Women over 50 have a unique set of health needs. You lose quite a bit of lean muscle after age 50. This is because of a number of factors, but menopause is one of the main culprits.
Menopause can mean you’re at risk for weaker bones, cardiovascular disease, and even some new belly fat.
Strength training and building muscle can help you manage these newfound health risks and give you a sense of stability, strength, and independence. Building and maintaining muscle mass is especially important as you get older and can lead to physical and mental benefits.
Benefits of Building Muscle After 50
The phrase “build muscle” can set off alarm bells for some women. Many people may associate muscles with bulky bodybuilders and gym rats.
Here’s the good news: Women don’t gain size from strength training, because they only have 10% of the testosterone that men do. Testosterone is the main hormone that causes muscles to grow in size. When women strength train, they look more toned and trimmer.
But there’s more to building lean muscle than just the way it looks.
You lose 5% to 8% of your lean muscle every 10 years after you pass 30 years old, and that percentage increases once you turn 60. Women over 50 need lean muscle to maintain muscle strength, bone strength, and to stabilize the joints, which can prevent injury.
The benefits of building muscle for women over 50 are:
- Slowing of bone thinning (osteoporosis)
- Greater joint flexibility
- Lessening of arthritis symptoms
- Improved balance, which helps prevent falls
- Weight control
- Improved metabolism
- Improved posture
- Prevention or control of diabetes, arthritis, back pain, and depression
- Boosted self-confidence and body image
- Improved sleep
- It may improve brain function and avoid decline
How to Build Muscle When You’re Over 50
Starting a new exercise program can be overwhelming, especially when you don’t know which exercises to do and how long to do them for. Strength training doesn’t only mean lifting weights. It can include a lot of different exercises, and most start with just your body weight.
See your doctor before starting a strength training program, and once you get the all-clear, start with these beginner exercises you can do at home.
Wall Push-Ups. You don’t need hulk-like strength to do this classic move. Wall push-ups are an easy way to start gaining upper body strength.
- Face a wall and stand a little more than an arm's length away from it.
- Place your hands a bit wider than shoulder-width apart and lean on the wall.
- Bend your elbows and slowly lower your torso toward the wall in a controlled movement.
- Push back up, but don’t lock your elbows at the top of the movement. Repeat 10 times for one set.
Step-Ups. Step-ups tackle the legs, hips, and buttocks, and are great for lower body strength and stability.
- Stand at the bottom of a staircase, holding onto the railing for support.
- Place one foot flat on the first step. Lift your body until your leg is straight and both your feet are on the same level.
- Push through your heel and don’t let your knee come past your toes. This can strain your knee.
- Push up for 2 seconds and lower for 4 seconds. Repeat 10 times for one set.
Floor Back Extension. This move will help strengthen your lower back and ease back pain.
- Cover the floor with a mat or blanket. Lie on the floor face down.
- Put your left arm straight out in front of you. Leave your other arm at your side.
- Lift your left arm and right leg at the same time while counting to two. Pause.
- Count to four as you lower both. Repeat 10 times for one set.
- Repeat using your right arm and left leg.
Plank Pose. Planks can tone your core, improve balance, and straighten your posture. They also strengthen your lower back.
- Lie down on your stomach, tuck your toes under your feet, and put your forearms in front of you. Try to keep your elbows directly under your shoulders.
- Push yourself up and hold the position. Keep your back and neck as straight as possible.
- Hold for as long as you can, then take a couple of minutes to rest, and repeat. Time yourself to keep track of your progress. Don’t forget to breathe.
Starting Out and Staying Motivated
Starting a workout program is a life adjustment. Take the time to learn the skills and techniques for each exercise. That might mean going to community classes or hiring a personal trainer to teach you proper technique.
It’s important to learn the right way to perform each exercise to avoid injury, see results, and stay motivated.
Fitness classes at a local community center can also mean opportunities to socialize. Look for classes tailored to beginners and your age group when you’re starting out.
Making workout buddies can help you make friends and stay accountable. Building muscle can be an activity that you enjoy.