Cardio workouts - Are they good for women over 40? Not so good for you? Let’s dive right in!
By Cheryl Coppa
It’s pretty common knowledge that CARDIO is great for heart health. As we learn more and more about fitness and in particular fitness with age, we come across information that can be confusing, especially for women over 40. For example, you will hear that cardio is not good for women over 40 as it might raise cortisol levels. So what is a woman to do? Let’s break this down so you have a clear understanding of what all this means and how to navigate cardio as a woman over 40.
Even if you Hate Cardio, you can Still Reap its Benefits
First things first, if you hate any type of exercise, then simply don't do it! If you hate something, this will just give you dread and ultimately create stress. So that’s easy enough, right? But don’t take that as a free pass to do nothing, because your health and life depend on it, literally! Stay tuned however how even if you hate cardio, you can still reap its benefits, because it is VERY IMPORTANT for heart health, especially as a woman over 40.
Now on the other hand, if you LOVE cardio and you are a runner, by all means, continue to do so! The fact that you love it, means that it is stress-reducing. So in this case, don’t even worry about the cortisol levels. You are doing an act that relieves your stress so keep at it because stress is a killer and the foundation of many diseases and illnesses and anything you can do to reduce that, you are in a great position that is better than most other women.
Heart Disease Tops the List as the Leading Cause of Death for Women Over 40 in the U.S., With Cancer Following at #2
Let’s throw out a very important fact that can’t be ignored: Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women over 40 in the United States. Cancer is #2.
“The risk of heart disease goes up with age. It’s the leading cause of death in women over age 40, especially after menopause. Each year, more than 400,000 U.S. women die of heart disease. This translates to approximately one death every minute.“
Dr. Ben Levine a sports cardiologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center states that the heart gets smaller and stiffer as we age.
Even in Midlife Year you can Still Slow the Decline and Rejuvenate the Heart
Even if you are a healthy adult, if you are not active in a disciplined way, meaning regularly like every day, not just once in a while, your heart does get less flexible, more stiff, and just isn’t as good at processing oxygen as it used to be. This is something that one might really start to feel in their 50s and 60s. Feeling breathless or other signs of heart failure. Fortunately, for those of us in our midlife years getting in shape is still an option! You can still slow this decline and even revive the heart so to speak! Read this study of how exercise, in particular, cardio/HIIT helped restore the aging heart.
“We took 50-year-old hearts and turned the clock back to 30-35-year-old hearts. Their hearts processed oxygen more efficiently and were notably less stiff.”, says Levine.
Wherever you search, the recommendation will be 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a week. That comes out to 21 minutes a day, ONLY 21 minutes a day! Bring this to 5 days a week? This would be 30 minutes, 5 days a week. You can see now why exercise is a lifestyle choice just a “challenge” or a fad for a vacation or the summer.
So this brings me to HOW you can reap the benefits of cardio without feeling like you are overdoing it, or risking increasing cortisol levels. The answer is HIIT! This stands for High Intense Interval Training. All this means is that you are working hard, for short bursts of time. So your heart rate goes up and down, up and down, kind of sounds like exercise, right? It could be a burst of activity ranging from 20 seconds to 2 minutes followed by a short rest and then repeated several times. Very different from going on a long-distance run.
Let’s do a demo sesh! Follow this short video for a nice heart-healthy routine, You don’t need any equipment, but if you have light weights, grab them to get a little muscle burn as well! Read more about HIIT from our exercise physiologist, Shirit Kamil-Rosenberg.
This video is a little taste of exactly how we HIIT (cardio) here at Ola Ka Ola! Without a doubt, your heart rate got up, right?
This is different from how your heart elevates during a strength training session. Your heart races, you are breathless, and your whole body is getting an exhilarating workout! You also might have experienced your muscles burning. When you train at Ola Ka Ola, no time is wasted, and may as well fire up those muscles because we know that a certain part of the longevity equation is strongly based on strength training as well.
Longevity equation for women is Strength-Cardio-Flexibility, and you can get that all in minimal time! 30-minute movement deposits that have a return in better movement for longer and add LIFE to your years are even YEARS to your life!
So much of our health and longevity is linked to exercise and the different kinds of exercise needed as we age. This is how we make it doable and enjoyable at Ola Ka Ola!
For a 5-6 day week, I would recommend:
3-4 strength training days
Simple enough equation, right? This will get you your -
Mobility & flexibility
“We cannot always find women that have the same mission as us in our close circle, that’s why we have here a community, a virtual community of hundreds of women who make movement a part of their lives as part of their longevity plan, and we push one another”
You know what to do, maybe you have always known what to do, so what makes it stick?
Having a plan laid out for you! So when you take the time to work out you are not wasting time guessing or trying to figure out what you need to do. Have the plan and then just do it. You can do it without ever leaving your house.
Don’t have motivation?
Well, truth be told, none of us really do, it comes and goes, and it’s not something you can rely on. You need to just surround yourself with those who are disciplined and have a similar mission as you. I’m sure you have heard something like this before … Hang around 5 alcoholics, you will become the 6th. Hang around 5 fit individuals and you will become the 6th!
And when I say fit, this doesn’t mean 6 pack sculpted body, you can certainly achieve this midlife and beyond as well, it just takes more structure and even more discipline.
What I am referring to when I say “fit” is a healthy, stable heart; not being breathless after going up the stairs, strong bones to prevent fractures, mobility; being able to get on and off the ground with no assistance, strong; able to push weight over your head, core strength; knowing how to properly engage your core to protect your spine as you lift kids, pets, grandkids, household items, strong pelvic floor; no leaks or pain. THIS is FIT!
Back to who you surround yourself with, this is true, and while we cannot always find this in our circle, we have here a community, a virtual community of hundreds of women who make movement a part of their lives as part of their longevity plan. Wherever you are, whatever your circumstance, this can be you.
WELCOME to your longevity journey - Let’s start NOW
About Cheryl Coppa