Nature is evolving and ever changing. And so, does the human body. Throughout your life, your body goes through many phases, from infancy, to adolescence, to adulthood, to old age. These changes affect your hormones and body composition. Changes in muscle, bone, joints, hair and skin are normal as you grow old. Muscle loss is a common outcome of aging. Muscle loss affects your posture, manner of walking, causes weakness and slowed movement.
For women over 40, growing older means a dip in strength and energy. (Muscle changes in women begin in the 40s- U.S. National Library of Medicine). Day-to-day tasks such as walking, climbing stairs, carrying groceries and other chores can become quite challenging. The reason for all of this is loss of muscle mass but there’s a lot more to it.
Common Effects of Aging in Women 40+
Some of the common effects of aging in women over 40 are:
- Loss of bone mass/density after menopause.
- Change in hormone production.
- Changes in the nervous system.
- Loss of fluid and other minerals from spinal disk causing it to become thinner, shorter and stooped.
- Stiffer joints, reduced reflexes and calcification.
- Cartilage loss and changes in finger joints.
- Loss of muscle tissue and body mass.
- Overall decrease in height and crooked posture.
- Weakening joints can result in inflammation, pain, and deformity.
- Drop in strength and endurance.
- Shakiness in muscles and unusual sensations.
Women over 40’s experience more muscle mass loss.
Along with stomach, back and butts, legs and knees; thighs are a major problem area in women over 40s. Today, I’ll be focusing on how you can strengthen your thighs at home with easy exercises that do not require any special equipment. So, if you’re a woman in your 40s, or soon to be, and want to make a positive and lasting change in your life, then sit tight and read on.
All the conditions which we’ve covered above and many more can be avoided through “strength training”. Strength training is the perfect way to keep your muscles strong and healthy.
But before we talk about the basic exercises that you can do at home to strengthen your thighs, let’s first understand the importance of having strong thighs.
Why Is It Important to Have Strong Thighs?
Stronger thighs are important for balance, mobility and flexibility as you age. Strengthen your thighs, and you can gain new muscle mass, maintain bone density and good overall health. There are many muscles in and near the thigh area which affects the joint motion of the hip and knee. A thigh itself has three main muscle groups namely quadriceps, hamstrings and the adductors.
The strengthening exercises mentioned here will cover your knees, hips & thighs.
Quadriceps is a large and the strongest muscle in the human body. It bends the leg at the hip (lifting the leg toward the belly) and extends the knee (straightening the leg from a bent knee position). It is made up of four muscles and is located in the front of the thigh.
Hamstrings is a powerful muscle group made up of three muscles. It is located at the back of the thigh. The hamstring muscles work together to extend the thigh (pull the upper leg backwards) and bend the knee (bring the calf toward the back of the thigh).
Adductors are made up of five muscles which moves the thigh towards the midline of the body. It is responsible for the shape of the thigh. Abductors on the other hand pull the thigh out sideways away from the midline of the body. They’re located on the side of the hip.
These are the main muscle groups responsible for different types of leg movements such as flexion or bending, extension, adduction (movement of a limb or a body part towards the body), abduction (movement of a limb or a body part away from the body), and rotation.
The thigh exercises we are about to go over will activate many muscle groups at once. Strength training for thighs is more like a complete lower body workout. These exercises will cover your knees, hips and of course thighs for greater muscle balance and maximum calorie burn.
In case, you want to increase the intensity or modify the stimuli, you can use resistance loop bands or other forms of bands or resistance devices.
Getting started on strengthening your thighs after 40s may not sound easy but it’s not as tough as you might think. You don’t need to hit a gym or hire a personal trainer, though this might be recommended in case you have any condition, or simply feel better when led by a professional. You can practice these exercises at home, on your own, and without any special equipment.
Strength training exercises for thighs should last 20-30 minutes per session and 2-3 times a week.
(In case you have any chronic conditions such as arthritis or osteoporosis, consulting with a doctor or a physician is recommended).
(Source- Mayo Clinic)
It is recommended to consult with a doctor or a physician if you have any chronic conditions.
So, without further ado, let’s find out the basic exercises that you can use to strengthen your thighs, improve your metabolism and gain muscle mass.
1. First things first, before you start exercising, it’s always better to do some light stretching and warm up with 5-10 minutes of light cardio exercises such as walking, jogging, or biking. It is also essential to stretch your legs’ muscles a bit before, and longer and deeper after exercising for a safe and effective workout.
(Tip: Breathe regularly to maintain proper flow of blood and oxygen to your muscles.)
2. Lunges are undoubtedly the most effective thigh exercise for women. It covers your hamstrings, quads, and glutes all at the same time. It’s the perfect workout for your lower body. Lunges can be performed in various ways. Walking lunges, Push Back lunges and Inner/Outer Thigh lunges are some of the best lunges that you can do easily.
An important thing to keep in mind during any lunge exercise is to keep your upper body as straight as possible. Contract and tighten your core muscles to keep your back straight.
Go as deep as you can without compromising a correct posture.
Keep your upper body as straight as possible when performing lunges.
3. Squats is another popular and basic exercise which impacts the whole lower body especially the quadriceps muscles. There are many types of squats that you can practice depending upon what you want, and your fitness level. The most common kind of squats is bodyweight squat. Lifting your own weight is the place to start. As you progress, you may add some weight to your squat exercises, or stay with your body and change the kind or add more reps. It’s important to keep up the stimulus to maintain strong muscles.
(You can also do squat jumps or sumo squats if you are fit enough and want different stimuli.)
4. Step-ups is a great exercise to strengthen your legs and glutes. It is a simple exercise which requires only stairs but don’t take it too lightly. Performing this exercise needs a lot of focus and if done right it is extremely effective in improving your balance and strength.
5. Side Hip raise is another beneficial exercise for your thighs and buttocks. As we grow older, certain areas of our body such as hipbones get more vulnerable to fractures. This exercise needs just a little movement in a controlled manner to shape your lower body and strengthen your hip bones.
(Note: Don’t exaggerate the movement.)
6. Knee Extension is designed to strengthen weak knees by targeting the front of the thigh. Isn’t it amazing how a simple exercise like sitting on a chair, extending one leg and flexing your ankle can be so useful! This exercise greatly helps in erasing the symptoms of arthritis.
7. Knee Curl is an excellent exercise for hamstrings or the rear upper leg. Walking and climbing becomes easier by practicing this exercise on regular basis.
8. Toe stands is an easy exercise. You can do it anywhere, anytime. Standing in a queue? Waiting for your turn? No problem! Try this simple toe stand exercise and build strong legs. Toe stands strengthens your calves and ankles and brings back stability and balance in your posture.
9. Cooling-off is just as important as warming up for an effective workout. Stretching is a great way to cool down. It loosens the tightness in your muscles, improves their flexibility, and reduces the chances of injuries. Remember to breath deep while stretching.
Cooling-off prevents injuries, improves flexibility, and loosens muscle tightness.
A few stretches developed specifically for thighs are:
Hamstring stretch can be performed by standing tall next to a chair, then bending forward at the hip. Now rest your arms on the chair seat with bent elbows and erect back. Feel the tension on the back of lower and upper leg. It is a simple stretching technique to improve flexibility.
Quadriceps stretch helps in relaxing the thigh muscles at the front. Stand behind a chair and hold its headrest with your left hand. Now bend your right leg backwards and grab the foot with your right hand. If you can’t reach your foot then go as far as you can but try to have your thigh in a perpendicular position to the ground. Once you feel the tension in the front of your thigh, hold for 20-30 seconds and do the same on the other leg. This stretching is quite beneficial in releasing the tightness from muscles after a workout and should be used often.
(Exercise tip: Always do these exercises in a slow and controlled motion for maximum output.)
(Most of these exercises have been researched at Tufts University in collaboration with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)
You can use this link to check out the proper procedures for these and many more advanced exercises.
Prevention is better than cure!
Thigh exercises can contribute to your health in major ways. Improved metabolism, greater functional strength and better nervous system are some of the many health benefits of thigh exercises.
Not only does a proper thigh workout aid you with physical injuries and muscle imbalances, but it also gives you a stabilized posture and a balanced body.
Overall, it gives you the strength and confidence to go by your daily lives and meet your goals and desires.
Remember, “We do not stop exercising because we grow old, we grow old because we stop exercising.” – Kenneth Cooper.
A freelance writer, a poet and an avid reader. He’s a passionate wordsmith who believes in writing content which is simple, beautiful and informative. He’s a practised communicator coached by British Academy.
Apart from being a playful scribbler, he’s a hardcore music fan and loves exploring space and science. He is also a spiritual soul and fitness enthusiast. Yoga, meditation and workout are some of his favourite health activities.