Maybe you’ve thought about lifting weights. Maybe you’ve even done some dumbbell curls or picked up a barbell. But every time you hit the iron though, you feel unsure, insecure, and a little fearful.
Undoubtedly, you’ve heard the horror stories: lifting heavy weights makes women bulky, it’s dangerous, it’s bad for your joints, and once you have muscle, you can’t stop lifting or it will all turn to fat. It’s all BS, and it feeds into stereotypes that are keeping too many women from experiencing the profound benefits of resistance training.
It’s time to put that fear and uncertainty aside. The fact is lifting weights does none of those awful things. What it does is help you to live in a healthier, stronger body.
When you sit down to list your fitness objectives, you may be surprised to learn that that strength training will not only help you reach them, but may reach them faster than performing cardio exercise alone.
Now don’t get me wrong, yoga and spinning definitely have their place in a well-rounded fitness routine (and are both things I regularly do myself). But if you’re feeling a bit stuck in a rut and not seeing the results you want, strength training could be just the thing missing from your training regimen! Here’s why:
- MORE EFFECTIVE FAT LOSS
Think weightlifting only benefits those who want shirt-ripping arms? Think again.
Although many people consider weightlifting only a means to add size, when compared head-to-head against cardiovascular exercise, resistance training comes out on top in the battle to burn calories.
How is that possible you ask? It boils down to your body’s ability to burn fat during and after an intense weight-based exercise session. After a heavy bought of strength training, you continue to consume additional oxygen in the hours and even days that follow. This is known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption or EPOC.
When your body uses more oxygen, it requires more caloric expenditure and subsequently boosts your metabolic rate.
- MORE MUSCLE = MORE CALORIE BURN
As you increase strength and lean muscle mass, your body begins to us calories more efficiently. Daily muscle contractions from a simple blink to a heavy squat contribute to how many calories you burn in a given day. Sitting burns fewer calories than standing; standing burns fewer than walking, and walking burns fewer than strength training.
The more muscle contractions you experience during a day, the more calories you’ll burn. If you have more lean muscle mass, you’ll have more muscle contractions and hey presto, burn more calories!
Now endurance-type training can definitely help you lose weight, however that weight comes in the form of both fat and muscle. If you’re losing both fat and muscle, you can lose your lovely curves as well. In contrast, regular resistance training will help define your arms and shoulders, build your glutes and tone your legs, promoting a more hourglass body shape.
So if its curves you’re after, strength training is what you need to create and sustain them.
- QUALITY SLEEP
Strength training and sleep? Yip, you hear right! Numerous studies have shown how regular resistance training or high-intensity training, particularly when done in the morning, greatly improves sleep quality, aiding in your ability to fall asleep faster, sleep deeper, and wake less often during the night.
- INCREASED ENERGY
Remember that EPOC we mentioned earlier – the fact that resistance training causes an increase in energy expenditure hours after you train. Well, a study published by the National Institute of Health suggests that the consistent increase in energy expenditure, even after a minimal strength training session, may positively impact energy balance and fat oxidation. Who knew grabbing a barbell could have the same energy-boosting effects as an afternoon cup of coffee?
- HEART HEALTH
Studies found in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning have shown that those who lift weights are less likely have heart disease risk factors such as elevated blood pressure, high triglycerides, a large waist circumference and elevated glucose levels.
Pumping iron is actually so effective at reducing your risk of heart disease that it has since been approved as a healthy form of exercise for those at risk from the American Heart Association.
- BONE HEALTH
Both bone and muscle mass naturally decreases as you age. However, due to their declining levels of estrogen, postmenopausal women are at even greater risk for developing weak, porous bones and osteoporosis. Weight-bearing exercise, such as resistance training, has been proven as an excellent way to combat loss of bone mass, and subsequently decrease the risk of osteoporosis. And remember, the earlier you begin weightlifting, the greater chance you have to maintain bone health later in life.
- STRESS RELIEF
Exercise, in general, is a great way to manage stress. Researchers have consistently found that those who regularly strength train tend to manage stress better and experience fewer adverse reactions to stressful situations as those who do not exercise.
In addition, resistance-training studies on older adults show that moderate-intensity weightlifting improves memory and cognitive function. So next time you need to blow off some steam, hit the weights.
LIFT LADIES, LIFT!
All of us want to feel strong, determined, and confident in everything we do: from fitting into jeans, to moving heavy furniture, to playing with kids, to dealing with a stressful career. Resistance training can benefit all these aspects of your life. So be sure to put it in your fitness plan and feel stronger, healthier, and more confident!
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Kirk, Erik P., et. Al. Minimal resistance training improves daily energy expenditure and fat oxidation. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010; 41(5): 1122-1129.
Magyari PM, Churilla JR. Association between lifting weights and metabolic syndrome among U.S. Adults: 1999-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Nov; 26(11): 3113-7.
Cardoso, Crivaldo Gomes, et. Al. Acute and chronic effects of aerobic and resistance exercise on ambulatory blood pressure. Clinics (Sao Paulo). 2010; 65(3):317-325.
Muir JM, Ye C, Bhandari M, Adachi JD, Thabane L. The effect of regular physical activity on bone mineral density in post-menopausal women aged 75 and over: a retrospective analysis from the Canadian multicentre osteoporosis study. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2013 Aug 23; 14: 253.
Stone M, Stone Meg, Sands W. Psychological Aspects of Resistance Training. In: Principles and Practice of Resistance Training. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics; 2009. p. 229-241.