There was a time when many women avoided exercise-and strength training in particular-for fear of becoming overly muscular. But times have changed. Today, we understand that exercise is essential for reducing the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis. And exercise not only helps tone the body, it can have a profound impact on how you feel as you grow older. A variety of aerobic activities and resistance exercises are best for enhancing a woman’s overall health and well-being. As for building oversized muscles, those fears are largely unfounded. A woman’s body type and genetic make-up determine how quickly and easily she may gain muscle.
# Walking: Walking is a simple, effective way to improve aerobic endurance and reduce stress, while also decreasing the risk of coronary heart disease.
# Squats: Done properly, squats safely target the major muscles of the lower body-the glutes, quadriceps and hamstrings-all in one movement. Building up these muscles increases the number of calories the body burns even while at rest, which helps aid in weight control, and also improves overall strength.
# Lunges: Like the squat, the lunge works the hip and thigh area, but it helps stretch the hip flexors as well. The lunge is also important for leg strength, balance and the prevention of osteoporosis of the hips.
# Crunches: Best done on a stability ball, crunches create strong abdominal muscles, which are the key to a strong core. The abdominal area helps support the lower back and the spine, which keep the body in proper alignment. It is especially important for women to keep this area toned before and after pregnancy.
# Back Extension or Cobra: The back extension and cobra yoga pose help strengthen the lower back, which stabilizes the core and helps keep the body in proper alignment. These muscles in the lower back are used in nearly every activity.
# Row: The row, performed either on a machine or with dumb bells one arm at a time, is great for posture, upper-back strength and osteoporosis prevention.
# Pull-ups: The pull-up strengthens and defines the back muscles including the latissimus dorsi and the rhomboids, as well as the deltoids and biceps. Keeping these muscles strong can help prevent the gradual stooping that often occurs with age. Since it takes time to work up enough strength to do a full pull-up without a spotter or assistance, a chair may be used until it is no longer necessary.
# Push-ups: The push-up is a great upper-body exercise that helps define and strengthen the deltoids, triceps and the pectoralis muscles. Since not all women can do a full push-up, the modified version is beneficial as well.
# Triceps Dips: As women age and tend to use their arms less, they lose muscle. A simple triceps dip, which can be performed nearly anywhere including an office chair, helps keep the back of the arms toned and strong.
# Reverse Dumbbell Fly: This exercise works the muscles of the upper-back, which helps keep the shoulders from naturally falling forward. This is a great exercise for improving posture and helping to prevent the rounding of the back and osteoporosis.