After 30+ years in the fitness industry, I could write about exercise in a traditional manner… you know, explaining the importance of cardiovascular exercise> in regard to heart rate zones and high-intensity interval training.
I could implore you to lift weights, do bodyweight exercises including planks, pushups and dips and incorporate a yoga or Pilates practice in your exercise routine.
I could talk about the growing and convincing scientific evidence around physical activity as medicine, for everyone, even folks diagnosed with diseases like cancer.
Instead, I thought I would speak directly to our women readers about exercise in the context of avoiding “Invisible Woman Syndrome.”
This entire concept of being invisible came to me years ago when I met a female client for a snack at a local pub. The moment I greeted her, she exclaimed with a sigh “At least you noticed me sitting here!” Apparently, the bartender, waitress and busboy had not.
OK, maybe it was just bad service, but a woman of all shapes and sizes express the feeling of being invisible in life, and most are over 40 years of age. .
There are a mature woman like Christy Brinkley, Ellen DeGeneres and Tina Turner that stay visible, viable, and “va va voom!” well after their 40th birthday. I bet you know family members or friends like them; relevant, attractive and confident, no matter what age- maybe you are one of them.
Research proves that we can be chronologically older but physiologically and psychologically younger. Who wants that? I thought so. No one wants to be a “baby bummer”.
I love affirmations, so join me repeating this one daily… “I can be older than I used to be, but feel (and sometimes look) much younger than I am.”
How? Research continues to emphasize that exercise is the silver bullet you are searching for and the fountain of youth you crave. Unlocking the confident fit and healthy body that might be hiding inside you ensures you’ll stay visible and viable for decades to come.
Nothing is more sexy than a strong, toned, confident women. Here are four ways you can get there:
1. Get Up And Get Moving. Cardiovascular exercise is critical not only for your heart but for your jeans. As we age, our metabolism naturally declines and our hormones production changes. We add belly fat and expand right out of our normal size clothes and into unfamiliar “extra large” territory!
Aerobic (using oxygen) activities are one of the components of a basic fitness program, the others being stretching/flexibility and strength training. Start moving more today, wherever you are comfortable- walking your neighborhood, treadmill or elliptical at the gym, or marching in place in your bedroom. A good pair of sneakers, a pedometer or fitness tracker and a positive attitude is all you need to get moving at first. Add a great, motivating music playlist and that will help add a youthful spring to your step to get you to your goal of 10,000 steps a day.
Already Exercising? Mix it up with a boot camp, Latin dance or martial arts class- you can even join the circus. The Performing Older Women’s Circus in Australia offers small and large scale shows- showcasing older performers demonstrating what’s possible. How incredibly inspiring! Find a location to learn trapeze, or walk the high wire- it’s all available to you.
Make It Play. Remember back to third grade and how excited you were to escape school and play. What did you love to do when you were young? Ice skate? Bike ride? Play tennis? Do it again, now, or find other physical activities that look like fun. Don’t worry what others will think- it’s all about you at this time of your life.
Stand tall, shoulders back and head held high. Good posture can make you look five pounds slimmer and is priceless for increased confidence.
As you begin to reconnect to your body through exercise, you will move more proudly and resurrect memories of what it’s like to be admired; we all love that, no matter what age.
When you walk into a room, heads will turn because a confident woman has entered. And, you are awesome!
2. Lose The “Barbie” Weights. Women of all ages and fitness levels are catching onto the power of strength training, and women over 40 need to listen up too. If you are already lifting weights, check to be sure you are lifting heavy enough. If you are doing two sets of 12-15 repetitions, your weights are too light. Move toward a higher weight until you are only able to do 3-4 reps. The fat tissue on your arms will reduce and your arms will be more toned. Relax, you won’t bulk up, but you might be wearing sleeveless tops next summer.
All you ladies who shudder at the thought of lifting a weight, start with your own body’s resistance (make a fist, pay attention to squeezing and releasing your muscles mindfully, do some wall sits or leg lifts) and graduate to resistance bands that allow you to adjust the tension; they work well and you can’t stub your toe on them!
Try to replace thoughts of hulky, sweaty bodybuilders with those of your own smiling face, trim body, and your skinny jeans (I know you have them).
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Here’s a tip- Muscle weighs more than fat but is metabolically active, so it uses more calories, is denser and more compact so you’ll decrease the spillage or muffin top if you keep at your strength routine. Isn’t that worth it?
3. Stretch, Flex And Extend. Flexibility and good posture are a “use it or lose it” proposition. You may simply chalk up your hunched shoulders or creaky back to normal aging, but there is nothing normal about it! Work with a professional for an updated assessment and a posture tune up. Your muscles have supported you for years, give them a treat by getting aligned.
4. Don’t Sit. Remember the statistics on sitting I mentioned earlier? What would you think if I told you that all this sitting might be shortening your life? Robbing you of vital, exciting and joyful years? Offering you an increased risk of heart disease, obesity, high cholesterol, cancer and diabetes?
As soon as you sit, electrical impulses in your legs shut off. Ever wonder why they have you do those exercises on long airline flights? As soon as you sit, calorie burning drops to one calorie a minute. Obese people sit 2.5 hours more a day than thin people, so let’s get moving and improve our flexibility and posture in the bargain.
Interrupt sitting whenever you can with these easy stretches:
1. Stand up and place both feet equally on the floor, sense your knees aligning with your ankles, hips stacked over your knees and your shoulders lined up with your hips. Bring your head back a bit (most of us jut our chins forward as we age). You may feel like you are unnaturally leaning back, but you are now standing straighter, with better posture. Take a peek in a mirror, you’ll see!
2. Clasp both hands in front of your chest and raise them over your head (or as far as is comfortable for you). Hold here and inhale and exhale 3 times while stretching up a bit more. Release your hands and shake them out.
3. Lean slightly to the left, from your waist, with your hands resting on your hips. Don’t lead with your head. Continue 3 times each side, seeking a bit more of a stretch each time.
4. Shake out your legs one at a time.
No matter what, with age comes the wisdom and self-confidence to make choices that bring joy and contentment to your life. It’s your time to shine and reclaim your ecstatic feminine impulse; to be fitter, be healthier and be sassier.
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Don’t sit by the sidelines during this spectacular time of your life.
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