Spinning isn’t the optimal exercise for women over 40. Here’s why spinning doesn’t work, and what you should do instead.

A lot of women we’ve worked with in their forties have tried spinning, or other gym classes, as a way to lose weight and tone up. Something we see time and time again is women who are doing intense cardio sessions every week, working really hard, but seeing no results in the mirror.

This can be incredibly frustrating when you’re putting in all that effort but not seeing any results in the mirror.

The reason this happens is simple. Spinning and gym classes are not the ideal way to drop a dress size when you’re over forty.

In today’s blog, we’re going to explain exactly why spinning doesn’t give the best results.

You can also listen to these tips on our podcast.

What is spinning?

First thing’s first, what’s spinning?

  • It’s effectively HIIT training (high-intensity interval training) on a bike
  • It’s often done to music
  • It’s very high energy
  • It seems quite fun!

It can work really well… for the right person. In our experience, it generally doesn’t work very well for women in their 40s and 50s who want to lose weight.

We’re not saying it never works for a women in their 40s or 50s… but it’s not the easiest way to lose weight. In fact, it can actually lead to very poor results for the majority of women we work with.

Why spinning doesn’t work

Intense cardio spikes cortisol levels which can block weight loss

Women’s bodies change with age, and not just due to menopause. The way the body deals with stress changes for women over forty. Stress spikes the hormone cortisol, which is good in short spurts. But it’s bad if it’s high for long periods of time. 

For women, this stress response increases three times more with age than for men. Interval training, such as spinning, puts a lot of stress on the body. This can make it much harder to lose weight, especially when your life is already pretty stressful.

The majority of women we work with inside our Fit Over 40 program:

  • Have a stressful high-pressure job
  • Have the responsibility of looking after the family

HIIT training, on top of that, is going to mean you’re flooding the body with cortisol 24/7. Weight loss is going to be much harder.

If you’re going through menopause, this effect will be even more significant.

Cardio burns muscle (especially longer durations)

Muscle is what makes you feel firm, toned and youthful. It’s something that’s easily lost when older and harder to build. Having more muscle also increases your metabolism, making it much easier to maintain and lose weight.

Having muscle is important, especially if you want to lose weight and maintain a leaner figure with ease.

However, most forms of cardio don’t actually build muscle, especially as you get older, and the body doesn’t retain muscle that well. Many approaches actually burn muscle for energy.

This will…

  • Make you feel more flabby and less toned
  • Slow down your metabolism
  • Accelerate ageing

Cardio increases appetite

We speak to loads of clients who’ve done cardio in the past, or do the occasional gym class. They might burn 300-400 calories during the class, but they often report they feel starving afterwards.

It’s very easy to eat a few biscuits over the course of the afternoon. So you can easily end up eating back all the calories AND more. This is not especially helpful when the main benefit of cardio exercise for attempting to get in shape is the calorie burn…

The afterburn effect of cardio is small

The afterburn effect is simply additional energy expenditure that occurs after exercise. The technical term is “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption” or EPOC, which clues you in as to what’s going on.

You see, after you work out, your body must perform a variety of tasks to recover and return to a resting state. This includes:

  • Replenishment of oxygen stores
  • Replenishment of ATP stores
  • Replenishment of creatine stores
  • Removal of lactic acid
  • Reparation of muscle

These processes require oxygen, so oxygen consumption rises after exercise. This costs energy, so additional calories are burned above the resting rate. Thus, the afterburn effect.

Research shows weightlifting’s afterburn effect is fairly long. If someone’s basal metabolic rate is 2,000 calories, they might burn an additional 200 calories over the course of the post-workout recovery period.

For cardio, the afterburn effect is much smaller.

What can you do instead?

Spinning and high-intensity cardio like running put a lot of stress on the body. This is fine if your life is very relaxed and easy and you’re in your 20s and 30s. However, after turning forty, it’s very important to keep stress levels under control.

Therefore, it’s better to focus on exercise that will still get good results. But that does it without spiking stress hormone levels too high.

Focus on low-impact strength training. Low-impact strength training (LIST training) involves lifting weights in a controlled manner. This still burns calories like other forms of exercise, but it also has a number of added benefits.

It keeps stress hormone levels low, so that your body is kept in a state where it’s easier to lose weight. It increases your muscle mass, which means you’ll feel firm and toned, as well as increasing your metabolism.

It also helps to increase your bone density, which helps to combat osteoporosis. Doing this 3-4 times per week consistently is the key to seeing amazing results.

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