A couple of weeks ago on the blog, I gave you some great strength training exercises that you can do anytime, anywhere with minimal equipment. But maybe you’re thinking, what are the benefits of weight training for women anyway?
Glad you asked because there are SO many benefits! And let me first address the concern that I know is lurking in at least some of your minds: will I get bulky? The short answer is no. The longer answer is this: women have 10 to 30 times less of the hormones that cause muscle hypertrophy compared to men. You will, however, develop muscle tone and definition. And, not to mention, no one with gigantic muscles just woke up one day like that. It’s a process of work and dedication.
The benefits of weight training for women go far beyond aesthetics. Read on to learn the many health benefits, especially as we get older, and why heavy weights are your friend.
Lose Fat and Change Your Body Composition
Weight training expert and researcher Wayne Westcott, PhD, from the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, Massachusetts, reports that weight training helps women lose more fat than they gain in muscle. Westcott’s research shows that the average woman who strength trains two to three times a week for eight weeks gains 1.75 pounds of lean weight or muscle and loses 3.5 pounds of fat.
Burn Even More Calories
Weight training for women has another big plus – you’ll burn more calories throughout your day. Why?
As you add muscle from strength training, your resting metabolism will increase, so you’ll burn more calories all day long, notes Westcott. For each pound of muscle you gain, you’ll burn 35 to 50 more calories daily. So, for example, if you gain three pounds of muscle and burn 40 extra calories for each pound, you’ll burn 120 more calories per day, or approximately 3,600 more calories per month.
Feel More Confident
According to research, women between the ages of 30-50 are likely to lose approximately 10% of their total muscle mass. Not only this, over time it’s likely to be replaced by fat as lives typically become more sedentary and metabolism slows. Just 1lb of fat takes up 18% more space than 1lb of muscle – now there’s some food for thought!
By incorporating strength training into your fitness plan, which helps you to shed body fat and burn more calories throughout your day as we’ve already discussed, you will continue to look and feel healthy. Our bodies are worth taking care of and we feel better about ourselves when we do so.
Stress? What Stress?
Any type of exercise, including weight lifting, is great for your mental health. Believe it or not, exercising regularly helps you remain calm in the most stressful of situations. Scientific research has proved that the fitter you are the less likely you are to become stressed out.
The American Psychological Association explains it like this: Biologically, exercise seems to give the body a chance to practice dealing with stress. It forces the body’s physiological systems — all of which are involved in the stress response — to communicate much more closely than usual: The cardiovascular system communicates with the renal system, which communicates with the muscular system. And all of these are controlled by the central and sympathetic nervous systems, which also must communicate with each other. This workout of the body’s communication system may be the true value of exercise; the more sedentary we get, the less efficient our bodies in responding to stress.
Improve Bone Density
As a woman grows older, her bone mass deteriorates. This could prove to be quite dangerous later down the line. Studies show that strength training over a period of time can help prevent bone loss — and may even help build new bone.
In one study, postmenopausal women who participated in a strength training program for a year saw significant increases in their bone density in the spine and hips, areas affected most by osteoporosis in older women.
Maintaining strong muscles through weight training helps to keep up your balance and coordination — a critical element in preventing falls, which can lead to osteoporosis-related fractures.
Studies have found that circuit training with weights increases your heart rate by 15 beats per minute more than if you were running at 60-70% of your maximum capacity. So in addition to making your muscles stronger, you’ll reap the cardiovascular benefits at the same time.
Not only that, but with as little as 3 weightlifting workouts per week, you’ll be able to cut your diastolic blood pressure levels by around 8 points, which is enough to cut your risk of stroke by a staggering 40% and heart attack by 15%.
These are but a few of the benefits of weight training for women. Maybe you’ve been intimidated to step into the weight area of your gym but now that you understand how important it is, I hope you’ll be empowered to give it a try. If you’re not sure where to start, here’s a great beginner workout that will take you step-by-step. Be sure and track your reps and weight either on your phone or on paper so you can celebrate progress! Happy lifting!