Getting stronger as you age is a reality seen with more and more frequency. There are plenty of reasons why YOU can get stronger as you age whether you’ve flipped 50, are still approaching it, or you’re long past it!. And there are perks. For instance, arms aside, strong older women earn more.
Why? In part because they handle stress better. They have more responsibilities, more to do, more people to oversee AND they’re happier.
How do you get stronger with age? I’ll explore it in this post. Women who do aren’t born with any magic spoon but they do have habits. They specifically have certain habits and rituals that they do consistently. Those habits get consistent, repeatable results.
Women in their 50’s and 60’s are often at the peak of their careers. As many women in our Flipping 50 community, however, are instead at a transition in their lives, possibly teetering on the edge of getting to the peak of that career. A relationship in question, a career change, or a bucket list items often act as catalysts for women. While some women – in either situation- see themselves slowing down, others are starting new businesses and taking up triathlon for the first time or first time in decades.
So what’s the difference between successfully thriving women getting stronger as they age and those feeling like the best is behind them?
One of those habits is exercise. It’s specifically strength training. They embrace the two-for-one benefit of less time and more results that come from strength training.
Because of strength training, they get more results. Resistance training is the gift that keeps on giving. You start because of the physical slide gravity is causing. Body parts on a race to your socks, or saggy skin around your arms or legs. Whoa!
I’m not ready to look older even though I am older.
-said most women everywhere
Good news is you don’t have to, at least not in the once-accepted ways. You could be as much as 23 years younger (or older) than your biological age. Yes, that much, according to internist Dr. Michael Roizen. Roizen uses the Real Age test to determine how your habits influence your rate of aging.
Maybe it’s a diagnosis of osteoporosis. Maybe a doctor has said medication is the next step if you don’t change something. Strength training gets on your radar. Since it’s less common that a 60 or 70-year old woman today lifted weights regularly in her young adulthood without interruption, starting could easily make you stronger as you age. Stronger relative to what? We’re not just comparing you if you don’t strength train to you if you do. Older you can get stronger as you age relative to younger you.
No matter what physical siren call get’s you started that’s not what keeps you going. It’s not just muscles (and bones) influenced by weight lifting that creates strong older women. It’s self-concept that changes. STRONGER as you age is so much more than being able to lift a 10-pound dumbbell this month when you were hefting the 5-pound dumbbell last month.
Which comes first the chicken or the egg? The dumbbells or the habits? Do strong older women already have good habits or do their habits improve when they begin lifting?
Consistently successful women – let’s define as high earners, leaders, influencers, higher GPAs, respected by their peers, CEOs, involved and happier (because let’s face it, there are a lot of successful people who are really unhappy and can’t enjoy it)– tend to have habits they consistently honor.
Yes, they work more. They have more responsibility. They also make time for self care consistently. They will request, demand, or take care of getting themselves the kind of food and maintaining a schedule that serves their energy.
They may be first to leave the party to go to bed knowing they thrive on a certain amount of sleep and suffer without. They don’t see it as a weakness. They may not enjoy anything at a dinner party (but don’t skip it) and instead bring along prepared food or have it delivered.
Which comes first? Do you become successful so you can start taking better care of yourself? Or do you start taking better care of yourself to be more successful? I suspect you know the answer to that. There are those strong older women who have successfully have always done this, but… if you want to get stronger as you age know there are women who only recently determined that they ARE their own hero. It’s possible to begin it at any time.
A successful woman may work long hours to complete a project or see something through. She doesn’t however, let it consume her or sabotage her health, nor does she sacrifice her health habits.
She doesn’t think…
… but that means I have to get up at 4 in the morning and that’s so hard.
… I have to get up at 6:30 and get breakfast for two kids and work 8 hours.
… she must have a trainer and I just can’t afford that.
… we socialize so much that it’s hard.
… I have a long commute so I’m gone 10 hours every day during the week.
… I have to eat so many meals out, it’s impossible to eat well.
… I travel frequently for work so it’s hard to stick with anything.
… I have older parents and young adult kids both depending on me – I’ve always been the one people count on.
Those are mindsets.
Mindsets of excuses.
She’s overcome those obstacles and so can you.
If you flip excuses, they become reasons
You say you’re so busy that the only time you have is 5am (insert 4 or 6 as it fits your life)? It’s more important for you that you get up, have a little intension time and get it done so you have more energy and start your day already having a sense of accomplishment. You can’t serve anyone unless you’ve served yourself. Self-care is not optional. You push those dumbbells around for 10 or 20 minutes and you won’t be pushed around by people, projects or responsibilities. You will change the way you perform all day long.
You have friends? How nice! Do they want you to be healthy or do they want to sabotage your health and your goals? Will they support you or will they be threatened and want you to eat, drink, and be merry (for a few minutes and defeated and fatigued the rest of the time) with them? What kind of friends are we really talking about? Are you socializing because you LIKE these people and they like you or because it’s the thing to do, the “in crowd” you want to associate with? At 50 and older aren’t you ready to be authentic and dump doing things because it’s expected?
Here’s a prediction. At some point someone in that social circle that’s putting pressure on you – or so you think – will have a health issue. That mild heart attack or diabetes diagnosis? Will mean they suddenly are forced to make dietary and lifestyle choices that you are trying to choose now. Unfortunately, when it happens like this… you don’t get as many rewards as when you choose healthy habits earlier and reap dividends like greater energy, better fitting clothes, more happiness. Instead you get the possibility of decreasing meds that cause crappy side effects. You choose. Sooner or later most women who have not voluntarily made time and commitment to themselves will be forced to do so. You’re going to live longer, experience more losses and life changes. You need stress resilience.
What if you had a heart attack? Good food and exercise are both well-accepted as medicine. Are you taking your medicine? Stress relief, though, is the Queen of health. You’ll be less stressed if you eat well and exercise regularly. You build your body up with more resilience and your brain also benefits.
Stress, my dear, is a killer. Not just of your waistline, shapely arms, and mental clarity. Directly, not indirectly, it is tied to over 80 diseases. Let’s stop pretending we are so important that we use “stressed” and “busy” as responses to “How are you?” We’re choosing it. Unless you are actively seeking support to decrease your level of stress you’re choosing to be stressed. In fact, saying it over and over again reinforces it as your truth.
It’s juicing you.
It’s like crack to a cocaine addict, or alcohol to an alcoholic. Living on stress-induced adrenalin can momentarily make you feel important and purposeful… will all come crashing down.
There’s a Big Benefits list associated with getting into the strong older women society. They include:
- Better Body confidence
- Positive Mood Altering
- Increased Productivity
- Better Cognitive Function
- Body Shape Remodeling
Long-existing research indicates that the similarity between college age and middle-aged women’s (mid 40s) emotional and cognitive response to strength training is high. I lead with that line because I’m sharing studies here featuring college-age females that show an increase in self-confidence, and better body esteem. As you know, here at Flipping 50 is cognizant about filtering research that applies to YOU. Knowing there is a strong correlation in this case, the research is pertinent. Though we can’t always, in this case, we can draw conclusions about weight training in older women from studies featuring younger women. Resistance training benefits women at any age in psychological confidence and stress reduction (if programming is applied thoughtfully with “her” in mind).
In fact, the magnitude of change in self-confidence and body-esteem with strength training was nearly identical in younger and older women. Just a few benefits of resistance training for women include:
Self-concept increases in young college women who lift weights two or three times a week. At a time when every tempting but equally sabotaging thing you could possibly want is at your fingertips or down the hall, this is surely a good thing.
Strength training is Mood-Altering. If you want to increase depression, fatigue, and tension, use lighter weights with more repetitions and less rest between. Unfortunately, that is almost exactly the recipe given to women in their circuit training classes.
Body sculpting and bodybuilding routines consisting of local muscle fatigue or a comprehensive workout in a short amount of time subject you to psychological and physiological stress. In order to maintain a good attitude and motivation to continue you have to be a more goal-oriented person in the first place and be provided with a creative workout design with a variety of reinforcements.
Anxiety and depression are reduced in women with optimal resistance training programming. However, strict adherence to a limited diet and to a weight lifting schedule focused on body transformation or figure competition results in more depression, tension and confusion during the final push or reach for a goal.
It’s not been uncommon for me (in my role as a fitness coach, and prior lecturer in Kinesiology) to hear “… I want to lose those last few pounds so I’m going to fast for a few more days,” or “… I am going to increase the workouts I do to get serious about results.” It gives me cause for alarm. Rarely does a final push result in permanent results. That overnight success is usually one regular habit after another that no one else noticed, until they do. Even in this era of “fasts” becoming the thing you may think is a magic pill, it’s taking a year of a few days per month to lose a few pounds permanently and the bigger changes are in blood work and health risks, not in the scale.
Productivity benefits. What often happens with a midlife female (keep in mind, already more susceptible to negative effects of stress) is a negative stress response from her body. She begins to feel fatigue, think constantly about what she’s eating (or not) and how and when she’s going to exercise again. Instead of a mood boost for productivity and relationship-enhancement it begins to be the relationship she has. There’s not an escalating reward for the investment of time and energy – there’s a downward spiral in quality of life. With a regular sustainable exercise and nutrition plan, however, productivity is increased.
Brain fog lifts. Strength training doesn’t just build biceps it results in more brain matter and better cognitive function. It’s believed to be due in part to increased growth factor. You’ll have better problem solving skills, better memory. Traits like these are helpful anywhere but may be another reason strong older women earn more. Handling stress better just helps them enjoy the fruits of their labor better.
Boost metabolism & reshape your body. Strength training is the only way you’re going to sculpt the body of your dreams. “Exercise” of other types may boost your mood while you’re doing it and after until you need another hit. It may help you lose weight (if it’s the right type and timing for you). But you’ll have the same body you find in the mirror or that put you at risk for injury or disease now.
“The only real way women can increase metabolism, without drugs, is to lift weights and maintain or increase lean mass.”
That weight you’re putting on around the middle will respond better to weight training than simply cardio. The sacrificial interval training lamb does not change your body’s shape. No, girlfriend, weight training will do that. Faster. It will begin it noticeably in about a month. That is usually enough for you to gain some motivation to boost your commitment.
Getting stronger as you age requires less motivation than it does commitment.
What are you committing to? How much lifting does it take? Twice a week, but not your mother’s workout or even your 20-years-ago-workout, is going to make you stronger as you age. If you’re heading into an hour-long class of lifting with light weights and a lot of repetitions, think again. Unless you’ve got an injured joint to coddle, pull up your big-girl LuLulemons and lift something that feels a little heavy.
Are you planning to lift big bags of potting soil or dog food? Or cherub-like grandchildren? Hefting your big suitcase? Then you’re going to need it. Best be prepared than injured.
You may want the physical changes that accompany getting stronger as you age from exercise. You know, the chiseled arms, or the line down the side of your thighs you envy in other women. But the transformation you’ll feel inside is an entirely other ball game. You don’t just begin to lift more weight. You are lifted. Mood, confidence, and the way you carry yourself across a room change.
You don’t just begin to lift more weight. You are lifted.
Strength training is the most time efficient exercise for both visible and intangible change.
Women most often start exercise to lose weight (though I am not ignoring you if you have other motives – I know you’re out there!). Women start at a significantly higher rate than men. They also unfortunately tend to drop out at astoundingly higher rates than men.
Why do women drop out? Women are too often thrown into or gravitate toward a strict diet and incredibly time-consuming, inappropriate exercise programs (not even, I might add, developed based on the sparse 39% of exercise research about women). As a woman with wisdom of life experience you’re at an advantage. You already know, some things are harder and and some are easier and some of those harder ones are worth sticking out. You’ve already gotten stronger as you age in some ways.
An exercise program that’s too intense too fast or too restrictive at onset, requires (what turns out to be a low percent of) already goal-driven women used to starting something they don’t know anything about that are willing to figure out. If you have a lack of self-confidence (if even situationally), anxiety or depression when you start, you’re more likely to be a victim of fallout. You won’t be able to stick it out long enough to experience the reason women stick with exercise.
Women keep exercising because of the competence it creates that spills over to every area of life.
No exercise is faster at creating both physical benefits and emotional competence than strength training.
No exercise is better for getting stronger as you age.