But I don’t want to get “bulky”. I hear this comment all too often when I talk to women about the benefits of strength training. The truth of the matter is that a woman has higher levels of estrogen and lower levels of testosterone then men which will naturally prevent women from packing on massive muscle mass. That being said, if you are a woman and you want to pack on muscle mass, it can be done. It takes consistent and heavy training combined with a nutritionally dense diet to do so.
Strength (aka weight) training in general does have many benefits for women. In truth, strength training not only helps you stay strong but it will help you burn more calories, even at rest, keep your bones strong and healthy and decrease your risk of injury. In addition, you will look and feel younger.
Now we are not saying to ditch the cardio. Rather, we recommend adding strength training to the mix if you haven’t already done so. According to Dr. Edward Laskowski of the Mayo Clinic you should aim for about 2 ½ hours of aerobic activity and 2 days of resistance training each week.
Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s see why you absolutely must start strength training as soon as you can. The benefits are just too good not to.
- Prevents loss of muscle
- In the natural course of aging we lose muscle mass, strength and function. This is an involuntary process called sarcopenia. According to an article written in the National Institute of Health muscle mass decreases approximately 3–8% per decade after the age of 30 and this rate of decline is even higher after the age of 60.
- And guess what? Studies consistently determine that the primary treatment for loss of muscle mass, strength and function is resistance, or strength, training. That means lifting weights. Of course, if you are not familiar strength training you should find an experienced physical therapist or coach that can work with you to reach your goals.
- Slows the aging process
- Strength training retards the aging process. As I mentioned earlier, you’ll lose less muscle, be stronger and healthier. A healthy body is more capable of handling the ravages of time. Women who engage in weight training often tend to look younger than their years. Want to read more? Check out this article in Health Magazine.
- Boosts metabolism
- Training with weights keeps your metabolism on fire long after you have finished your training session. Sometimes called the “after-burn”, the body enters a state called “excess post-exercise consumption” or EPOC. Very simply put, EPOC is the amount of oxygen required to restore your body to its normal, resting level of metabolic function (homeostasis). The more intense your training session, the more oxygen you require. The more oxygen you require for training, the longer it takes to return to a homeostatic state. Basically, you boost your metabolism and continue to burn calories while at rest. Some studies suggest up to 48 hours post exercise! You’ll be less likely to gain weight easily.
- Combats osteoporosis
- As women age and go through hormonal changes, they may begin to lose calcium in their bones, reducing their “bone density”. The early stages of bone loss are called osteopenia. As you age and lose more bone it can lead to osteoporosis. OP and lose of bone density put many women at a higher risk of bone fracture, weakness due to loss of muscle puts them at higher risk of falls. Falls often lead to fractures. See how that works?
- Routinely lifting weights (strength training) provides healthy stress to your bones. Your body responds by depositing more calcium into the bone, thereby making it stronger and more resilient.
- Reduces the risk of injury
- When you strength train you not only strengthen your muscles but also the tendons and ligaments surrounding your joints. The stronger your structure, the less likely you are to get injured. Isn’t strength training amazing?
By now I hope you understand how important strength training is for your health and longevity. Besides the points mentioned above, working with weights will also prevent diabetes, lower your cholesterol, boost your heart health, improve your posture and balance and prevent back pain.
While all this is well and good, the one benefit of strength training that most women will love is that it will transform your body into a picture of health. Not only will you look and feel younger, you will feel more confident because of increased muscle tone and smoothing of your curves. You’ll look great and when you’re at the beach, you’ll really rock that bikini.
Strength training is the answer you’ve been looking for.