The Best Workout Routines for Women

If you’re looking to get in shape, drop a few pounds, or want to add some variety to your workout routine, you have innumerable options for exercise. For many women, though, trying a new exercise or even beginning a fitness journey can be challenging. In some cases, they just aren’t sure where to start.

We’ve collected seven of the best workout routines for women based on their difficulty level, health benefits, and the results you can expect. All of these workouts can be done in 30 to 60 minutes, and most don’t require special equipment. Whether you need some motivation or want to switch things up, one of these workouts will work for you. 

The best workout routines for women include:

1. Walking

The best exercise for women is also the easiest: walking. According to the Mayo Clinic, walking just 30 minutes a day can help stave off a host of chronic health conditions, including heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure. Walking can also help you lose or maintain weight and strengthen bones and muscles. 

To get the most benefit from walking, researchers  recommend walking at a moderate to brisk pace for at least 30 minutes each day. It doesn’t have to be 30 consecutive minutes, either. Several short bursts of activity can be just as effective as one long walk, so taking a 10- to 15-minute stroll several times a day will help maintain your health. 

Getting Started With Walking: Walking is an ideal starting point for women who are looking to begin or get back into a fitness routine. All you need is a good, sturdy pair of walking shoes, and you’re good to go. Start with a slow five- to 10-minute warmup walk, increasing your speed and distance by a few minutes every week. If you choose to make walking a core aspect of your fitness regimen, invest in footwear that best suits the contours of your feet to reduce chances of injury and optimize your comfort. 

2. Lifting Weights

Many women are reluctant to lift weights, fearing that the added muscle mass will give them a bulky body frame. In fact, according to one survey, only about 50% and one-third of the 12.7 million women who belonged to a gym actually used weight machines and free weights, respectively. Despite this pervasive aversion to weights, weightlifting is integral to weight loss and preventing or managing chronic conditions. 

Weights are an especially important aspect of workout routines for women because they naturally lose muscle tone and bone strength as they age. By their mid-30s, women lose 3% to 5% of their muscle mass each year, contributing to weight gain. Gaining lean muscle burns more calories each day. And, of course, lifting weights lowers blood pressure, increases bone density, lowers the resting heart rate, and reduces the risk of diabetes. If that’s not enough to convince you, weight training can help mitigate certain effects of aging

two hands on bar of kettlebell

Getting Started With Weight Training: A strength training workout only takes 20 minutes, two to three times per week. Start with two sets of dumbbells (3 to 5 pounds and 8 to 12 pounds) and do two sets of 15 reps of chest presses, bicep curls, lateral raises, triceps extensions, squats, lunges, and crunches. Add more weight as the exercises get easier. 

3. Yoga

Almost anyone, regardless of age and physical condition, can practice yoga. Yoga improves flexibility (which is vital for preventing injury), reduces stress, and improves mental clarity. Regular yoga can also help build strength and reduce the symptoms of PMS, menopause, anxiety and depression, insomnia, and high blood pressure. Because yoga can be a low-impact exercise, it’s also good for women who are pregnant or who have injuries or conditions that make other exercises risky. 

Yoga for fitness doesn’t mean you have to twist yourself into a pretzel, either. Simple, gentle poses and stretches can be just as beneficial and can help lengthen and tone your muscles. Adding a yoga class to your existing fitness routine can help improve your performance in your primary fitness disciplines, as well. 

Getting Started With Yoga: Most fitness centers offer yoga classes, and studios can be found virtually anywhere. If you want to practice at home, check out some of the free videos on YouTube, which can guide you through beginning to advanced yoga workouts.

4. Swimming

Unlike high-impact exercises, swimming is possible for almost anyone, including pregnant women, women recovering from injuries, women with arthritis, and those just beginning a fitness routine. Despite being a non-impact exercise, it’s one of the few that combines strength training and cardio, and you can burn more than 500 calories in an hour. 

Besides incinerating calories and toning your whole body, swimming has other benefits. Hopping in the pool reduces stress, and studies show it boosts brainpower and helps combat insomnia.

female swimming breakstroke with swim cap and goggles

Getting Started With Swimming: All you need is a body of water. Try joining the local YMCA or a health club with a pool where you can swim laps. Start easy with 15- to 20-minute workouts until you build stamina. 

5. Group Cardio Exercises

When you think of group cardio exercises, you probably think of 1980s aerobics classes with women jumping around in matching leotards. Today’s group exercise classes have changed a bit, with women (and men) opting for dance-based classes such as Zumba, martial arts-based classes such as kickboxing, and any number of sports-based, boot camp-style, or aerobics-type classes. 

Regardless of the class, group exercises remain popular workout routines for women and for a good reason. Working out with friends increases your success rate in meeting fitness goals, in large part because working out with a group keeps you accountable, increases your consistency of attending class, and adds an element of competition. Plus, by working out with an instructor, you learn the proper form and reduce the chance of injury. 

Getting Started With Group Exercise: This one’s easy: Just go! Find a class that appeals to you at your fitness level and join.

6. Barre Workouts 

It seems that every day, there is another ballet-inspired workout, such as Pure Barre, Xtend Barre, or the Bar Method. Although they each have their own twist, they all promise increased strength and flexibility as they sculpt your body using ballet-type moves. 

Barre focuses on slow, controlled movements and maintaining proper form. The exercises target the abs, glutes, thighs, and arms and are low impact – but really bring the burn. Not only will barre classes make you stronger and more flexible, but also the exercises will shave some serious inches off your body. However, it’s not a cardio workout, and it should only be used as a complement to an overall fitness routine. 

Getting Started With Barre: Although you can benefit from video-based barre workouts, take an in-person class or two to learn the proper form and avoid injury.

7. Spinning

One of the hottest fitness trends today is spinning, or a stationary bike exercise set to music. An instructor leads you through the class, varying the tempo and difficulty of the exercise as the class progresses. It’s a fast-paced, fun, cardio workout with devotees across the country. Chain studios such as SoulCycle and Flywheel have spearheaded the spinning movement, leading the way for smaller gyms to add spinning classes to their rotation. 

The major advantage of spinning is that it’s 30 to 60 minutes of high-intensity cardio that can torch calories and get your heart pumping. However, fitness experts caution that spinning should only be one part of an exercise routine. Otherwise, you risk muscle imbalance, specifically bulking up your thighs and legs. Combine spinning with other cardio and strength training workouts for maximum health benefits. 

Getting Started With Spinning: Spinning classes can be found at most gyms or fitness centers, or you can try a class at a local studio such as SoulCycle. 

Regardless of the workout you choose, start at your fitness level, and work your way up. Any time you start something new, consult with your doctor to stay safe and healthy.