10 Common Exercise Mistakes of Women Over 40. Hutton Health

10 Common Exercise Mistakes of Women Over 40

2nd July 2023

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I have worked in the fitness industry for years, in different countries across the world.  I have seen many women over 40 struggle to lose weight and reach their health and fitness goals.

With the number of fad diets and fitness programmes that exist, it is easy to get swept up in the stream of quick fix options that are now available to lose weight and get fit.

These are common exercise mistakes that I see women over 40 make:

1. Focusing too much on cardio:

It is common to see women flock to the cardio machines in a gym or hit the pavement to run or walk in the hopes of losing weight and getting fit.

Cardiovascular training raises your heart rate and increases your breathing rate. Any type of activity that gets you breathing heavy challenges your heart and lungs and can be considered cardio.

Cardio is an important element of an effective fitness program, but it important to include strengthening and stretching exercises as well to get the best results.

The body changes we go through as we age, mean that having a balanced exercise plan can have help you maintain your muscle mass and you look and feel your best.

As we age, our lean muscle mass decreases and our body fat increases. Strength training helps to counter some of the effects of aging and allows us to build and maintain our muscle mass and strength.

Including strength training as we age has many benefits:

  • Strengthen bones
  • Improve balance
  • Improve muscle tone
  • Increase insulin sensitivity
Common exercise mistake for women over 40: Focusing too much on cardio

2. Keeping the same exercise routine

We are creatures of habit, so it is natural to fall into a routine of sticking to the same workouts and same exercise routine.

Your body adapts to the exercise you do over a period of time.  If you continually repeat the same workout, your body will adapt to it and you will likely stop progressing toward your fitness, health and weight loss goals.

Changing your exercise program regularly will keep you from reaching a plateau in your progress.

Ensuring variety in the type of workout you do can help keep you progressing toward your health and fitness goals. This blog highlights different types of strength that you can focus on in your program to challenge your body.

Common exercise mistake for women over 40: Keeping the same exercise routine

3. Not warming up

With time constraints during the day, it can feel like a warmup takes valuable minutes away from the ‘quality’ work of an exercise session. Warming up is not always associated with doing what needs to be done to reach your fitness or weight loss goals.

Warmups are important as they prepare your body for the stress that it is going to be put under during your workout.

Warming up properly:

  • Increases blood flow to your muscles
  • Raises your body temperature
  • Increases your range of motion and flexibility 

There are many ways to warm up depending on the type of exercise you are going to do. The most effective warmup will focus on the muscles that you will be working during your fitness session.

Warmups are an essential part of any exercise session, from running to lifting weights.

Warms up should:

  • Be 5-10 minutes
  • Gradually increase in intensity

Not warming up properly is a common fitness mistake I see that can increase your chances of injury and reduce your performance as your muscles are not prepared for the workout. 

Common exercise mistake over 40: Not warming up

4. Not stretching and focusing on flexibility

When I was younger, I thought stretching and yoga were a waste of my precious time. If a workout didn’t result in me sweating, raising my heart rate or feeling the ‘burn’, I wasn’t interested in it. 

Now that I enjoy time stretching and regularly do yoga, I rarely have injuries and I feel much stronger and healthier.

There are many benefits of yoga and stretching:

  • improve sleep
  • reduce stress
  • reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • reduce pain
  • improve posture
  • improve flexibility
  • improve strength
  • improve stamina
  • help to recover from injuries
  • compliment other therapies such as physiotherapy or osteopathy from injuries
  • reduces inflammation
  • improve digestion
Common exercise mistake over 40: Not stretching and focusing on flexibility

5. Lifting weights that are too light

As your strength and fitness improve, it is important to increase the weight that you are lifting.  If you can easily a weight for 12-15 repetitions with good form, then you likely need to increase the weight that you are lifting.

Women over 40 are often nervous to lift heavy weights as they don’t want to bulk up or are nervous when they are out of their fitness comfort zone.

Common exercise mistake over 40: Lifting weights that are too light

6. Focusing on Ab exercises to lose belly fat

I am often asked how to exercise to reduce belly fat.  As we age, it is common for more fat to form around our midsection.

One of the common areas that women try to target is their belly fat. By working the muscle in a specific area, you are not reducing the fat in the area, therefore it is important to look at your overall health and fitness.

Abdominal exercises are not the solution to reducing belly fat, as working the muscles in one area will not target the fat in that area. Doing abdominal crunches every day won’t reduce the overall belly.

Common exercise mistake over 40: Focusing on Ab exercises to lose belly fat

7. Staying in the comfort zone

Regularly exercising at a low intensity is a common fitness mistake for women over 40.  Exercising at a higher intensity can help you burn a higher amount of fat.

As you increase your fitness, health and endurance, it is important to continue challenging yourself during your workouts. Your body will adapt to the exercises you perform, so to continue progressing toward your health and fitness goals it is essential that you challenge yourself.

A common fitness mistake I see is people exercising in the same way repeatedly, then wondering why they aren’t getting faster, losing weight, or increasing their fitness. 

Working out at home? Decathlon  has a range of equipment that makes it easier to challenge yourself from the comfort of your home.

Challenging yourself in a workout to improve your fitness can look like:

  • Increasing your weight or resistance
  • Increasing the number of reps or sets
  • Incorporating more intense exercises
  • Increasing the variety in your workouts
  • Increasing the incline or speed during cardio session

Interval training is a great way to start including higher intensity efforts into your cardio exercise.

Common exercise mistake over 40: Staying in the comfort zone

8. Ignoring pain

You know your body best. Listening to your body is really important to avoid injury and for long term health.

Pain can happen for many reasons during a fitness programme – due to injury to a muscle, tendon or ligament, muscle or body imbalances, improper technique, and arthritis can all contribute to pain during exercise.

There is a difference between pain and muscle discomfort. Any sharp pains during exercise should be a sign to stop exercising immediately.

If you experience muscle discomfort, even up to 48 hours after your workout, this could be DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), which is a sign that your body has worked hard and there is no need to worry.

Common exercise mistake over 40: Ignoring pain

9. Having an all or nothing mentality

It is common to have a weight loss or fitness goal with an intended plan to achieve the progress you are looking for. What do you do when you ‘fall off the wagon’?

If you miss one workout, do you feel like you have failed and decide it is not worth exercising for the rest of the week? When a workout or exercise session not go to plan, do you decide it’s not worth it and revert to your old routine rather than pushing yourself to do your best?

The expectation of perfection can hold you back from achieving your health and fitness goals. Listen to your body and leave room for change in your program and your journey.

If you expect perfection of yourself, it can keep you in the ‘all or nothing’ mentality; where it is easy to stay on the sofa watching Netflix and eating take away on the days when you are mentally or physically exhausted. 

Accept that life can be ‘lifey’ and that it is better to fit in any purposeful movement rather than giving up on yourself.

Common exercise mistake over 40: Having an all or nothing mentality

10. Not committing to consistent movement

Building a habit of daily movement is essential for both our body and our mind. Exercising on a regular basis will improve your energy levels and improve your health.

It is easy to find excuses not to exercise; you don’t have time, you don’t have the equipment, you don’t have the energy, you’re too tired. Stand up to your excuses and build the habit of moving your body.

Small, consistent action will add up to positive results.

Discipline is more important than motivation in consistently building exercise into your schedule. There are days when motivation will be in short supply.

In order to make progress with your health and fitness goals, you need to have the discipline to stick to your plan even when you may not ‘feel’ like it.

Keep the momentum going by doing something instead of nothing at all on the days when you are struggling to find the time or motivation to push yourself.

Common exercise mistake over 40: Not committing to consistent movement

You don’t need to join a gym or attend a group fitness class to increase your fitness and improve your health. Workouts don’t need to be long, sweat inducing sessions that are hard to fit into your schedule and difficult to motivate yourself to do.

Commit to regularly moving your body, whether that is with a 10-minute walk or a 5-minute strength session. Small actions over time make a significant change to your fitness and health.

Hutton Health offers monthly memberships and personalised programmes to empower you to workout from the comfort of your home, anytime, anywhere in the world.

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