If you’ve shied away from strength training because you think it’s going to blow up your arms, making you look like a cartoon-character bodybuilder, you’re not alone. Many women avoid using weights because they don’t want to get “buff.” But the truth is, adding strength and resistance training to your workout routine comes with a number of benefits, with toned, attractive muscles being just one of many.
Strong bones. Because we have lighter skeletal bones than men, women tend to be more susceptible to bone loss and osteoporosis as we age. After about age 35, bone density begins to decline, leaving women prone to fractures later in life. Strength training and weight-bearing exercise has been shown to help increase bone density and slow the process of bone loss over time. I also recommend that my clients take a daily calcium supplement to support bone health.
Weight management. Strength training combined with cardio can be very helpful for weight management and weight loss. Strength training helps to build muscle, which is more metabolically active than fat tissue. You never want to lose lean muscle tissue. It’s simple:
- One pound of muscle burns six calories per pound per day.
- One pound of fat burns two calories per pound per day.
This means you burn more calories even when at rest if you boost your muscle mass. To further complicate things, after age 20, the average person loses one-half to seven-tenths of a pound of muscle a year. That’s five to seven pounds a decade. As we approach menopause, the rate at which we lose muscle doubles, which is why so many women begin to gain weight right around that time of life.
Remember, muscle is heavier than fat, so if your training is effective the results may not show on the scale. Look for different measurements such as waist circumference or skin fold tests to monitor fat loss.
Tone up. While cardio will burn calories and decrease fat, resistance training can improve the appearance of the body by toning and firming muscles, giving us more shape. Again, this may not make a difference in your body weight, but it can still result in the drop of a dress size and overall increased body confidence.
However, even if you do enough strength training to give you abs of steel, those ab muscles won’t be visible unless you follow a healthy, controlled meal plan and do cardio exercise to aid in fat burning. Try drinking a protein shake post workout for recovery and lean muscle building.
Improved balance. It’s suggested that strength training and better muscle tone can improve balance. This is important for older women, who may be more at risk of falls and injury due to weak muscle tone””but it may also affect younger women. Many activities and sports, such as surfing, skiing, dancing and gymnastics, require balance. Strength training, particularly in the core areas, can be especially helpful for these activities.
A healthier heart. Evidence suggests that strength training can have a positive effect on cardiovascular health. It’s also been suggested that resistance training may help with blood pressure. Always check with your healthcare provider before beginning any sort of exercise or strength training program to be safe.
NPC National Figure competitor Melissa Transou, a fitness expert, wife and mother, blogs about the unique sports and nutrition needs of women and female athletes exclusively for Vitacost.com. Learn more about Melissa in this recent RXMuscle.com spotlight article, connect with her on Facebook or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.