The Best Exercises for Women Over 50
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Do you feel tired for no reason, overwhelmed, and rundown? Do you crave sweet and salty snacks or have a loss of libido? Are you putting on excess pounds, especially around the middle? If so, you might need to rethink your exercise program so it provides adrenal support instead of causing adrenal fatigue – especially if you’re a woman who’s in perimenopause or menopause. Read on to discover some of the best exercises for women over 50 that support hormonal health
Why Adrenal Support Matters
The adrenals are a set of glands, located just above the kidneys, which produce the hormone adrenaline and the steroids aldosterone and cortisol. (As the ovaries wind down at menopause, the adrenal glands also take over a woman’s hormone production.) When your sympathetic nervous system – your “fight or flight” state – goes into hyperdrive, these hormones kick in to help you meet the energy demands of that stress. Stress can be okay for short periods, but your adrenal glands can become overwhelmed and unable to keep up with the production of cortisol and other stress hormones.
Hard Workouts Stress Your Adrenal Glands
When your adrenals are fatigued, it can affect every area of your life, from your sleep schedule to your sex life… and eventually your health.
Countless studies show that intense or prolonged mental stress contributes to adrenal fatigue. But did you know that physical stress such as too many intense, consecutive workouts can also result in adrenal burn-out ?
Exercise produces a temporary increase in cortisol levels. Cortisol, in and of itself, is not bad for you. But too much cortisol is a contributing factor to the storage of belly fat, and, in particular, visceral fat (the fat stored in the abdominal cavity and around the organs).
Visceral fat is particularly unhealthy because it’s a risk factor for heart disease and diabetes. An excess of cortisol can also lead to reduced kidney function, hypertension, suppressed immune function, reduced growth hormone levels, and reduced connective tissue strength.
However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t exercise. At this stage in life, women tend to lose muscle mass and put on weight, making workouts for women over 50 one of the best things a woman can do for her
Worst & Best Exercises for Over 50 Females
What matters most is your choices for exercise during and after your perimenopause to menopause journey. Now is not the ideal time to train for your first marathon or practice intense vinyasas or hot yoga seven days a week. Instead, exercises such as restorative yoga and walking outdoors have long been recommended for adrenal support as both have been shown to modulate the stress response and reduce cortisol levels .
Walking is always a great choice because it can burn some calories and relieve stress for sure. The downside of walking alone is that it doesn’t offer much in the way of strength training. Studies show that people with more muscle tone are better at managing stress, which is precisely what you need to combat adrenal fatigue .
Certain types of yoga strengthen the body, but may not burn the calories desired unless you go for the more vigorous types. The problem with these intense types of yoga is that they can be too taxing on your body – especially if you show signs of adrenal burn-out.
However, there is still great benefit from performing restorative yoga after your workout. Try these four poses a few times a week to support adrenal function. (There are lots of YouTube videos that can show you how to do these poses if you’re unfamiliar with them.)
- Balasana (Child’s Pose)
- Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Cobbler’s Pose)
- Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall Pose)
- Savasana (Corpse Pose)
Two other types of exercise that are often overlooked by pre- and post-menopausal women are Pilates and High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Many women find these types of exercise helpful for addressing the creeping weight, increasing belly fat, and loss of strength and firmness that often greet us around menopause.
The Benefits of Pilates vs. Yoga for Women Over 50
Pilates, like yoga, lengthens and strengthens the body. They both focus on breath, alignment, balance, strength, and flexibility. With Pilates, there tends to be more emphasis on training the core in short sets (such as doing 10 or 12 reps of each move).
In yoga, you are twisting and encouraging your body towards its maximum flexibility. While you also work your core in yoga, the practice does not involve sets or counting (except perhaps breaths) and does not focus on immediate recovery. (Go here to discover yoga for menopause symptoms.)
A quick trip to Google will offer up lots of how-to videos. Some examples of Pilates exercises you might want to look up instruction for include:
- Criss-Cross: Repeat 20-30 times on each side then rest
- Single leg lift: 20 times each leg, then rest
- Swimming (on the floor): 50 pulses, then rest
- Single leg bridge: 4 times for each leg, then rest
- The “100”: 60 pulses then rest
- Single leg circles: 10-15 times with each leg, then rest
Why HIIT Is a Great Workout Choice for Women Over 50
HIIT (also known as HIIE), short for high-intensity intermittent training or exercise, allows for short workouts that allow for quick recovery. HIIT targets the whole body which means you can build muscle and torch calories – a plus for many women. The intervals of work and rest provide built-in recovery. HIIT gets your heart rate close to its max and then lets you rest briefly before you do it all again.
By alternating between low/moderate intensity exercises and high(er) intensity ones, you’re able to accomplish a lot more in a shorter time period with appropriate recovery. Researchers report that HIIT may be better for fat loss, as well as boosting your metabolism, than many other types of exercise .
Some examples of HIIT workouts are:
- Walk and Sprint: Walk for 30 seconds, then sprint for 30 seconds. Repeat 8-10 times
- Pushups: Ten pushups, then rest for 30 seconds; repeat
- Burpees: Do 10 and then rest for 60 seconds (Burpees are that often-dreaded combination of squat thrust, push up, frog jump, and jump squat); repeat
- Planks: Hold for 60 seconds then rest for 30 seconds; repeat
- Jump rope: Jump for 60 seconds then rest for 30 seconds; repeat
- Squat jumps: Jump for 45 seconds then rest for 30 seconds; repeat
It’s important to remember that all resistance exercise causes a temporary increase in cortisol. But the highest cortisol increases are observed in protocols which are intense and long in duration combined with short rest intervals. An example would be going for a long run. To minimize your cortisol response to exercise, keep training sessions short, and take adequate rest in between sets. Your hormones will thank you.
Choose Your Strength Training Time to Maximize Adrenal Support
Lifting weights should be done at a time when cortisol levels are at a higher point such as in the morning . Avoid overtraining by matching your intensity, volume, and duration to your recovery ability. Remember to listen to what your body says it can do. Decrease your training frequency, and/or take a day off if necessary.
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If you’re a woman in perimenopause or menopause you might need to rethink your exercise program so it provides adrenal support instead of causing adrenal fatigue.
As you age your adrenal glands can become overwhelmed and unable to keep up with the production of cortisol and other stress hormones.
Exercise is important for women in perimenopause and menopause, but it needs to be the right kind that doesn’t overstress the adrenal glands.
Exercises such as restorative yoga and walking outdoors are recommended for adrenal support as they modulate the stress response and reduce cortisol levels.
Two other types of exercise that are often overlooked by pre- and post-menopausal women are Pilates and High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).
To minimize your cortisol response to exercise, keep training sessions short, and take adequate rest in between sets. Your hormones will thank you.
Supplements that support hormonal health such as Organixx E-Plexx formula for women can also be helpful.