Ladies, it doesn’t matter how old you are or what your current fitness level is—you need to start lifting weights. Cardio and yoga might feel great, and you could be losing some pounds, but you are missing out on the benefits of resistance training. Whether you want to look younger, be more confident, lift more weight, have more energy, or simply become more dependent as you age, strength training is for every woman alive.
Too many women get trapped in the mindset that they should restrict their calories to dangerously low levels and only use the elliptical at the gym to get the body they want. They believe in the lies that strength training bulks them up or would take away their curves. Or, it could be the thought of waking up too sore to move that scares them away from the barbell.
But here is the honest truth: A proper resistance training program that is paired with the correct diet will not cause fatigue, soreness, or exhaustion. When you eat the correct amount of calories and are building muscle, you will feel younger, stronger, and more empowered than ever before.
If you are looking for more motivation to pick up the dumbbells, here are nine excellent reasons why weight training is a girl’s best friend:
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Reasons Why Women Should Lift Weights
Burn More Calories
Most women are doing the fitness thing because they want to burn calories. You’re probably among them—and there is nothing wrong with that. However, becoming a cardio and yoga bunny isn’t going to burn off the fat, because you don’t burn that many calories. Running, too, can result in plateaus after a few months. The only way to truly torch calories and lose fat is to lift weights.
Although cardio will burn more calories while doing the activity, strength training burns more calories after a workout. Furthermore, the more muscle you have, the higher your basal metabolic rate will be. The higher your BMR, the more your expend throughout the day without needing any additional activity.
In short, if you want to transform your body into a fat-burning machine, you need to build muscle. When you do resistance training, your body breaks down muscle and then rebuilds the fibers over the next 24-48 hours. During this time, your body is eating up a lot of the calories you consume, creating what is known as the “afterburn.”
Now, I know what you are thinking: “Isn’t weight training going to make my muscles bulky? I don’t want to look like a bodybuilder!”
Don’t worry. You won’t. The average woman cannot acquire the physique of a female bodybuilder without intense training and supplementation. Unless you are vying for that kind of aesthetic, you have nothing to fear. Women also have less testosterone in their bodies, so your muscles do not naturally “bulk” up as a man’s body would. Rather, you get shaped more like an hourglass, with all the assets becoming more defined.
And there’s nothing wrong with that, is there?
Building Stronger Bones
Women are more at risk of bone-related issues than men are. From the time you enter perimenopause to post-menopause, your bones are going to become more susceptible to osteoporosis—a disease that affects 10 million Americans. 80-percent of those impacted are women.
Lifting weights can counteract that. When you lift weights and engage the muscles, the tendons, which attach muscle to bone, are also worked. The stress of added weight alongside this pulling helps strengthen the bones. In fact, any kind of weight-bearing exercise, like dancing, walking, playing tennis, kickboxing, and resistance training will increase your overall bone density.
Similar to maintaining bone density to prevent osteoporosis later in life, you want to work your muscles to maintain tone. Women lose about 22-percent of their muscle mass between the ages of 30 and 70. As you lose that muscle, the space is often filled with adipose tissue, also known as fat.
You don’t want that to happen. Not only does 1 pound of fat take up 18-percent more space per 1 pound of muscle, more fat means more health problems. If you want your pant size to stay the same and stay healthy, you want to maintain your muscle mass for as long as possible.
There is a myth that says pregnant and older women shouldn’t strength train, but that is complete nonsense. Pregnant women can do low-intensity workouts and modified strength training exercises without any issues throughout the trimesters. Similarly, older women don’t have to forego the benefits of training just because they have reached a certain chronological age. There is a grandmother in her 70s who strength trains and another is a bodybuilder!
Benefit Your Brain
Here is something amazing: Strengthening your body also strengthens your mind. In a 2010 study, it was noted that resistance training improves various aspects of cognition in older adults. The most profound effect was that increasing ones strength also improved memory and performance during memory-related tasks. Executive functioning—a set of functions that control behavior—also improves with resistance training.
A similar study was conducted recently that took 54 senior women between the ages of 65 and 75 from a previous study in 2010 and split them into 3 groups. The senior women followed a 52-week long exercise protocol. The results found that lifting weights twice a week slowed down natural cognitive decline.
You’ll Be Happier
Most of us have heard about the runner’s high that is caused by endorphins. Well, the same hormones that make runners want to run can be found in the free weight section of your local gym. And as the Legally Blond saying goes, “Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t kill their husbands.”
It’s true. Research has found that exercise, namely strength training, is highly beneficial to depression. A recent study published by JAMA Psychiatry in 2018 looked at 33 clinical trials with 1877 participants and concluded that resistance training is consistently associated with reduced levels of anxiety and depression. Every single study saw classic symptoms of depression like loss of interest, apathy, feelings of worthlessness, and moodiness, improved during the exercise routine and afterward.
Another study from Australia found that people who performed 3 resistance based workouts per week reported an 18-percent drop in depressive symptoms in 10 weeks. Additionally, exercise reduced the levels of cortisol, known as the stress hormone.
That brings me to my next point: You will feel way less stressed when you start lifting weights. Not only is lifting heavy an excellent way to burn off your frustrations, but it is time to get in the zone and focus solely on yourself. Researchers consistently report that regular strength training helps people manage their stress better and helps them remain calm in stressful situations.
Do you want to be able to hold Tree Pose in yoga class longer? The trick isn’t doing more yoga—it’s all in the resistance training, baby.
How does it work? The fast-twitch muscle fibers that you use during resistance training start to deteriorate if you don’t use them, especially when you start getting older. When you start lifting weights, you recruit those fast-twitch fibers, which are responsible for muscular power and speed. The faster your muscles can contract, the better you are able to balance and support yourself.
Now, why should you want more balance? Aside from being able to stand on one leg and pull off your sock or shoe, you are going to want more balance as you age. Falling or tripping can cause a lot of damage as you get older, including sprains, strains, and fractures. By increasing your balance, you will be able to stand taller, perform better, and can stay independent for longer.
Also, having both mental and physical balance is an advantage when you’re managing a household full of rambunctious children and animals.
Lower Risk of Diabetes and Heart Disease
Exercise does phenomenal things for your body. Cardiovascular exercise works the heart. Resistance training increases your strength and proprioception. But it can also reduce your risk of diabetes and all the complications that come with it. If you already have type II diabetes, strength training can help you control it better than with just diet and insulin alone.
Resistance training not only increases the amount of energy you expend throughout the day, but it will also make you feel more alert and alive, too. That is why some people wake up in the morning and instead of drinking coffee, they workout. A study that was published by the National Institute of Health found that even minimal resistance training can have a positive influence on energy balance and fat oxidation. A second study from Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics found that inactive people could increase their energy by 20% and decrease fatigue by 65% by doing regular, low-intensity workouts, such as resistance training. Also, the release of endorphins, stress management, improved circulation, and increased uptake of oxygen truly invigorates the body.
So if you want to beat the morning blues, you might want to pump some iron after the alarm goes off.
It’s Functional Fitness
What all of these points comes down to is functional fitness. You need to be fit in order to do certain things, such as walking, running, or even getting up and out of a chair without straining yourself. Strength training is a way to keep you going strong throughout life. Whether you are 25 or going on 65, resistance training in the gym is going to give you the functional strength and endurance you need to maintain quality of life as you grow older.
So if you want to keep making a single trip from the car to the house after grocery shopping for many years, it’s time to start lifting.
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that one woman’s version of functional fitness might not work for you. There is no master workout plan or a one-size-fits-all diet. You can read hundreds of books that promise outstanding fat loss if you do a certain thing, but it might not work for you. Everyone has different needs.
You might not be able to do the same functional fitness moves as someone else. You might not be able to lift the same amount of weight as your gym buddy. Your knees might not bend as deep as your trainer’s. It’s okay. There is a reason it is called functional fitness—it works for your body, where you are right now. You can progress. You can get stronger. And your body is going to transform because of it.
Ladies, Lift Yourselves Up
Every woman deserves to feel strong, independent, and confident when it comes to going to work, running around with the kids, moving furniture, and maintaining your own health. Resistance training is a workout with benefits that go beyond just looking good. By lifting weights, you become stronger in all aspects of life—so pick up those dumbbells and go for it.
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