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As women age, many physiological changes occur, including bone loss, muscle loss, and decrease in resting metabolism. Staying active and strong through an exercise routine can help reduce these problems and also make you stronger as you progress into senior years. It is never too late to start an exercise program. Make sure you speak to your doctor before you begin, to rule out contraindications or make allowance for any chronic conditions.
Strength decreases rapidly in women after the age of 50 unless activity level is maintained. According to the Centers for Disease Control, strength training will improve balance, coordination and mobility. Train your upper body with exercises such as pulldowns, seated rows, shoulder presses, chest presses and biceps curls. Lower body strength exercises include lunges, squats and stepups, which are both functional and movements that are used daily in an active lifestyle. Focus on controlling the downward movement, or eccentric contraction. Other leg training exercises include deadlifts, leg presses, leg curls and extensions.
Cardiovascular exercise keeps the heart healthy, prevents hypertension, controls weight and allows you to maintain an independent lifestyle as you age. If you are new or unaccustomed to exercise, start with low-impact aerobic activities such as walking, stationary cycling, elliptical or water exercise to build baseline fitness. Begin with 20 minutes per day, and then slowly progress to at least 30 minutes, five days per week. Once you have established baseline fitness or are familiar with exercise, the National Osteoporosis Foundation suggests adding weight-bearing activities such as jogging, dancing and stair climbing to keep the bones of you lower body strong.
Balance and Core
Maintaining a strong core and good balance will prevent falls and protect your spine and hips. Practice doing upper body exercises on one leg, keeping your abs drawn in tight to stabilize the spine. Utilize core equipment such as stability balls and half-round balls. This unstable movement forces your abs, glutes and hips to engage, training them to coordinate more efficiently. Do some exercises such as shoulder presses, biceps curls and squats standing on the half-round ball. Do abdominal exercises such as crunches and planks on the stability ball. Incorporate at least two balance and core exercises into your workouts for optimal results.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends engaging every major muscle group at minimum of two to three days per week on nonconsecutive days. For example, do total-body strength training, targeting eight to 10 muscle groups, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Ideal cardiovascular exercise should total at least 150 minutes per week, or 30 to 60 minutes five days a week. If you are new to exercise, start with two or three 10-minute bouts daily, and gradually increase the duration to increase stamina. Incorporate flexibility into your program. Stretch at least two or three days per week, holding each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds.