essential to any fitness routine, especially for women over 40. As we age, we lose muscle mass, which leads to a slower metabolism and increased body fat. Strength training can help reverse this process by building lean muscle mass, increasing bone density, and boosting metabolism.
When starting a strength training program, it’s important to start slow and gradually increase the weight or resistance used.

Some of the effective strength training exercises for women over 40 include:

Squats: Squats are great for strengthening the lower body, including the glutes, hamstrings, and quads. To perform a squat, stand up on your feet, keep them shoulder-width apart, bend your knees, and lower your body as if sitting in a chair. Keep your back straight while keeping your core engaged, and then push through your heels to stand back up.

Lunges: Lunges can help strengthen the glutes, hamstrings, and quads, making a great lower body exercise routine. Step forward with one foot and then lower your body gently until your front thigh is parallel to the ground to perform a lunge. Keep your back straight while keeping your core engaged, then slowly push back to the starting position.

Push-ups: Push-ups are a classic upper-body exercise that can help strengthen the chest, shoulders, and triceps. To perform a push-up, start with your hands shoulder-width apart and in a plank position. Keep lowering your body until your chest touches the ground. Finish up by pushing back up to the starting position.

Planks: Planks are an excellent core exercise that can help strengthen the abs, lower back, and hips. To perform a plank, start in a push-up position. Lower your forearms to the ground. Keep your body straight from the head to the heels, and hold the position for as long as possible.

Cardiovascular Exercise
Cardiovascular exercise, or cardio, is any exercise that increases your heart and breathing rates. Cardiovascular exercise is important for women over 40 because it can help improve cardiovascular health, manage weight, and lower the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
Some effective cardiovascular exercises for women over 40 include:
Walking: Walking is a low-impact cardiovascular exercise that can be done anywhere. Aim to walk for at least 30 minutes daily, five days a week.
Swimming: Swimming is a low-impact exercise that helps to improve cardiovascular health and build lean muscle mass. Try swimming laps in the pool or taking a water aerobics class.
Cycling: Cycling is a low-impact exercise that you can do while enjoying the outdoors or indoors. Try cycling on a stationary bike or taking a spin class.
Dancing: Dancing is fun to get your heart rate up and improve cardiovascular health. Try taking a dance class or dancing at home to your favorite music.

Yoga and Pilates
Yoga and Pilates are two low-impact exercises highly beneficial for women over 40. These exercises can help improve flexibility, balance, strength, and mental health. Additionally, they are a great way to reduce stress and anxiety levels.
Yoga and Pilates are similar in many ways, but they differ in terms of their focus. Yoga is an ancient practice that helps to unite the body, mind, and spirit. It involves various postures or asanas that help improve flexibility, strength, and balance. On the other hand, Pilates focuses more on strengthening the core and improving posture.
Here are some effective yoga and Pilates exercises for women over 40:
Downward Facing Dog (Yoga)
This classic yoga pose stretches the entire body, from the arms to the legs. Start in a tabletop position while keeping your hands and knees on the ground. Then, lift your hips up and back, forming an inverted V shape with your body. Keep your hands and feet hip-width apart and your shoulders relaxed. Hold this position for 30-45 seconds, and then release.
Warrior II (Yoga)
This is a great yoga pose for building leg strength and improving balance. Begin by standing at the front of your mat with your feet hip-width apart. Take a long step back with your left foot, and turn it out at a 90-degree angle. Keep your right foot pointing forward. Bend your right knee and bring your arms to the sides, parallel to the ground. Your left foot should be flat on the ground, and your left leg straight. Hold this pose for 30-45 seconds to a minute, and then switch sides.
Tree Pose (Yoga)
This is a yoga pose that helps improve balance and stability. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Shift your weight on your left foot and place your right foot on your left thigh. Press your foot into the thigh, and bring your hands together at your heart center. Hold this pose for 30-45 seconds, and then switch sides.
The Hundred (Pilates)
This classic Pilates exercise helps strengthen the core and improve posture. Lie on your back, keeping your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Lift your head and shoulders gently off the ground and curl your upper body forward. Stretch your arms in an extended position in front of you, and pump them up and down, inhaling and exhaling for five counts each. Repeat this for 100 counts.
Plank (Pilates)
This Pilates exercise helps strengthen the core, arms, and shoulders. Start in a push-up position by keeping your hands shoulder-width apart and your toes on the ground. Keep your body straight from the head to your heels. Hold this pose for 30-45 seconds.
Swan Dive (Pilates)
This Pilates exercise helps strengthen the upper back and improve posture. Lie on your stomach with hands under your shoulders. Lift your chest off the ground, and stretch your arms out in front of you. Hold this pose for 30-45 seconds.

Yoga and Pilates are excellent exercises for women over 40. These exercises help improve flexibility, balance, strength, and mental health. They are low-impact and suitable for women of all fitness levels. If you’re new to yoga or Pilates, it’s important to start slow and work with a certified instructor who can guide you through the poses safely. With consistent practice, you’ll enjoy the many benefits of these exercises for years to come.

Here we discuss with Yoga instructor Chantal Di Donato about the best exercises for women over forty.

NourishDoc: Well, we are continuing our topics for women over 40. And today’s session is on an exercise routine, and we all know it’s very important. So we to talk Chantal, she is a yoga instructor, and she’s also a barre and a Pilates instructor. So she will tell us how to combine different exercises, regimens, or routines with helping ourselves. Thank you so much for joining Chantal. 

Different Exercises & Workouts For Women Over 40

Yoga Instructor Chantal: Thank you so much for having me. It’s a pleasure. Well, you nailed it. Like what kind of routine you have to have over forty for exercise, and I love to talk about this because, in my practice, I look at including myself as I’m over forty. When I look at well-being, exercise is so important. But today, we are exposed to everything men aim for and create, and we are not men.

So we must have a specific approach for women, especially as we age. Our hormones are changing, and our exercise must reflect what our body needs with that change. So, I am passionate about bringing together different exercise styles, And I’m primarily a yoga teacher. But I worked in a studio in London where we did Pilates, we did barre, and you pick up on different elements, and I loved doing Pilates.

I was doing reformers Pilates, and barre has a beautiful, targeted way, and I thought, why not combine all these practices? And so I teach my clients I do that including HIIT, as well, because I feel like you want to have a little bit of cardio, you want to have the resistance, and so bringing it all together in a very holistic way, I love it, not to take anyway anything away from yoga, as a practice on its own, it’s a beautiful practice. It has so many benefits on its own, but if we want to talk about how women should mix different exercises to strengthen, and reinforce bone density as we get older, balance our hormones and stay in shape. So everything comes together. So it’s nice to mix it up. 

Daily Exercise Routine For Women

NourishDoc: Okay, so that’s great. Let’s talk through a standard routine for a week, right? How much, high-intensity workout, yoga, barre, Pilates. How should someone mix it up? 

Yoga Instructor Chantal: So, the first thing I think I like to tackle is how long per day we should exercise; you do not need to go to the gym for an hour a day like if you are spending 15 minutes working out every day and just mixing up your workouts and I’ll go into what we can mix it up as that is going to be fantastic so that you can have a Monday morning, you can target body parts first of all so that you could start with a flow and in the flow, you can have heat practices, so you could do series of, more cardio into your yoga flow, and then stretch it out, and then target a specific body part, so say we are targeting our arms, you could go into plank and do such an array of exercises that can combine both your HIIT and your stretches the same time because obviously when you’re in plank, now you can do different exercises.

You can bring your knees to your triceps. You can do abs exercises while you’re also working on your arms. You can jump forward and backward, strengthening your arms and bringing that cardio in. So it is such a good way to do it. And 15 minutes of that is more than enough. You can then implement it on a Tuesday, targeting the lower part of the body.

Combine Yoga and Barre

Yoga and barre combine beautifully because you can flow and stretch with yoga.

However, with barre, you can target, for example, your glutes and do many exercises that are more repetitive and very low impact. They are fantastic for strengthening and shaping your muscles; you could take it easy on a Wednesday. You could do a flow where it’s much more relaxing, so you’re giving your body a break. You can start again with your Thursday and Friday targeting different muscle groups if you want to. So you could go for your abs. You can go for it again; you can do a full body on a Friday because you’ve done quite a bit already.

On a Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. Everything has to be balanced, but the most important part is not worrying about doing 1 hour. First of all, many people still need to get one hour. Like we are busy. We’re always running around. So if you have between 10 to 20 minutes and if it’s 15 minutes, it’s perfect. And so that takes much stress out. The other thing people can do, women can do, especially as we want to put a little bit of a kind of strength training, is that you can add a little bit of weight to your practice. Whether that is your barre exercises, Pilates, or yoga, you can pick up very light weights, but that puts resistance on top of your body weight.

So it forces the muscles actually to work a little harder, and again if you’re not working towards building a certain amount of muscles for whatever specific reason, like if you’re in a competition or if you’re a bodybuilder, then, even like my lightweights of three kilos, two kilos are perfect. They add that little extra that you can have. So, you can mix it up every day, and even if somebody, I know clients that are very afraid of when they start, especially trying new things that they’re unfamiliar with.

Yoga And Ankle Weights

So sometimes we work on one routine for the whole week, and what we do, we differentiate one day, use the weights, and one day we don’t. Sometimes I even get them the ankle weights so that if they do yoga with ankle weights now, they’re adding that extra resistance, so it’s still more challenging than just doing the flow without the weights.

So it’s really about a meeting where you are right now. I always believe that we need to not, we need to be very kind to ourselves, and that’s coming from yoga as well; that kindness is super important to know then what we need and slowly add it in, and I can tell you people improve and become amazing in no time, they just become more confident in their body and then as they progress, they can challenge themselves with different exercises. The other important part is to have fun. So, find something that works for you because you enjoy it. Because if you have to do something exhausting and boring, you’ll never, you’ll never want to do it. 

Yoga & Strength Training For Women Over 40

NourishDoc: Okay, these are great suggestions. I’m going to ask a follow-up question. As far as the yoga routine, right? What kind of secrets should women follow? Are there like Surya Namaskar, sun salutations, specific backbends, forward bends, or headstands? This is a different type of sequence that we should do. 

Yoga Instructor Chantal: So I’ll ask you for a minute, but I got the question. So I don’t like the should; I think again it’s all about what kind of what you are targeting that day. If you’re doing a yoga routine, Surya Namaskar is very nice for every routine. Whether you are now that we’re doing a targeted sequence or not.

I like to do it because it puts you into that flow and connects you to your breath. It’s something that most people are familiar with, so it’s easy to get you started, and then in terms of backbends or forward bends; it depends again on what you want to do that day. For example, suppose you need more stimulus, especially if you’re. In that case, if you’re feeling a little bit flat, backbends can be very, they bring you life like they’re being quiet and invigorating, but they can be quite exhausting.

At the same time, you do them, but they are very invigorating; I can feel super charged because now you’re pressing onto your adrenals, stimulating them. Now, if somebody is already exhausted and stressed out, backbends are not something you want to do. You want to do bends because now you’re releasing the adrenals on your kidneys.

You’re not pushing on them, and that’s soothing for the body to do things like child’s pose or just forward bending, even extending position when you do your namaskar, and you’re going to utanasana. It’s a beautiful way to relax the body, but you’re still quite active. And then it depends on the person’s needs and wants to do that day. Like I always like to do something related to elements; so, say we are in full moon with a full moon, and the beautiful element to work with is, for example, water.

So, the practice will be very fluid, and we will open our hips. In our hips, especially us women, we retain so many emotions. So, that practice at that month’s time is a beautiful way to release everything. Women will find that as they get into their cycle, even after menopause, they have that kind of cycle of your hormones still working at some very small levels compared to when they were ovulating. However, they still work, and you are still in that cycle.

So knowing that cycle can help you practice the right form of yoga that will benefit you on that day like you’ll know when you want to open the hips when you need to go into backbends because you want to open your chest as you’ll feel it. It’s a nice way to tap into that cycle and understand the elements that go with it. This is how I normally work with women because we are sometimes disconnected from our natural connection to nature. Once we find that rhythm again, that connection makes things beautiful, and we can reflect on that in our practice. 

Are Exercise & Diet Both Important?

NourishDoc: These are great suggestions. You are pointing out that we need to pay attention as we age. We need to adjust our exercise routine and what we are talking about today, the diet itself. So, it’s not, like we say, okay, the diet we will adjust, we understand that, but we never pay attention to the exercise; they go hand in hand.

If we want to see the results, and I see that I am a testament to that, I was at least 20 pounds heavier, and because I have been able to adjust my exercise and diet, it has automatically like my weight is the same as when I was 20, in my 20s. So, you can do it, is what I’m trying to say. Women can do it. It’s the question of tweaking it. Can you comment on that? Many women over 40, when I talk to so much, so many of my friends, oh no, I can’t get it out, I, this is stubborn way, I cannot entirely agree. So, please comment on that. 

Yoga Instructor Chantal: I agree with you. It’s not true, and actually, I can give you a testament here, so, for a couple of years, up to last year, I had a very stressful and traumatic time that threw me off my routine, and this is when I also, basically through my body into perimenopause. I didn’t know what was happening, but my hormones were everywhere, and I started gaining weight.

In a way, that was not the case; you sometimes can gain a little weight if you’re overindulging because it’s the holidays, but you kind of in control of that, but that wasn’t like it; it was like really out of control, and one thing that I did to myself is that I brought myself to a type 2 diabetes state. So I gave myself type two diabetes from not exercising and not having the right food, and I mean, I kept my vegan diet. However, it was mostly vegan, not focused on whole food, plant-based, which I’m used to. I was becoming insulin.

Well, I became insulin resistant, and as an effect, I gave myself type 2 diabetes which I wasn’t shocked by. However, it was a wake-up call because I had spent so many years educating myself and others about health, and now I was this fraud. I wasn’t even looking after myself. So, last year, I changed everything, and now, of course, the emotional stuff I had to tackle. I brought myself back to health in a year, and it’s all about insulin sensitivity.

So, many women changing their hormones are becoming much more insulin resistant to the hormone changes. So, they don’t realize that, and they feel that, well, I’ve always eaten this way. So, it’s just the way that we are. We’re getting older, but, as you said, tweaking is very important. Number one, understanding what your body likes and doesn’t because we’re all different. So, certain foods will spike our insulin and others. But also I can understand studies.

More studies are pointing out that if we have a higher average fat in our muscle cells, our insulin levels would naturally increase when we eat carbohydrates because the sugar doesn’t know where to go. So understanding how we eat fat? How can we eat them? Of course, there’s always a debate between the ketogenic, paleo, and whole food plant-based diets that are high in carbs because, in science, you can choose an angle and go for it. But when discussing sound studies and longevity, I found the whole food plant-based to make much sense.

Also, because we also need the micronutrients that come from food to make sure that we can stay healthy, to make sure that we can balance our hormones, make sure that our gut works well with the fiber to make sure that we have the compounds that we need to a liver so that the liver can also detox from the excess hormones that are in our blood. So it’s a very holistic approach, and we must understand how we were made. To me, we belong to nature. I even said it minutes ago about our women being connected to nature. Humans are connected to nature.

So, if we think about what nature gives us, even in terms of food, it’s amazing what we can do with our body but just using the compounds implanted. So, understanding how to manage that insulin is supercritical. And it doesn’t mean that we get over 40 and we have to put on weight. I have a better body now at 41 than I did when I was twenty. Because at twenty, I was still in my eating disorder. So, I was very controlling with my food.

However, I was binging in on the weekend because I had a very bad relationship with food, and my body was all over the place. So I always had this problem with high insulin. And I’m good when I control it and not good when I don’t. So it’s like, wow. I can go from right to left in no time because I didn’t treat my body very well for a long time. So it’s not a sentence. Getting older is not like you’re going to be in pain, and you’re going to be fat, and you’re going to be old. No. We can thrive as we get older. I think the wisdom and maturity we get when we get older can benefit us in our food choices. It’s a beautiful thing. 

NourishDoc: Absolutely, and that’s what I wanted to bring out; thank you so much for sharing your personal story. It emphasizes and points out to all the women who think they cannot do it, but it is doable; that’s what we are trying to do. Well, thank you so much. It’s a quick 10-minute session that we bring. If you want to add any last thoughts, please go ahead, you want to share your Insta account or anything, please feel free to do that. 

Yoga Instructor Chantal: Sure. You guys find me on Leveling Health.com or my Instagram at leveling health, and I work mostly with women. I want to empower you guys as I empower myself because we are our best doctors nobody knows your body as you do. If you’re tapping into that connection, it’s amazing, and the magic happens. Thank you for having this platform because more and more women need their support, and this is offering it. Thank you. 

NourishDoc: All right, well, thank you so much. Everyone else, have a great weekend. Again, Chantal, thanks for joining us. We are going to be launching programs specifically focused on women. So, stay tuned, and we will let everyone know about that, have a great weekend, everyone. Thank you. Signing off. Bye bye.


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