Our perceptions of what a mature woman should look like are shifting as a result of a new generation of breathtakingly fit women in their 50s and beyond, with insanely toned bodies. They are encouraging us to live healthier, more active lives than we have been doing so far.
Nicole Kidman has it all -— sculpted arms, throbbing biceps, and a toned torso. So do Angelina Jolie, Natalie Portman, Queen Letizia, and even Mandira Bedi.
These 50-somethings have established a new trend of must-have body features that the rest of the world covets. Once thought to be masculine and tomboyish, high-profile women’s ‘buff’ look, with well-defined triceps and biceps, is now seen as a sign of health and has become fashionable in the most exclusive circles.
But how difficult is it for an average 50-plus woman to achieve the hot bod of celebrities? How will it affect the other aspects of their lives? While it's true that Kidman’s natural build represents a small minority of people, the emphasis is less on her leanness and more on her strength. It’s a good reminder that no matter our age, investing in strength training is always a good idea.
Payal Gidwani Tiwari“Building muscle after 50 is not only important for a great-looking physique, it’s also essential if you look forward to a long life of healthy aging in a strong body. Building muscle is about a mix of diet, exercise, training and hard work at any age,” explains Payal Gidwani Tiwari, fitness and yoga experts in Bollywood and the author of Body Goddess. If you want to look muscular or lean, she says the key is to make yourself fit from the inside out. “So if they start treating their workout routines as a daily lifestyle and not a fad, they will be much healthier and fitter because today, the 50s are the new 30s,” says Tiwari, who applauds celebrities for serving as role models for the 45+ generations.
Looking incredible does take time
Samir JauraSamir Jaura, Farhan Akhtar’s personal trainer for 17 years, points out that men have higher testosterone levels than women, making it easier for them to gain muscle and burn fat. On the other hand, “Women’s oestrogen levels are higher, making it more difficult for them to gain muscle and lose fat,” Samir explains. “Maintaining a healthy and strong body is possible at any age. But it takes time to look this good, and these celebrities are known to work out six days a week. And you have to work hard to get their bodies; it’s not like you decide to get that body at 50 and it just happens,” says Samir, who worked with Farhan Akhtar on career-defining films like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and Toofan.
Kiran DemblaKiran Dembla, bodybuilding champion and celebrities fitness trainer, says, “Few people understand how difficult it is to build muscle. The fact that you’re pursuing it and being recognised, as with any sport, is very powerful mentally. We have a tendency to sexualize bodybuilding, and I believe this is an aspect that is often overemphasised. Despite the opposition, it all comes back to confidence. When you approach it with a positive attitude, your body will reflect that. Not only do you need a strong mind, but you also need a strong body.”
Bodybuilding gave her a lot of confidence. “Life suddenly seemed like an adventure, and I wanted to try everything. Life does not mandate that you remain in the kitchen until the age of 50, after which you will gradually die. Consider going in a different direction; this will allow you to stand out from the crowd. This frame of mind enabled me to pursue my insatiable desire to do something for myself,” says Kiran, whose client list includes Tamannaah and Anushka Shetty.
The importance of eating well
However, fitness is only one component of the equation. Diet is just as important, if not more so. “Nutrition and diet should be prioritised when building muscle mass. Protein consumption is essential for muscle development. Men and women can gain strength and muscle at any age,” says Jacqueline Babitha Xavier, Marathon coach and runner, fitness addict, and celebrities trainer. Regular exercise and healthy eating habits help many women over the age of 50 to look and feel their best. “Start lifting weights two or three days per week, doing 10 sets per muscle with about 8-15 reps per set, for muscle building after 50. If you do weight training and have strong, healthy muscles, you will have less fatty tissue between the skin and the muscle - this keeps the skin looking young and toned. The women of today, with their confident, smart, well-toned, muscled bodies and new lifestyle of hitting the gym, are a source of inspiration for the younger generation of women and men. Women in their fifties are more self-aware and conscious of themselves, and this has resulted in a change in women's health,” says Babitha.
Keeping age-related issues at bay
For an average 50 something, the coin has two sides. Usually by this time the kids are grown up and gone, which gives them a lot of time on their hands. However, to compete with celebrities in terms of looks can be unrealistic, as celebrities have means and money to get things done.
“They are chauffeured around. They have cooks to prepare their meals. They have personal coaches and personal doctors on hand at all times, unlike the average woman. Even so, being in good shape boosts confidence. It allows women to stay connected to their feminine side while also providing a sense of accomplishment. Not only are they gaining muscle and looking great, but they are also preventing age-related issues such as diabetes, atherosclerosis, osteoporosis, and sarcopenia, which can be a life-changing experience, especially if they have already reached menopause. Every woman, regardless of age, should strive for muscle and fitness rather than chasing numbers on the scale,” says Asheesh Grewal, CEO & Founder of MyHealthBuddy.