There's an old myth that says that women should not be lifting heavy weights because it will make their bodies bulky, like a man's body. So a lot of women shy away from lifting weights at all when they exercise and stick to just cardiovascular exercise. The problem with just doing cardiovascular or aerobic exercise is that women are missing out on so many benefits that they could be getting just from a few days per week of weight training.
Where did this myth come from?
No one can be for sure where or when it started but it needs to be stopped.
It needs to be stopped because women are literally putting them at an unnecessary risk for health issues as they get older, health issues that are preventable to an amount through weight training.
What is weight training?
Weight training is any kind of exercise that stresses the muscles and tendons of the body. The easiest way to describe it is by lifting a dumbbell or barbell or other weighed tool. Weight training can also be made with body weight exercises such as squats or push-ups as well as using weight training machines.
Here are the benefits for Women as a result of Weight Training:
1. Increased Muscular Strength- muscular strength is what allows women to be able to lift a heavy object a few times without exhaustion. Weight training is a necessity for any woman who wants to be able to move, push, pull or lift things independently. Weights will help to improve that strength as well as give her more power in her day to day activities, such as food shopping, getting around, etc.
2. Increased Muscular Endurance- muscular endurance is what allows women to be able to do repetitive tasks with equal strength. This is different from muscular strength in its duration and in its overall weight. Improving muscular endurance will allow a woman to walk, run, swim or bike longer. It will allow her to play more rounds of golf, to play more and longer with her kids. It gives her the freedom to choose how long she wants to do an activity.
3. A More Favorable Body Composition- Weight lifting gives a woman a better body muscle to body fat ration meaning that she will look slimmer without sacrificing strength. Although a pound of muscle and fat weight exactly the same, a pound of muscle takes up considerable much less space. This means that a woman can be strong and slim at the same time. This is all made through weight training as well as her stand-by of aerobics.
4. Better Fat Burning- One of the most beneficial aspects of weight training is the metabolic effect of having muscle on your frame. At rest, the body is metabolically active, meaning it burns calories. However a body with a larger percentage of muscle will burn more calories at rest than a body that does not. To top that off, a body with more muscle will also burn more calories during and after exercise. Add that up. More muscle will burn more calories before, during and after exercise.
5. Increased Bone Density- As we get older, it becomes more likely that we will start to lose bone mass or bone density. Lifting weights has been scientifically proven to help slow down or even stop the loss of bone density. Lifting weights makes it possible to minimize the chance or occurrence of broken bones as we age. It's not a complete package since eating healthy foods for bones will also add to the benefit.
6. Improved Posture- Adding onto the benefit to bone density, weight training will also help to improve a woman's posture. By strengthening the muscles around the trunk, chest and back, the body is more capable to sustain a completely erect position with less strain or force. This is a gradual process that can be improved upon the longer and longer a woman strength trains, ie beginning younger in life and then maintaining the weight training.
7. Better Mood- I find that women who weight train are happier overall because they have a significant activity with tangible results. Better strength, a slimmer but stronger physique, better bone density and posture all adds up to a greater satisfaction level with their physical appearance and ultimately to their overall mood and happiness levels. I get that this is very much on the surface, but if you can start with looks, then you can sell the rest of the benefits.
8. Stress Management / Relief- Weight training is a great tool for stress management and stress relief because you are doing something where you can push out your tension through exercise. Aerobics can only take you so far. When you have weights in your hands, you feel more powerful, more in control of what's going on and you can push yourself to whatever limit you find necessary to burn off the extra stress or tension.
9. Increased Sense of Self / Independence-weight training makes you stronger both inside and out. While you may not be able to lift as much as the person next to you, you still walk away with a better sense of yourself and of your personal power. You feel more physically capable and more independent. You do not need to worry about always asking someone else for help when you know that you are becoming stronger and that you are working your muscles to help take care of your everyday activities.
10. Stronger Pelvic Floor Muscles- weight training requires increased strength in the trunk of the body. While some of this is done through specific core training exercises, weight training adds to that. For women, having a strong pelvic floor becomes more critical as we age and after childbirth. Increasing the strength of the pelvic floor helps to protect against stress related or age related incontinence.
11. Healthier Pregnancy, Healthier Babies, Healthier Mom- the newest research is encouraging women to get active and remain active before, during and after childbirth. This is not only to help the baby, but also to help the mother handle the stress of pregnancy and labor as well as the recovery afterward. Both aerobics and weight training are critical for this and also best to be started before the thought of becoming pregnant is a reality. Just like with bone density, the greatest benefits are started while the woman is younger and then retains her healthy habits for a lifetime.