I am not afraid to admit that I am a women over the age of 40. I know firsthand how staying fit or just getting fit can be a bit harder the older you get. It seemed so easy years ago, but now injuries are more of a factor to be aware of. Instead of getting depressed and giving up, I reached out to Allison Rao, MD, an orthopedic surgeon from The Christ Hospital Physicians – Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine. Did you know that only 6% of ortho surgeons are female? So, Dr. Rao brings a great perspective to treating women for orthopedic and sports medicine issues and she has some helpful advice for workouts.
What are some tips for women over 40 like me?
Dr. Rao: Getting a good workout can be easy and involve minimal equipment. The key is finding a balance between cardio, stretching, and strengthening. For a good cardio workout, the goal is to increase your heart rate for a sustained period of time. This can be with activities such as fast walking/jogging/running, biking, swimming, or other gym equipment if you have access. It's also important to incorporate strength and weight based exercises, especially as women age. Good examples without equipment would be doing body weight lunges, squats, planks, pushups, crunches, etc. There are a lot of good online and free apps that can help provide guidance for a variety of both cardio and strength training exercises.
If you already have a workout routine, should you change it up as you get older?
Dr. Rao: Having variety in your workout is important at any age! This ensures that you are working different muscle groups, keeping your body working in different ways, and maximizing your workout. Doing the same thing every day can allow your body to adapt, such that you may not see the same benefit as you did in the beginning. Definitely try changing things up, incorporating strength training and weight based exercises!
Are there certain workouts that middle-aged women should stay away from?
Dr. Rao: There is nothing to particularly avoid. A good variety of exercise and incorporation of strength training, cardio, and stretching will help keep you balanced. If you are having specific pain or difficulty, you can always check in with your doctor.
There are so many trends like different types of yoga, spin classes, boot camps, and Crossfit. What are your thoughts on those types of exercises?
Dr. Rao: Classes and group exercise are a great way to keep motivated and fresh with your exercise! While not all classes are for everyone, they can be great ways to find a community to help inspire and motivate you to reach your goals! Try to find one that fits your goals and something you enjoy.
I have always been a fan of cardio, but not so much lifting weights. How important is strength training for women?
Dr. Rao: Strength training and stretching are really important to a balanced workout routine. Cardio works your heart, but strength training is equally important. It helps to build and maintain muscle, which can keep your joints healthy and take pressure off them. Women especially tend to ignore the important of strength training, but it is important to incorporate to help keep your body strong and prevent injury.
What are some common injuries that middle-aged women tend to see?
Dr. Rao: Many women tend to develop pain in the front of the knee, which can often be the result of imbalanced muscles and decreased quad strength. Pain in the knees and shoulders are common, especially as women tend to focus more on cardio than strength training.
What are some tips for preventing those injuries?
Dr. Rao: Incorporating strength training can really help to build our muscles and take pressure off the joints. If you have pain that persists, however, definitely check in with your doctor.
Should we always get a doctor's approval before starting any program?
Dr. Rao: If you have specific injuries or concerns it is always a good idea to check in with your doctor.
With the pandemic a lot of women are avoiding the gym. What are some good workouts that you can do at home?
Dr. Rao: There are a lot of great apps and home videos available for cardio, strength training, and stretching routines. Nike and Peloton are great examples that have free trials during the pandemic. On your own, for cardio you can fast walk/run or try biking. For strength training, even without equipment, there are a variety of body weight exercises to do such as lunges, squats, planks, crunches, pushups. Or try using some household items to make your own weights.
What do you think is the right amount of time for a good workout and how many times a week should we be exercising?
Dr. Rao: It is recommended that you get at least 30 minutes of exercises 3-4 times a week.
This is some great advice! It has inspired me to improve my workouts and know that I am doing it safely, and I hope it will you too. I have been wanting a Peloton for quite some time now; I think this is the perfect excuse for me to go ahead and place that order. But like Dr. Rao says, you don't need to buy anything to get a good work out in. Start by getting creative around the house!
Experiencing pain or suffering after a workout injury? The Christ Hospital Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine Physicians can help. Schedule an appointment online today with an orthopedist near you.