15 whole body strengthening tips for mature women 32



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Whole body strengthening is key to staying strong and active life-long. Age is no excuse for not exercising – your muscles can strengthen regardless of your age.

Strengthening your body is simply a matter of knowing what to do and how to do it.

These physiotherapy tips help you strengthen safely and get the most benefit out of your strength exercise.


1. Starting Out

If you’re over 65 years or 50-65 years and living with a chronic medical condition, develop your exercise plan with a health professional. If you’ve never exercised before, speak with your doctor and get the all clear to start strengthening.


2. Choosing Resistance Exercises

Choose resistance exercises that you enjoy! Some women like to use light hand weights and guided strength exercises (e.g. exercise DVD) at home while others prefer group exercise.

There are many types of resistance exercises for you to choose from including:

  • Circuit equipment
  • Gym equipment
  • Group strength classes
  • Water-based strengthening
  • Resistance tubing


3. Existing Injuries

Many women fear injury or worsening existing conditions with strength exercises. With the right exercises and correct technique most women can exercise safely.

Here are a few examples:

Arthritis – water-based exercise is an ideal form of exercise that reduces the load on your joints while allowing you to strengthen the muscles that support your joints.

‘Bad knees’ – you’ll benefit from appropriate leg strengthening exercises and avoiding exercises such as deep squats, lunges and/or high step ups that can overload the knee joints.

Sore shoulders – usually benefit from correct strengthening of the back and shoulder muscles and avoiding inappropriate shoulder exercises such as overhead lifting.

If you’re unsure about exercising with existing problems see your local physiotherapist and ask for a strength exercise program.


4. Good Posture

Exercising with good upright posture helps you get the most out of resistance exercises and avoid injury.

Good upright posture involves:

  • Raising the crown of your head
  • Lengthening your spine and standing (or sitting) tall
  • Raising your chest (sternum) forwards and slightly upwards


5. Correct Technique

Using the correct technique helps you get the most benefit from your exercises and minimise your risk of injury.

When starting out, the most important thing for you to learn is using the correct technique. Once you’ve learnt this, you can usually progress to gradually increasing your resistance.


6. Start Light

Start out using light resistance. Light resistance gives you time to learn to use good technique with your exercises reducing your risk of injury.


7. Avoid Heavy Resistance

Mature women are at increased risk of muscle and joint injuries with heavy lifting including pelvic floor problems such as prolapse and bladder control problems.


What about osteoporosis exercises? Research tells us heavy resistance exercise is beneficial for bone health. If you’re a mature woman with or at increased risk of osteoporosis, your resistance exercises should be appropriate for your current strength and your risk of bone fracture/injury. Osteoporosis exercises don’t need to incorporate heavy resistance – mild to moderate resistance exercises can load bones safely, improve bone health and help avoid injury.


8. Avoid Intense Core Abdominal Exercises

Intense core abdominal strength exercises are inappropriate for most mature women. Sit-ups (abdominal crunches) increase the risk of lower back and/or pelvic floor problems.


9. Listen to Your Body

Listen to what your body tells you; it’s completely normal to feel some muscle soreness a day or two after resistance exercises.

Discomfort with exercise is a sign that some feature of your workout is not suited to your body. Stop and either modify or choose an alternative exercise. Never persist with any exercise that causes you pain during or after your exercise session.


10. Modify Your Exercises

Most resistance exercises are easily modified to suit individual differences. If you’re having difficulty with an exercise ask your instructor to provide you with an alternative exercise. Personal trainers and group fitness leaders are usually happy to assist in providing modified or alternative exercises.


11. Progress Gradually

Increase your load or resistance gradually over time to increase your strength.

While it’s tempting to increase your resistance quickly when you’re feeling good, it’s much safer to increase resistance gradually as your strength improves. Most women can increase resistance in small increments approximately 6 weeks apart.


12. Breathe Out With Effort

Breathing out with your effort is good practice. Breathing decreases your blood pressure and reduces the load on your pelvic floor during that exercise. Try to breathe out when you lift, lower, push or pull the load.


13. Recover and Rest

Take the time you need to rest between sets (groups) of resistance exercises. Resting allows your muscles to recover so they can work effectively with your next effort.


14. Right Amount of Exercise

Start with the number of exercises you can comfortably do – even if it’s one or two exercises in a row.

Ideally aim for:

  • 2 or more strength sessions a week
  • 8-10 exercises
  • At least 1 set (group) of 10-15 repeated exercises

Ideally the resistance exercises you choose will strengthen your major muscle groups; legs, buttocks, back, core, chest, arms and shoulders.


15. Expert Instruction

Most women can exercise successfully despite their stiff knees, sore shoulders, lower back pain, pelvic floor problems and more.

If you’re unsure about how to go about strengthening safely a visit to your physiotherapist can get you started – you don’t even need a doctor’s referral. If you’re living with a chronic medical condition your doctor may be able to recommend an exercise physiologist to prescribe and appropriate exercise program for you.


Do you participate in regular strength exercises? I’d love to hear about your exercise routine and what works for you.



Michelle Kenway is a Physiotherapist and author of the Inside Out women’s safe exercise program. Michelle’s Inside Out Strength exercise DVD shows women how to strengthen safely with a physiotherapist guides workout.

Michelle Kenway

Michelle Kenway is an Australian Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist, author and exercise instructor for women. Michelle lectures medical specialists, physiotherapists and community groups on the importance of pelvic floor safe exercise for women. Her "Inside Out" books and DVDs on pelvic floor safe exercises for women have received widespread international acclaim. Michelle conducts group exercise for women with diverse physical challenges including pelvic floor problems, post-operative prolapse surgery, osteoporosis, musculoskeletal problems, general health problems and illnesses including breast cancer, diabetes and arthritis. Michelle is a mother of two boys so she understands the physical challenges and demands placed upon the body with motherhood and beyond. She particularly enjoys staying active exercising outdoors with her family. www.pelvicexercises.com.au

  1. I have a chronic condition. Over the past couple of years my health deteriorated. Then my doctor told me that research was proving that exercise, while not curing me, would help me to become much healthier. My condition stopped me from exercising as it was too hard. The worst thing I could do. First I went to the local hospital and did a two month program with them for people with respiratory problems. Since then, I have kept up the exercises. Then my doctor sent me to a physiologist and if you don’t have health cover, you can get 5 sessions through your doctor on medicare. A year and more recently five sessions with the physiologist down the track and it has been amazing. I have gone from starting with 1 kg weights to this week progressing to five kgs. I do 30 minutes of weights every day and I walk 1 kilometre every day, either on the treadmill or at the beach. My overall health has improved, my breathing is not so laboured and I can walk fair distances, slowly but surely and much further and faster than I was doing. While there is no cure for what I have, this has guaranteed me living a long happy life (or as much as anyone else). My breathing will deteriorate, but at a much slower pace, just as anyone’s does as we age. I am looking forward to annoying my kids for another thirty years now. Don’t say you can’t do it or it is not worth it. Even when I eventually get my hip replacement I will be much stronger and able to cope. It’s all worth it and believe me, you will end up loving to exercise, just that little bit every day. 🙂

    6 REPLY
    • Well done Fran I have had 2 knee replacements and got into the gym after that and am feeling the best I have felt in years.

    • I am having a hip replacement soon hoping that will help me exercise…..doing mild ones now to strengthen core muscle strength…will help with recovery….then I will have other one done…later….good luck Fran..

    • Exercise is the best way to recover / keep fit!! If I do t exercise for 2 weeks I start to stiffen up everywhere !!!

  2. I am a convert to water based exercise, though I’ve noticed our young instructors are keen on strengthening our core abdominals. might ease up on that.

  3. I got into deep water aqua aerobics, but one day we had an instructor who was into ‘bootcamp for the elderly’, and in trying to keep up, I strained the area called the trochanter (hip and groin area), which put me out of action for nearly a month. The doctor recommended getting back into things gradually, so I walk and swim now, and will start doing shallow water aqua aerobics for a while.

  4. I bought a Guy Leech home gym….cost $298 at Big W….I laybyed it and paid it off…..it comes with an enormous exercise booklet to target different areas….I started with the minimal weight and for only about 10 minutes at a time…a few times per day…..slowly I have increased my weight resistance….strengthened muscles to support weaker areas and my whole posture has straightened up….it is one you sit on…so there is no back or knee strain….best part is I can do it in the privacy of my own home at any time I want…and no gym fees….has well and truly paid for itself….

  5. Try this one……my husband turns 73 this year. 12 yrs ago, massive heart attack, 8 yrs ago, 2nd massive heart attack followed by dble bypass, then diagnosed early stages emphasemia , 6 yrs ago defribliator fiitted due to greatly damaged heart from the heart attacks, 3 yrs ago medical episode wherein defrib. Took 6 attempts to get heart back beating in rythem, followed by further heart surgery…..ok….exercise means everything…. He plays golf x 2 weekly, hilly golf course, rides his mountain bike approx 100 kms weekly, helps a friend on a farm x fortnightly and keeps sons 1800 sq mtrs of gardens, lawns looking picture perfect. He sits down for meals, a few hrs tv and computor at nite….also was diagnosed with diabetes 3 yrs ago……so u guys and gals, get up of your bums and get going!!!!!!!
    Go under advice is important though. Good luck and good health…..

    1 REPLY
  6. Congratulations to FRAN and JAN’S hubby for their get up and go! people like that put the rest of us to shame.Yes I do aqua aerobics x2 week. Can’t raise my right arm so difficult to do weights etc. Better get back to physio for new ideas.

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