If you’re female and you don’t already incorporate strength training into your fitness routine, you may want to reconsider your next workout. The weight lifting benefits for women are numerous and important—ranging from physical to psychological. And contrary to what many people think, weight lifting for women will not make you bulky. Testosterone, which is the main hormone that aids in muscle building, is generally present in much lower levels in women than in men. Women are simply not physiologically inclined to bulk up. You would have to try very hard and train very specifically to develop a bodybuilder type of physique. Instead, weight lifting for women is a valuable tool to keep your body and mind in good health.
Here are several of the reasons why weight lifting for women is beneficial.
Effective Fat Loss
Strength training is key to losing fat. Although cardiovascular training is also valuable exercise, strength training provides a better burn in the battle against fat—both during and after your workout. With intense weight training, your metabolism remains elevated for several hours afterward, and your body continues to burn fat long after you leave the gym.
As women get older, our hormones change, our metabolism naturally slows down, and we lose muscle mass. Among the benefits of weight lifting for women is an increase in lean muscle mass, which in turn increases our base metabolic rate. The higher our metabolism, the more calories we burn all day long.
Weight training can help anyone slim down and avoid the weight gain and “spread” that is common with aging. Cardio and endurance exercise also helps with weight loss, but at the expense of both muscle and fat. The addition of resistance training helps build and maintain lean muscle tissue, therefore making it possible to be both lean and sculpted.
Strength training benefits your performance in nearly every sport. Whether your favorite activity requires power, speed, agility, endurance, or a combination thereof, you’ll be better at it with a solid base of strength work. Weight lifting benefits the body by helping it adapt and respond to the forces and exertion of other sports.
Weight lifting for women and men alike helps boost energy as well as metabolism. Studies such as this one show that even minimal resistance training causes a positive increase in energy expenditure hours after training.
Weight-bearing exercise is especially important for women in terms of bone health. As we age, we lose both bone and muscle mass. Resistance training helps build bone strength and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Postmenopausal women are at a greater risk for osteoporosis due to hormonal changes, but the earlier you begin weightlifting, the better your odds for healthy bones later in life.
According to a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning, resistance training may be even more beneficial than aerobic training when it comes to heart health. Regular cardio exercise is widely known to reduce the risk of heart disease, but in the study, strength training produced a greater increase in blood flow to the limbs and a longer-lasting drop in blood pressure following exercise. Since cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death of adult women, a fitness routine that combines strength training and cardio is an important part of a woman’s heart-healthy lifestyle.
Reduced Injury Risk
Just as weight lifting benefits women by helping to strengthen muscles and bones, it also helps strengthen and stabilize our ligaments and tendons, improving joint stability. With greater stability comes a reduced risk of falls and injuries—both during exercise and throughout our regular daily activities.
Relief From Stress and Depression
Any exercise is beneficial in reducing and managing stress, and can help alleviate depression. Many people turn to cardio exercise for the feel-good release of endorphins that positively impacts these conditions. Strength training has the same endorphin effect, and thus can be an important tool in providing relief.
Improved Strength and Confidence
The improvements from resistance training tend to manifest quickly; your strength increases with each weight lifting session. Not only does being stronger make everyday tasks easier (think lifting children or heavy grocery bags), and improve your overall athletic performance, it also inevitably boosts your confidence and self-esteem.
It’s easy to understand why women should lift weights, given the myriad benefits of weight lifting for women. Just two to three sessions of strength training each week can make a significant impact on your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. What are you waiting for? Head to the weight room and get started today!