Workout Plans for Women: What to Know

Medically Reviewed by Tyler Wheeler, MD on June 18, 2024
5 min read

Physical exercise is as important for women as for men. Even if you don't want to build muscles, you need to be active and improve your strength to achieve optimum health and fitness. Workout plans for women often focus on weight loss. But it's also vital to have strong muscles and bones, good balance, and enough stamina for daily life. Exercise routines for women vary according to age, aims, and lifestyle. If you have a chronic illness or injury, are older, or have been inactive for a long time, you should consult your physician before starting an exercise program. A qualified fitness trainer can draw up a beginner workout plan for women that will be safe and effective for you.

Workout plans for women should meet the recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week. You should also have two days of muscle-strengthening activity in a week. The same workout day after day won't benefit you, as your body gets used to it. Vary your workouts using age-appropriate aerobics, muscle-strengthening, and stretching activities. 

Moderate activity includes brisk walking, bicycle riding, dancing, hiking, rollerblading, and water aerobics. Such activities raise your heart rate and make you breathe faster. You can talk but not sing. 

Vigorous activities are more intense exercises and make you breathe hard and fast. You can only speak a few words before pausing to breathe. Some vigorous activities are swimming, running, riding a bicycle fast or uphill, walking up stairs, skipping, aerobics, and some sports.  

Muscle-strengthening activities are recommended at least two days a week. Make sure you're working on all the major muscle groups — arms, legs, hips, shoulders, back, chest, and abdomen. For the most benefit, you should repeat these activities to the point where you can't do another repetition. These activities should be in addition to your aerobic exercises.

You should choose an exercise plan that keeps you fit and strong and that you can sustain. Your workout plan will depend on your current fitness levels and age. You should tailor your workout plan at different ages to achieve:

In your 20s. Your focus should be on building healthy bones. Include weight-bearing activities in your exercise plan. Weight-lifting, hiking, tennis, stair climbing, and high-impact sports are all great for enhancing bone health.

In your 30s. This is the time to improve your cardiovascular health. Focus on activities that maintain your ideal body weight and heart and lung health. 

In your 40s. Pay attention to maintaining lean muscle. Age-related muscle loss, sarcopenia, begins in this decade. Regular exercise can prevent muscle loss and preserve function for later years. Two to three resistance training exercise sessions every week that work all your muscle groups are necessary.

In your 50s. Keep yourself active and strong throughout menopause. Regular exercise will help you cope with the hormonal changes and their effects on your physical and mental health.

In your 60s. Remaining physically active helps you stay healthy and live independently. Focus on exercises that improve balance and prevent falls. You need activities to enhance balance and coordination, improve muscular strength, and train your gait. 

Following a workout routine for women has many benefits as you grow older:

  • Strengthens your bones
  • Prevents weight gain
  • Reduces cancer risk
  • Enhances your mood
  • Reduces your risk of heart disease and diabetes

It's never too late to start a workout plan. If you've not been active before, or have paused your fitness activities because of illness or injury, you should take advice from a fitness expert. Remember to start slow and accelerate carefully. Ramping up to intense exercise very quickly carries the risk of injury and is unnecessary. A beginner workout plan for women should consider:

  • Intense exercise is not mandatory. Small increases in moderate-intensity physical activity provide health benefits. 
  • Reducing sedentary behavior provides benefits. Try to be active most of the time. 
  • Increasing moderate-intensity physical activity should be your goal.
  • Insufficiently active people gain a lot from even small increases in activity levels.

An expert trainer can help you plan your workout. Aim for a mix of aerobic, muscle-strengthening, bone-strengthening, balance, and flexibility activities.

Aerobic activities. These are also called cardio or endurance activities. Your body's large muscles move rhythmically for a long time, building strength and endurance. Aerobic exercises improve your cardiovascular fitness as well as strengthening your muscles. Swimming, jumping rope, brisk walking running, and bicycling are usually parts of your cardio workout.

Muscle-strengthening activities. These activities require your muscles to work against a weight or applied force. Resistance training and weight training for women are muscle-strengthening workouts. Lifting weights multiple times strengthens different muscle groups. Using elastic bands and body weight exercises like push-ups also strengthen your muscles. 

Bone-strengthening activities. These are also called weight-bearing or weight-loading activities. By producing a force on your bones, such exercises stimulate them to grow and become stronger. High-impact activities like jumping jacks, running, weight-lifting, and brisk walking are good for strengthening your bones.

Balance activities. These exercises enhance your body's ability to resist falling when moving or at rest. You have to strengthen the muscles of your back, abdomen, and legs. Some useful exercises to include in your workout plan are walking backward, using a wobble board, and standing on one leg. 

Flexibility activities. These activities maintain the mobility of your joints through their full range. Stretching exercises are useful in maintaining and increasing your flexibility. 

Pregnancy and the time following birth (the postpartum period) are a time of great physiological change for women. You need special care and consideration during this time. Intense exercise is not advisable at this time, but you should still aim for 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week. If you had an exercise program before you were pregnant, you could continue with it. But you must consult your doctor about how to adjust your physical activity during pregnancy and after childbirth.

Exercising regularly throughout pregnancy and after provides many benefits. You're less likely to gain too much weight. Your risks of gestational diabetes and postpartum depression ("baby blues") are also much lower.

Workout plans for women can help you increase your muscle and bone strength. They can also help you avoid disease like cancer, heart disease, and depression. As you grow older, a regular exercise plan will help you remain active, avoid falls, and live independently.