Fitness truths every woman over 40 should know. Hutton Health

Fitness truths every woman over 40 should know

1st December 2023

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Women over 40 often find themselves on a fitness, weight loss and health journey to adapt to their changing body.

Unravelling the truth behind fitness myths is crucial, especially for women navigating their 40s and beyond. In a world inundated with wellness advice, separating fact from fiction can be a daunting task, particularly when it comes to exercise, weight loss and health for women over 40.

This blog aims to debunk prevalent misconceptions surrounding fitness and health for women over 40. 

From addressing common myths about weightlifting and cardio to redefining the possibilities of starting or enhancing a fitness journey past 40, join us as we explore and dispel these myths to empower women to make informed decisions about their health and wellbeing.

How do fitness misconceptions make a fitness and health journey difficult for women over 40?

Fitness myths and misconceptions can significantly impact the fitness and health journey for women over 40 in several ways:

How do fitness misconceptions make a fitness and health journey difficult for women over 40?
  • Self-Doubt – When women believe common myths, they can become discouraged believing that they can’t build muscle or improve their fitness over 40. This mindset may hinder motivation and the willingness to start or maintain an exercise routine.
  • Ineffective Workout Strategies – Misconceptions about the effectiveness about certain types of exercise can lead women to follow ineffective or unsustainable fitness routines. For example, if women over 40 believe that cardio is the best exercise for weight loss, they may neglect strength training, missing out on its benefits for metabolism and overall health.
  • Increased Risk of Injury – Following misconceptions about fitness can lead to improper exercise techniques or pushing oneself too hard due to false beliefs. This can increase the risk of injury, especially if women over 40 overexert themselves while trying to follow misguided fitness advice.
  • Limit or Slow Progress – False beliefs about fitness can lead to stagnation in progress. For instance, if a woman believes that she can’t improve her flexibility or that her metabolism is irreversibly slow, she might not make efforts to work on these aspects and therefore miss out on potential improvements.
  • Mental Health Challenges – Constant exposure to fitness myths and misinformation can create stress, anxiety or frustration about one’s health and fitness journey. This mental strain can affect the overall wellbeing and motivation needed to stay committed to a fitness journey.

Fitness misconceptions can limit progress, discourage women over 40 from exploring new or different fitness strategies, and negatively impact their physical and mental wellbeing.

These common myths need to be dispelled to empower women to embrace healthier habits and achieve their fitness and goals effectively.

These are common myths I hear as a fitness and health coach

These are common myths I hear as a fitness and health coach


1. Looking for a ‘quick fix’.

Many women over 40 turn to fad diets or extreme exercise programmes to lose weight quickly. There are adverts everywhere you turn to ‘Lose 10 pounds in the next 30 days’, Get 6 pack abs’, or whatever claim may draw women in to purchase the diet or fitness regime that promises a quick fix.

Truth: There is no quick fix in the diet, weight loss and fitness world.

Extreme measures often lead to short-term results and can have detrimental effects on overall health, including metabolism, mental wellbeing, and vital organ functions.

Sustainable changes take time and should prioritise lifestyle changes that have a positive impact on health and wellbeing.


2. Cardio exercise is the quickest way to lose weight.

Many women often gravitate towards cardio machines at the gym or opt for running or walking outdoors, aiming to lose weight and improve their fitness levels.

Truth: While cardio is beneficial and an important part of a healthy routine, incorporating strength training and a balanced diet is equally important for weight loss.

While cardio exercises, like running or cycling, can burn a significant number of calories during the activity, weight loss is not solely determined by calories burned during exercise. The overall energy balance (calories in versus calories out) matters, including basal metabolic rate (BMR), daily activities, and diet.

The body adapts to cardio exercises over time, becoming more efficient at performing them. This adaptation can lead to plateaus in weight loss unless intensity or duration significantly increases, which may not always be sustainable or healthy.

Strength training and resistance exercises contribute to muscle building. As muscles require more energy, they can increase resting metabolic rate, leading to more calories burned even at rest.

Find out more about different types of exercise and elements of a good exercise plan

Hutton Health online fitness membership

3. You can’t start exercising over 40.

I often hear from women that they are worried about starting to exercise over 40 because they feel they are too old to begin. They are often fearful and feel like they are too unfit to start exercising or working out, and don’t know where to begin on their fitness journey.

Truth: It is never too late to start exercising. There are incredible benefits to your physical and mental health from exercising regardless of your age.

The human body is adaptable and responsive to exercise at any age. While there might be changes in metabolism and muscle mass as individuals age, starting exercise at or after 40 can still lead to significant improvements in overall fitness, strength, and health.

Find out more about exercising over 40 in this blog.


4. Weightlifting will make women bulky.

In society, there's a misconception surrounding the physique of women who regularly engage in weightlifting or strength training. The prevalent 'influencer' body portrayed on social media might mislead women over 40 into thinking that such exercises will result in a bulky, overly muscular appearance, potentially causing concern about losing their feminine look.

Truth: Strength training helps build lean muscle mass, which can enhance metabolism and improve overall strength without causing bulky muscles, especially for women due to differences in hormone levels.

While muscle mass tends to decline with age, engaging in resistance training or strength exercises can help build and maintain muscle strength. This can be particularly beneficial in preventing age-related muscle loss (sarcopenia) and improving functional abilities.


5.  Exercise sessions need to be at least 30 minutes and should leave your dripping in sweat to be effective.

Balancing multiple responsibilities such as work, family, household chores, and social commitments can be demanding for women over 40, leaving limited time and energy for lengthy exercise sessions. Striving for extended workouts that require significant time and effort can present challenges in finding the necessary motivation to commit to such routines consistently.

Truth: There are many forms of exercise, and the most effective type is the one that provides you with the motivation to move your body.

Various studies indicate that short workouts, including high-intensity exercises and movement breaks, can offer numerous health benefits for women over 40. These exercises can be effective for improving cardiovascular health, metabolism, mood, energy levels, muscle strength, and overall well-being, making them a practical option for those with limited time and energy.

Short bouts of exercise have been linked to improved mood and increased energy levels. A study published in the journal PLOS One in 2015 found that short walks or movement breaks throughout the day improved mood and reduced fatigue in women over 40.

Short workouts and movement breaks can be more manageable and easier to incorporate into busy schedules.

Hutton Health online fitness membership

6. Ab crunches are the best way to achieve a flat stomach.

Many women over 40 get discouraged by their changing body shape, and in response, start doing daily ab crunches in an effort to combat their changing waistline.

Truth: Targeted spot reduction is not effective. Doing ab crunches might strengthen and tone the muscles underneath the fat but doesn’t guarantee fat reduction specifically in that area.

Getting a flat stomach involves reducing overall body fat percentage. Even with strong abdominal muscles, if there's a layer of fat covering them, it won't give the appearance of a flat stomach. To achieve this, a combination of cardio exercises, a balanced diet, and strength training for the whole body is often necessary.


7. Flexibility decreases with age and can't be improved.

I used to think that stretching and yoga was a waste of time because it didn’t feel like I was sweating or working hard enough for my effort to be effective in my fitness journey.

Truth: Flexibility can be maintained and improved at any age through consistent and appropriate stretching and mobility exercises.

Sedentary lifestyles, lack of physical activity, and poor posture can contribute to decreased flexibility, regardless of age. Regular stretching and mobility exercises can counteract these effects.

Muscles have a remarkable ability to adapt and change. Even older individuals can improve flexibility through targeted stretching exercises that focus on specific muscle groups.

Maintaining flexibility is crucial for injury prevention and overall mobility, especially as we age.

It's never too late to prioritise your fitness, health and wellbeing. By starting a sustainable exercise routine now, you're investing in your future health and vitality. Remember, every small step today paves the way for a stronger, more energetic tomorrow.

*Always consult with a healthcare professional or fitness expert before starting any new exercise program, especially if you have specific health concerns or conditions.

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