Building bulging muscles in the weight room is an activity commonly thought of as something men do and women avoid. Yet, research suggests the benefits of strength training can drastically improve a woman’s quality of life both now and in the future.
Why do women avoid the weight room?
The benefits to weight training are undeniable, yet many women stick to yoga, walking or other cardiovascular exercise when trying to attain a healthy and fit body. But why not weights? There are several reasons women choose to stay away from weights: They don’t want to build big muscles and lose their femininity, maybe they’re intimidated by the equipment, or embarrassed because they’re not sure what to do once they’re in the gym. Truth is, the health and strength benefits of weight training far outweigh any of the reasons for avoiding the gym.
Why should women get in the weight room?
Lifting weights provides a host of benefits for women of all ages:
- Additional strength makes everyday activities easier.
- Lifting burns body fat. As you build muscle, your resting metabolic rate increases, which means that your body burns more calories, even when at rest. For each pound of muscle you gain, you can burn 35 to 50 more calories per day.
- You gain strength without bulk. The fear of becoming too “manly” is unfounded because women produce much less testosterone — the hormone chiefly responsible for muscle growth — than men. Lifting weights will help women develop more tone than muscular bulk.
- The disease prevention benefits are nothing short of amazing. Weight training decreases a woman’s risk of osteoporosis by increasing bone density, strengthens joints and can ease the pain of arthritis. Your risk for diabetes and heart disease is reduced, too. Lifting lowers bad cholesterol and blood pressure, increases good cholesterol and improves the way your body processes sugar, which may reduce your risk for developing diabetes.
It’s never too late
Women of all ages can reap the benefits of lifting weights. Improvements in strength and body composition can happen at any age. In fact, researchers say the reason many elderly women were in long-term care facilities was more related to the fact that they were too weak to live alone and simple tasks like climbing stairs became too difficult. Weight training offers disease prevention, a healthier body and increases the quality of life and independence in older women.
Get started today
Don’t let men’s grunting and groaning intimidate you from lifting weights at a gym. If you’re embarrassed about being out of shape, remember that everyone, men included, had to start somewhere. If the equipment in the gym has you confused or you’re not sure how or where to start, most gyms have personal trainers who can help. Your healthcare professional can provide helpful tips on how to exercise safely, too.
Sources: AARP.org, ACSM.org, CDC.gov, WomensHealth.gov