Fitness for a Lifetime
How much exercise - and what kind - do you need for lifelong fitness?
Although she may still feel as powerful and energetic as she did in her 20s
and 30s, by the time a woman hits her 40s, her body begins to change. One of
the most significant changes is a decrease in hormones that not only affect
bones and heart health, but also weight.
So your main fitness goals this decade are to build muscles, protect bones,
condition your heart and control your weight. The best place to start: Strength
"This can help you build new muscle, which in turn will burn more
calories and help control weight," says Calabrese. "It can also help
put stress on your bones, which will encourage the growth of new bone
She reminds us that "a woman loses at least 5 to 7 pounds of muscle
every decade, and that loss begins as early as the 20s." Strength training
is one of the only ways to compensate, she says.
Among the best strength-training workouts, she says, is lifting weights. And
she advises you to do your lifting while standing, not sitting: "This gives
you an added edge and turns a muscle-building exercise into a
If you spend a lot of time in high heels, or if you're concerned about knee
problems, your workout should include exercises to strengthen your thigh
muscles, or quadriceps, says Litman, a rheumatologist.
"If you start in your 30s and 40s to keep these muscles aligned and
strong, you will avoid many mobility problems in your later years," says
Litman, a clinical assistant professor at Georgetown University in
One of the best ways to strengthen quad muscles, she says, is to ride a
stationary bike -- and you can get results from just 10 minutes twice a week.
Don't have a bike handy? Litman says you can get similar results by sitting in
a chair, then standing up, 20 times -- using only the power of your legs to
lift your body.
"I always encourage my patients in their 40s to start protecting their
knees with the quad workouts, especially if they have a family history of knee
problems," says Litman.
In terms of cardio workouts, Carmichael says, it's safe to continue the
routines you started in your 20s and 30s. This can include any form of activity
that gets your heart beating faster -- like power-walking on a treadmill or
doing step aerobics -- at least twice a week.
To get the most benefits from these workouts in your 40s, Carmichael
suggests, work out shorter but harder.
"Studies show if you cut down on duration but increase intensity after
age 40, you get more benefits than if you do that before age 40," says
Carmichael. "The cardiovascular benefits will increase and that can help
reduce the onset of hypertension."