You're never too old to pick up some weights! Strength training is a great way to lose weight and tone up, and will help keep you fit and healthy into your 50s, 60s, and beyond. Here, personal trainer Erin Sharoni reveals her top weight training tips for women.
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You won't look like a man
Many women fear that lifting weights will make them look big and bulky, but that's not the case. As Erin explains: "Women don't produce as much testosterone to grow as big as men. No matter how heavy the weight you lift, you're never going to get "huge."
"You always need to stretch – if you don't stretch the muscle it won't be long and lean. You also need to follow a clean diet, as having a layer of fat over the muscle will obviously make you look bigger."
You lose 5% of muscle mass every decade
Women lose 5% of muscle mass every 10 years after the age of 30 – another good reason to hit the gym as you get older.
"It's really important to continue strength training, regardless of your age. Whether you're in your 40s, 50s or older, you're never too old to learn," says Erin.
That said, if you're new to strength training, it's best to start slow. Erin suggests hiring a personal trainer, even if only for a couple of sessions, to make sure your posture is correct. Lifting weights while sitting on a fitness ball will develop your core strength at the same time.
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Muscle burns fat
If you want to torch calories, forget jogging. Weight training is one of the best calorie-burners, plus, the more muscle you have, the more calories your body will burn.
Erin explains: "Muscles require energy, and the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolic rate will be."
Be sure to rest
Most women lift weights that are too light, according to Erin. While you should push yourself, rest is also important.
"You need to rest your muscles in order for them to grow," says Erin. "During exercise, you create tiny tears in the muscle fibre. The muscle grows and strengthens by healing those tears. If you don't give yourself time to rest, you're never going to see any improvement."
So if you work weights one day, don't work them the next.
Weight training builds bone density
From the age of 40 onwards, our bone density naturally declines, increasing the risk of osteoporosis, a condition that weakens the bones and makes them more fragile and prone to breaks. According to the NHS, one-in-two women over the age of 50 will break a bone in the UK, and the most common cause is osteoporosis. Because the condition has no other symptoms, a break or fracture may be the first time you realise there's a problem.
Weight-bearing exercise and resistance exercise is one of the best ways to strengthen the bones and reduce the risk of injury. Aim to do five hours of weight-bearing exercise a week, such as brisk walking, running, dancing, or sports such as tennis or badminton. (Swimming and cycling aren't weight-bearing exercises).
If you enjoy walking for exercise but want to increase the resistance, use ankle weights.
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As well as aerobic exercise, try lifting weights two or three times a week. If you don't want to go to the gym, invest in an exercise DVD and weights and work out at home.