We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
It is a general term for all of these things: being pleased with the way you look naked, feeling energetic, and having well-developed strength/musculature, cardiovascular endurance, and athleticism (agility+speed+power).
I pretty much follow something like the Maggie's program of a combination of weight-lifting, calisthenics, and endurance cardio. About 5 hours weekly but I also play sports one night/week and on weekends. I watch my nutrition carefully because many middle-aged women have a tendency to get sloppy regardless of their exercise program. (No rational amount of exertion can produce fat loss, unfortunately, but physical exertion does reduce subjective hunger and "false hunger" - the hunger that overweight people experience.)
Regarding muscle maintenance and strength-building in middle age (40+), I want to highlight a paragraph from yesterday's post:
Research has demonstrated that low load high intensity lifting at 30% of the one repetition max (1RM) to failure can elicit similar rates of muscle protein synthesis as traditional, high load low intensity lifting at 90% of 1RM. Data suggests that low and high load lifting performed to failure yield equivalent hypertrophy over time. So exercise volume (repetitions x sets x load) can achieve maximal muscle fiber activation, including the important larger type II fibers. This is also much less likely to cause injury, an important consideration at any age.
Note that it says "to failure." That is the key, and that is the tricky part because the mental "I give up" almost always precedes the muscles giving up. Fighting that mental part is the discipline of exertion, and why trainers know they can almost always say "C'mon, give me one or two more." Women have no need to fear developing the hard or bulging muscles of their fit and athletic menfolk. That can't happen naturally with females.
To hedge your bets on the current consensus, I suggest going heavy with the weights on power lifts occasionally. You might even see your 1RM increase if you dare to check it (with a spotter) every few months.
If hypertrophy was a measure of strength, bodybuilders would consistently win Olympic and powerlifting championships...but they don't. Hypertrophy - which is what the cited "research" examined - is nice...if you're at the beach or are a bodybuilder, but for most practical endeavors, relative strength (strength in proportion to mass) is what matters. This isn't built with 20 rep sets of 30% of 1RM. It's built by low (5 or fewer) reps, relatively long rest intervals, and high intensity (80%+ of 1RM).
I think you're idea of a middle age woman who is 'sloppy' is my idea of a woman who needs to gain twenty pounds. If you're where you want to be or on the way, then great. But, it's not any definition of ideal.
These exercise posts make me tired. I enjoy your site, but exercise is such a boring hobby. And it is a hobby.
Genetics doesn't care how often or hard you exercise. My grandma lived to 98 and I don't think she ever even walked at a quick pace. My mom is at 70 and avoids exercise. Perfect health. The joke is "who's going to take care of her after we're all gone?"
They both stayed relatively thin by not overeating, though. I agree with you on that point.
Unfortunately as I get deeper into middle age, "failure" often occurs in the joints before the muscles. I rarely venture beyond 275 lb squats these days even though I often feel strong enough to beat that easily. Because I've tweaked a knee or hip often enough and I don't feel like limping for weeks.