Fit, forty and fabulous
Ladies, hitting forty doesn’t have to be a ‘downhill from here’ story. In fact, it shouldn’t be. It’s the perfect time to take stock of your fitness regime (or start one!). Why? Because at this point in your life, it’s what your body needs to stay strong and healthy – and what you need to feel fit and fabulous.
There’s no getting away from the fact that in your forties, your body changes. Bone mass starts to naturally decline and when menopause kicks in, it accelerates. When bone density gets too low, bones become weak and brittle, making them more likely to fracture or break. And before you know it, you’re knocking on the door of osteoporosis.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
By building regular weight-bearing exercise into your workout, you can strengthen your bones and make them denser. It’s that simple. But don’t just take our word for it – give it a go yourself by trying our top 3 simple exercises for building kick-ass bone mass.
If you’ve never used them, these big chunks of iron can seem daunting at first. But they’re a brilliant piece of fitness equipment for building strength, stamina, endurance and flexibility. What’s more, rather than bulking your muscles up like a hulking body builder, you’ll end up with stronger, leaner muscles – not to mention healthy bones.
 Kettlebell swing
Here’s how: Do 200 repetitions of kettlebell swings as quickly as possible. Don’t freak! You’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll be done once you get into the swing of it. In fact, it should take between 5-10 minutes. With this technique, aim for chest-height swings. But once you’ve perfected this, you can lift all the way over your head.
- Choose a kettlebell you can swing with while still challenging you – otherwise there’s no point. But feel free to practice your technique on a lighter one before you workout.
- Stand over the kettlebell with your feet hip-width apart with your chest up, and shoulders back and down.
- Squat down and grip the kettlebell, with your palms facing you and thumbs wrapped loosely around the handle.
- Stand up tall, and squeeze your shoulder blades together while keeping your arms long and loose. You’re now in position to swing!
- Soften through your knees and shift your bodyweight into your heels, lower your butt back and down, so you’re in a squatting position.
- Push through your heels and blast through your hips to swing the kettlebell upward. With arms extended, aim for chest height. Then while contracting your core, snap through your hips, keep your arms extended, and squeeze your glutes for the downward swing between your legs.
- Repeat 200 times.
TIP: On the downward swing, let the weight do the work while you get your body ready for the upswing. Remember to shift your bodyweight back into your heels while moving from your hips.
This dynamic movement uses your own bodyweight to build strength in your thighs and butt. But don’t overdo it. It’s a good idea to let those muscle groups rest a day or two between sessions, to heal and grow stronger.
As with all exercises, the trick is getting the technique right to maximise the benefits and reduce the risk of injury.
- Position your feet shoulder-width apart and pointing straight ahead.
- Squat down, sliding your hips down and back.
- Keep the curve of your lower back, and your heels flat on the floor.
- Move your hips down lower than your knees.
- Rise from the squat by pushing up through your heels, using your glutes to return to the standing position.
[2.] Air squat
TIPS: Make sure your knees don’t project out further than your toes, otherwise you’ll feel the pain that comes with putting strain on your knee joints. Your back should stay in its natural curved position – not rounded out. And be careful not to drop your shoulders forward – keep your eyes planted on a focal point in front of you and your body will follow.
Elbow and toe planks
If you think the plank is easy, think again. True – it’s looks simple enough, but looks are deceiving. This gruelling movement (or lack of) will put your core strength through its paces – we’re talking abs, hips, lower back and shoulders.
While there are lots of variations of the plank, one of the most basic and effective for women of all ages is the elbow (or forearm) and toe position. And, like the air squat, uses the weight of your body as resistance to do all the work.
 Elbow and toe plank
- Position yourself on a firm but comfortable surface, like a yoga mat, on your hands and knees.
- Place your forearms on the ground with your elbows bent 90 degrees – your shoulders should be positioned directly over your elbows.
- Extend your legs out behind you, positioning your weight your toes, and push through your forearms and toes to raise your legs and core off the ground – you should be in a straight line from head to toe.
- Engage your core by pulling your belly button into your spine, squeezing your shoulder blades together and down your back, and tightening your glutes as you push your heels back.
- Try holding for 30 seconds, but don’t worry if you can’t do more than 5-10 seconds to start with. The more you do it, the stronger you’ll get and the longer you’ll be able to hold the position.
TIP: A common plank mistake is letting your stomach drop to the floor. It’s a sure sign your core is not engaged. So stop. Return to the start position on your hands and knees and try again, engaging your muscle groups to hold your body straight.
These are just three simple ways to get started – but don’t stop there. Think dancing, yoga, boxing, weight training…the world’s your bone-building oyster. Just don’t put it off.
– Team Anarchy45
Cover image: Sports image created by Freepink – pull ups