The Benefits of Strength and HIIT Training

As we age, we decline in muscle mass and bone density quite rapidly, and one of the only ways to counteract this decline, is to lift heavier weights. (Note; protein intake should also be considered too) Lifting weights is a stimulus for creating lean muscle mass and decreasing visceral fat, especially around the tummy which is common in perimenopause and menopausal women. Yes, we also do a form of resistance training on the reformer (which is also extremely beneficial) but it’s the actual heavy load that is important when it comes to the benefits outlined above. 

I know may have seen our new ‘heavy weights’ in studio, which look way more scary than they actually are may I add! So, let me reassure you that a) they are not as heavy as they look and b) if you’re new to lifting weights, you will build up to the heavier weights, don’t worry we won’t throw you in at the deep end! 

Lifting heavy weights has so many additional benefits to muscle and bone density growth, such as, better glucose control, meaning less insulin/blood sugar spikes, which again can lead to weight gain around the middle. And like Pilates, weight lifting improvs strength around the joints, meaning more support and improved balance and coordination, so that you are less prone injuries in every day life, which is so beneficial as we age. Did you know that when you lift weights, you will continue to burn more calories through the rest of the day after your workout is done? Why? Because muscle burns more calories than any other tissue. 

Check out our brand new Strength Pilates classes at PPUK. We recommend adding at least one of these classes to your regular Pilates sessions per week. 

The Benefits of HIIT Training:

Now we know not all of you will be a fan of HIIT workouts, but let me tell you the benefits and how we can help you introduce it into your training schedule and reap the benefits. HIIT, alongside Pilates and strength training is super beneficial again for all of us, especially women post forty. Improving our cardiovascular strength is vital, especially with age. Did you know that 80% of women between 40 – 60 have one or more risk factors for heart disease? Therefore, challenging your heat rate with help improve heart strength and help combat the risk of disease. 

Like strength training, HIIT is a stimuli for decreasing visceral fat and targeting the ‘middle age spread’. However this is only the case when working in your MHR (max heat rate) zone as opposed to steady state cardio such as running, when the heart rate is not increased as much. 

HIIT can often be confused with cardio, but the two are very different. Cardio can also be described as zone 2 training, where it’s hard work, but you can still hold a light conversation and keep going for a long period of time, like running or aerobics for example. This is not the most beneficial form of training for women post 40. Whereas HIIT is performed for short periods of time, such as 30 seconds on, 30 seconds rest. You should be going all out, so by the time you get to that rest, you really need it. This provides the stimulus we need as women over 40 to help combat the changes taking place in our bodies.


How to find your MHR 

Working in your MHR zone is easy to calculate: Simply deduct your age from 220, so for example if you are 45 like me, your MHR is 175. During your HIIT training you ideally want to work towards reaching around 90% of that number, so in this case you would be aiming for around 157 beats per minute (BPM). We recommend measuring your heart rate during your HIIT class with a smart watch or heart rate monitor. 

HIIT is also said to reduce inflammation, which is a common factor in menopausal women and is linked to menopausal ‘bloating’ which many women complain of post forty. And again, unlike long endurance cardio such as running, HIIT actually helps to reduce cortisol, which as we know can lead to an increase in belly fat – yet another link to women over forty. 

But, I get it. HIIT is not for everyone, if you’re working with an injury or if you’re overweight and unfit, or maybe you have a weak pelvic floor due to childbirth or menopause itself, then you may be wondering if HIIT is right for you? Well, the honest answer is, it may not be. However, it may be a case of building up to it, we will always give a low impact option (no jumping) which will still drive the heart rate in the right direction and maybe when you’re fitter and stronger, you will be able to take the higher intensity options. But there are many different ways of performing HIIT and if jumping around on the floor doesn’t do it for you, you could try HIIT on a spin bike, skier, rowing machine or of course sprint intervals outdoors. The essential part of HIIT is to reach your MHR. 

Check out our brand new HIIT Pilates classes at PPUK. We recommend adding at least one of these classes to your regular Pilates sessions per week. 

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