Struggling to stay toned in middle age? 5 mistakes that women make when exercising

toned in middle age

1. Too Much Emphasis on Aerobic Activities and Not Enough on Strength Training

You have probably seen 20 men surrounding a chest press machine and rolled your eyes, why are they spending all of their time on the resistance machines when they could be benefitting from a high intensity circuit, or 40 minutes on the treadmill. Well, women can also be guilty of ignoring an effective form of training. While men tend to place too much emphasis on strength training, women are often guilty of the exact opposite issue – ignoring strength training completely in favor of cardio.

When we talk about strength training, we do not mean 30 reps of triceps kickbacks with a 3lb dumbbell – any rep range above 15 and you are basically doing a form of cardio! While cardio is fine, it is through a combination of the two that you will get the best fat loss results.

Strength training at higher intensities promotes something called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). Sometimes referred to as “after burn,” EPOC is an increased rate of oxygen intake following vigorous activity. During the post-workout recovery process, excess oxygen is used restore your body back to its resting state and to help it adapt to the exercise (stress) just performed.

The “after burn” also fuels your metabolism to return your body temperature and heart rate back to its pre-exercise state. Research shows that this increase in resting metabolic rate can last up to 72 hours after your workout with 24-48 hours being more the norm. Higher metabolism means more calories burned, so if changing body composition is your goal, this is critical component to success.

The more lean muscle tissue you have, the greater your ability to burn more calories. While cardiovascular training, especially steady-state cardio, burns calories during the exercise session itself, it does very little to promote the process of EPOC. It is important to remember that lean muscle tissue is very metabolically active (it burns calories at rest).

Adding in a quick 20 minutes of high intensity interval training at the end of a weights session will give you the best of both worlds.

secrets to help women stay fit in their 50s

2. Program Hopping

A woman may go to a boot camp class on Monday, a spinning class on Tuesday, a barre class on Wednesday, a yoga class on Thursday, a Pilates mat class on Friday, and then finish off her week with a hip hop bootylicious sculpt class on Saturday (Guilty! I made that last class up).

While any exercise is better than no exercise, the complete lack of an overriding plan will prevent you from getting any truly effective results.

Adding a little variety to your training program is not bad, you just need to be smart about it. Try doing the same total-body strength training routine on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Then, on Tuesday, mix it up with a spin class, try a boxing or kickboxing class on Thursday, and schedule in your favorite yoga class on Saturday. Try this schedule for a month; you will be much happier with the results.

3. Not Enough Protein in Your Diet

Research shows that 10 percent of women do not even meet the recommended dietary allowance of 46 grams of protein per day. To optimise body composition, you should aim to increase that to the double amount. One study from the University of Illinois found that when women doubled their protein intake (twice the RDA recommendation); they lost more body fat and experienced a greater improvement in body composition than those who followed a lower-protein diet.

Another study found that women report being less hungry throughout the day when eating a high-protein diet. It is tough to find a reputable study not supporting women eating more protein. Aim to include a protein source in every meal and snack.

4. Repeating the Same Workout Over And Over Again

For some women, it is often easier to “play it safe” and follow a routine they know they can do without problems. This may work in some areas but not in health and fitness. Repeating the same exercises day-in and day-out will not only lead to boredom but burnout, and plateaus. Adding some variety to your workouts can help ensure that your body is perpetually challenged.

Pro Tip: Staying indoors all the time will bore you. Hiking, swimming, jogging, and biking are all great ways to stay in shape and to switch up the routine!

5. Listening to your husband/boyfriend/guy friends too much

Let me clear myself up here, there are many men who are incredibly knowledgeable about female training and their advice can be valuable. Nevertheless, many women are the victims of misinformation and they do not see the progress that they desire.

I am a BIG advocate of women incorporating resistance training, and I am not saying that the style of training between men and women is different. But I will say that if you are trying to shed body fat and you are taking your husband’s advice of training like a body builder and drinking lots of protein shakes and are not happy with the results you are seeing you may want to rethink your strategy.

The takeaway from this should be that most (non-professional) people are quick to give out advice, but you have no way of knowing whether this advice is correct or not. Even if it is correct, it might not be relevant to your specific needs. Just because your friend found sumo squats really helped them, does not mean that the same exercise will work for you. Find a professional coach and get help from them.

running and weight loss

  • About the author: After building a reputation as a no-nonsense trainer to the stars in New York,  former model Joe Dowdell, above, pivoted from running one of America’s top gyms to delivering his knowledge and expertise on a global level. His one-of-a-kind online fitness coaching platform can now be accessed by absolutely anyone, anywhere in the world.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here