The Benefits of Lifting Weights for Women

Woman lifting weights at home
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Increasing and maintaining adequate muscle mass is one of the best ways to keep body fat at bay and to improve overall fitness, particularly as you age. Resistance exercise such as lifting weights is the best way to build muscle mass. Still, the number of women who actually participate in any formal or consistent weight training workout is extremely low. Women who exercise are spending most of their gym time on cardiovascular exercise. Whatever your reasons for avoiding the weights, if you are a woman, here are 10 reasons why you need to take strength training seriously.

Why Women Should Lift Weights

If you aren't interested in going to a gym, you can still get a good weight lifting workout at home with very basic equipment including dumbbells or kettlebells.

You Will Be Physically Stronger: Increasing your strength will make you far less dependent upon others for assistance in daily living. Chores will be easier, lifting kids, groceries, and laundry will no longer push you to the max. If your maximum strength is increased, daily tasks and routine exercise will be far less fatiguing and much less likely to cause injury.

Research studies conclude that even moderate weight training can increase a woman's strength by 30 percent to 50 percent. Research also shows that women can develop their strength at the same rate as men.

You Will Lose Body Fat: Studies performed by Wayne Westcott, Ph.D., from the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, Massachusetts, found that the average woman who strength trains two to three times a week for two months will gain nearly two pounds of muscle and will lose 3.5 pounds of fat. As your lean muscle increases, so does your resting metabolism, allowing you to burn more calories throughout the day.

You Will Gain Strength Without Bulk: Women typically don't develop big muscles from strength training, because compared to men, women have 10 to 30 times less of the hormones that cause muscle hypertrophy. Weight training does not make you bulky; excess body fat does.

You Decrease Your Risk of Osteoporosis: Weight training can increase spinal bone mineral density (and enhance bone modeling). This, coupled with an adequate amount of dietary calcium, can be a woman's best defense against osteoporosis.

You Will Improve Your Athletic Performance: Strength training improves athletic ability. Golfers can significantly increase their driving power. Cyclists are able to continue for longer periods of time with less fatigue. Skiers improve technique and reduce injury.

Whatever sport you play, strength training has been shown to improve overall performance as well as decrease the risk of injury.

You Will Reduce Your Risk of Injury, Back Pain, and Arthritis: Strength training not only builds stronger muscles but also builds stronger connective tissues and increases joint stability. This acts as reinforcement for the joints and helps prevent injury. Strengthening the gluteal muscles can help in eliminating or alleviating low-back and knee pain. Weight training can ease the pain of osteoarthritis and strengthen joints.​

You Will Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease: Weight training can improve cardiovascular health in several ways, including lowering LDL ("bad") cholesterol, increasing HDL ("good") cholesterol and lowering blood pressure. When cardiovascular exercise is added, these benefits are maximized.

You Will Reduce Your Risk of Diabetes: Weight training may improve the way the body processes sugar, which may reduce the risk of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes (sometimes known as "adult-onset" diabetes) is a growing problem for women and men.

It Is Never Too Late to Benefit: Women in their 70s and 80s have built up significant strength through weight training and studies show that strength improvements are possible at any age. It is vital for women to develop and maintain strength as they age to prevent injury and stave off bone loss and osteoporosis. Strength training not only strengthens muscles, but also the bones that support the muscles. Note, however, that a strength training professional should always supervise older participants.

You Will Improve Your Attitude and Fight Depression: Strength training (and exercise in general) decreases depression because the act of exercise produces mood-improving neurotransmitters such as endorphins, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. Plus, women who strength train commonly report feeling more confident and capable as a result of their program, all important factors in fighting depression.

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