Send this blog to your friend who always says things like…
“If I lift heavy, I’ll get BULKY.”
“I don’t want to be muscular, I want to look TONED.”
“If I just keep up all of this cardio, eventually I’ll get that LEAN look I’m going for.”
Oof. How did we get so misinformed about lifting weights? Also, where can I petition to remove the word “bulky” from the dictionary?
When it comes to strength training, often women are told to stick to cardio, only use bands for that “long and lean” look, or lift light weights and high reps. What they are CERTAINLY not told to do: lift heavy! Well I’m here to tell you: this advice is garbage. Women not only deserve to be in the weight room as much as men, but they may benefit from it even more than the opposite sex. Follow along to discover six reasons why women should definitely be lifting weights and not just sticking to cardio.
Build Strong Bones
Weightlifting is one of the best defenses against osteoporosis- a disease that impacts women disproportionately as compared to men. Lifting weights causes your body to engage muscle which will pull on tendon and bone, creating stress that makes bones stronger.
Maintain Functional Strength as You Age
Research has shown that between the ages of 30 and 70, women lose an average of 22 percent of their total muscle. This is HUGE! Remember: muscle is not just for lifting weights. We need it to complete activities of daily living like picking up children, getting up and down off of the floor, or getting something off of a shelf. Not only is muscle important for these lifestyle activities but it influences our ability to balance. If we don’t have strong postural and core muscle we are much more likely to trip or fall as we age.
Improve Metabolic Health
There are four main components to our total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) which is generally what we think of when we hear the term “metabolism”- total calories our body converts to energy on a given day. The largest influence on our metabolism is something called our Basal Metabolic Rate, or BMR for short. Some factors affecting BMR (such as height, age, and gender) cannot be changed, but others can. Increased muscle mass and increased calorie intake are two that we have control over. Both of these variables increase our BMR and therefore overall TDEE. Muscle is more metabolically active (aka burns more calories) than fat, therefore an increase in muscle mass can increase our TDEE or metabolic rate.
Change Body Composition
We cannot ignore the fact that in addition to the loss of muscle women experience (mentioned above), often this muscle void is filled with fat. This can be due to increased stress and demands in all areas of life (work, kids, aging parents) or simply decreased daily activity. However, only focusing on body weight and scale numbers is going to be a detriment to anyone trying to change body composition.
Many potential clients come to me telling me they want to look like a certain celebrity, or want to be leaner and look more toned. While many may not realize it, that “look” these clients are going for involves seeing visible muscle. Muscle that cannot be built without strength training! Plus, the more progressively overloaded and challenging to the system the program is, the more likely someone is to see progress.
Reduce Chronic Disease Risk
Maintaining muscle mass isn’t just important for aesthetics- it’s essential for reducing your chronic disease risk! Sarcopenia (loss of muscle) causes insulin resistance, an issue that can exacerbate or even cause type 2 diabetes. Studies have shown that participating in resistance training helps muscles to have a better insulin-stimulated glucose-intake response. In addition to this, researchers are finding there is a connection between increased strength training and reduced risk for Cardiovascular Disease, especially in women. In fact, a 2015 study conducted at the University of South Carolina found that women who strength trained had lower rates of CVD risk factors including: body fat, total cholesterol, and fasting glucose.
This might be more anecdotal and harder to prove, but in my experience lifting weights gives women confidence like they’ve never had before! It helps them focus less on the scale weight and more on what they can accomplish during a strength training session. I often see clients leave the session feeling empowered and strong, both mentally and physically. And hey, there is evidence to suggest that training changes your brain chemistry and boosts mood by releasing endorphins. And I think we can all attest to the fact that being in a positive head space makes it easier to lift yourself out of a pattern of negative self-talk.