A close up of a black kettlebell between a woman's feet.
Dr. Jessica Warnecke

Why you need strength training at every age & stage

Dr. Jessica Warnecke

Are you on team strong? Or do you worry lifting weights will make you bulky? Working with women over the past decade, I’ve seen how empowering and beneficial strength training can be, so I want to lay down the facts.

After the age of 30, we start to lose muscle mass, spine disc height, bone density and flexibility in our cartilage, tendons and ligaments at a rate of around 3-5% per year. This is a normal part of ageing – but just because it’s normal, does that mean we should sit back and accept it? No way!

So what should we do? Whether you want to call it strength, weight or resistance training, it’s all about committing to maintaining and improving your body through building strength.

Why strength training?

First things first, working out with weights is a great way to burn fat, increase stamina, improve heart health, and build a lean and defined body. But the benefits go way beyond that.

1. Muscle growth
Loading your joints effectively with weight through movements like squats and deadlifts has been shown to preserve cartilage, stimulate muscle and bone growth, and reduce the risk of falls and fractures as you grow older. It also helps to regulate hormones, which allows you to preserve muscle and increase strength. (Plus the more muscle you have, the more fat you’ll burn!)

2. Injury prevention
Another reason to grab a set of dumbbells and get lifting: strengthening the muscles around your joints will help to prevent injury. For instance, around 80% of us will experience low back pain at some point in our lifetime, including during pregnancy. Building strength in your legs, glutes, back and core can decrease or prevent aches and pains.

3. A little goes a long way
And the good news is, you don’t have to hit the weights for hours every day to feel the benefits and see results. Just 2-3 days a week of resistance training, with 2-4 sets of 8-12 reps for big muscle groups (as recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine), can go a long way.

While strength training is important for all of us, there are certain goals you should be working for at different stages of your life. Let’s take a look at the benefits of being strong when you’re...

Strength training in your 20s

One of the biggest benefits of starting strength training young is building a solid habit. Take advantage of all that youthful energy to get into a regular weight lifting regimen, learning proper form, how to progressively overload, and how to avoid injuries in future. It’s a healthy, confidence-building habit that will better prepare you for a career, managing stress, pregnancy, and so many other things you’ll experience in your life.

Emily Skye with visible abs. Text says that she feels “better as I head towards my late 30s than I did in my teen years!”

Strength training in your 30s

Do you know what lifting weights is great for? Increasing your energy! With your career, relationships, travel, perhaps a few little ones running around or on the way, you don’t have time to feel sluggish. By prioritising your strength training routine, you will not only slow the effects of aging, but you will increase your mental clarity and mood for being the best business owner, co-worker, friend, partner and mother you can be.

Strength training in your 40s

Your 40s signal the end of your childbearing years and the possible onset of menopause. It is crucial to load your muscles and joints during these years to slow the rate of bone density loss. As women, we already have lower levels of testosterone and muscle mass, so without strength training our bodies will feel the effects of ageing more significantly than men.

If you haven’t picked up weights before now, you’ll need some guidance on how to do it properly. Emily has designed a FIT strength training program for beginners that’s perfect for you – head to the Programs section to find Start Strong!

Strength training in your 50s

The average age for reaching menopause is around 50. Preparing for and going through menopause and beyond is arguably one of the most important times to strength train. There are numerous studies supporting the use of strength training at this stage not only to help to maintain muscle mass, but because it can reduce fat gain, prevent joint pain and help promote circulation of hormones and nutrients through the body.

Plus, lifting weights is the gold standard recommendation for bone health as we age! Doing load bearing and aerobic exercises frequently and consistently (ideally at least 2.5 hours of moderate activity per week) can delay or reduce loss of bone density and the onset of osteoporosis.

Strength training in your 60s and beyond

As well as all the benefits for muscle bone health we’ve talked about for previous stages, maintaining (or beginning) a strength training routine at this age and beyond will reduce the effects of age-related illnesses such as arthritis and diabetes. It’s also crucial to maintaining balance and coordination, thereby reducing falls and preventing fractures, so you are able to hold onto your independence. Regular exercise is also great for your brain, leading to better cognition, information processing and memory.

Emily Skye, heavily pregnant, holds two dumbbells during a pregnancy workout.

Strength training during pregnancy

There are so many benefits to sticking with your exercise routine while pregnant. Even if you feel fit and well, do make sure you get clearance from your doctor before exercising while pregnant. When you do get the okay, FIT Pregnancy will help you keep moving safely – and using weights – through each trimester.

Your goal with exercise when you’re pregnant is to be proactive, rather than reactive, in readiness for what your body is about to go through. Staying active will benefit your child’s development, your mental and physical health, prepare your body for labour and delivery, and set up a better postpartum recovery period.

Strength training when you’re postpartum

Having a baby can bring about an entirely new way of life, an unpredictable schedule, fatigue and a lot of overwhelm. But you must put yourself first! Now more than ever you need to safely regain a strong body and mind in order to be the best mother you can be. Remember that there is no rush, and everyone’s postpartum recovery timeline is different.

Focusing on training to rebuild your strength from the inside out will help you reduce diastasis recti, prevent or improve prolapse, and keep your back, shoulders, and knees strong for all that carrying and picking up you’ll be doing. You don’t want to feel limited when it comes to caring for your family.

There are SO many amazing benefits of regular strength training through all stages of your life, and it doesn’t take much to get started. What are you waiting for? If you’re ready to make the first lift – or take it to the next level – Emily Skye FIT is here for you.

Dr. Jessica Warnecke
Physical therapist

Dr. Jessica Warnecke is a physical therapist based in Austin, TX, who is dedicated to keeping you moving at your best in every stage of life – from pregnancy to peak fitness and strength. As well as holding a BS in Exercise Science and a Doctorate Degree, Jessica is a Board Certified Orthopaedic Clinical Specialist and a certified Postpartum Corrective Exercise Specialist.

Dr. Jessica Warnecke
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