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No matter your age, it’s never too late to exercise or start exercising to take care of your heart health and overall wellbeing. Talk to your doctor to get started.

Meg VanderHeg is a busy mum of three adult children and recently became a grandmother. While she always enjoyed being active and going to the gym, it wasn’t until her late 40s that she decided to become a personal trainer to help women lead a healthier lifestyle.

“I understand the challenges that come with trying to juggle exercise and healthy eating in these busy times,” she explains. “And I am so passionate about helping people, particularly older women, get strong, healthy and fit.”

Three years after her third daughter was born, Meg was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“My 35th birthday was spent in hospital having breast surgery,” she recalls. “It was not a fun few years, but I won the battle and decided joining a gym for the yoga and pilates classes would help in my recovery. That was when my love affair with the gym really started.

“And then with my husband and kids’ encouragement, I decided to change careers and have never looked back.”

As a 52-year-old personal trainer with a specialty in women's health, Meg has a lot of clients at a similar age and stage. And she’s also got a wealth of advice about fitness for older women and men.

Here are more of her personal experiences and top tips to help get people moving in mid-life, in her own words.

Strength and resistance training is important as we age

A lot of my clients think lifting weights will make them ‘bulky’. And they spend so much time doing high-intensity cardio workouts but never get results.

I used to be exactly the same. I spent years restricting whole food groups and doing the most ridiculous fad diets. I’d do back-to-back cardio classes, boxing and running on the treadmill. As long as I was sweating, I thought I was working out properly. Even walking was done at the fastest pace possible!

Then over the last 10 years I slowly discovered weights on the gym floor instead of pump or circuit classes with baby dumbbells. And I learnt as much as I could about the benefits of resistance training and how it could support us through peri and post menopause, joint health, mental health and heart health to name a few.

If you’re new to resistance training, start small. Just 30 minutes on two days a week is a great start, then increase to three to four days is all that’s needed.

Make sure you give yourself rest days. Our bodies need recovery even more as we age.

Baby steps and make it fun

When clients first come to me, they often say, "Why aren't I losing weight? I barely eat anything!" But soon they realise they feel better once they start to fuel their bodies, not starve it.

I always start off with small changes, like increase protein slowly, drink one more cup of water, add more whole foods – baby steps. I don't want it to all be too hard straight off!

Pull back and let your body recover. We have come to learn that less is better.

Try hikes, walks, swimming, bike riding or even ballroom dancing. Spend time playing with your kids and grandkids.

Keeping active is crucial to longevity, but it doesn't need to be hard, boring or fatiguing.

Train with the right program for you

Resistance training is essential at any age, but strength training becomes even more necessary as we go through menopause and beyond. BUT it needs to be a progression of learning and correct technique before increasing the weights. If you can, I recommend investing in yourself and your future and joining a gym with well-educated trainers. Or hire a personal trainer (PT) that will provide a bespoke program for you and your body.

There are now one in three women suffering with incontinence, and there is no stigma or shame in talking about this openly or seeking help. Many women are worried about joining a gym because they are embarrassed about bladder leakage. There is so much support out there if this is you. A good PT will look after your pelvic floor as well as all the other muscles in your body.

They will take into consideration your external stresses and energy levels. They will focus on mobility and joint health. It should always be about YOU!

Be kind to yourself and your body

Be kind to yourself and your body. You don't have to push as hard as you maybe once did. Train for where your energy levels are now, not where they used to be. Accept this new phase of life you're moving towards and embrace it.

It can be so empowering to accept where you are in life and find a new you, and a new fitness routine to embark upon.

Prioritise sleep, practise good sleep habits and aim for quality sleep. Remember with everything: consistency is key over perfection.

Remember, if you’re starting a new exercise routine, it’s always best to run it past your doctor first, particularly if you haven’t exercised in a long time or have other health concerns.


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