Strength training has been labelled in the past as a ‘men-only’ area. That intimidating weights section in the gym where there are testosterone-filled men grunting and slamming weights onto the ground! In the past, including myself, women have been simply too scared to go down into this section of the gym, afraid they might embarrass themselves, and instead, spend an hour killing themselves on a treadmill or bike, getting nowhere. Even though there is more of awareness around strength training for women in recent days, the majority of women out there still go from one end of the week to the next without doing any form of strength training. One reason for this I feel is that there is a fear amongst women that they will become too ‘bulky’ and when they think of lifting weight, they picture the excessively muscular women who compete in bodybuilding contests. Women need to recognise that this is the extreme results of strength training and that these women are not the norm and are going above and beyond what most people do in terms of training, diet and experimenting with drugs. Therefore, women, all ages, need to educate themselves in the benefits of strength training and how it will improve their overall quality of life. In this short blog, I’m going to outline a few of the main benefits of strength training and by the end, hopefully the ladies reading this will want to get to the gym, forget the treadmill and walk straight over to that weights section!
The benefits of strength training for women
1)You will burn more fat
Studies performed by Wayne Westcott, PhD, from the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, Massachusetts, found that the average woman who takes part in strength training 2 to 3 times a week for two months will gain nearly two pounds of muscle and will lose 3.5 pounds of fat. In addition, as you build lean muscle mass, your resting metabolism increases because muscle tissue is more metabolically active than fat tissue. Thus, the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn during the day, even when you’re just sitting on the couch! Generally speaking, for each pound of muscle you gain, you burn 35 to 50 more calories each day. That really adds up!
2) You will have stronger bones
As women age, they become increasingly susceptible to bone loss and osteoporosis due to the hormonal changes which they experience as they get older. Until the age of 30 to 35, we continue to build up our bones but after this, bone density tends to decline with increasing years, leaving women more prone to fractures and falls in their later years. Research by Kelley et al, 2001, has shown that strength training can help increase bone mineral density, make your bones stronger and slow this process of bones becoming more brittle as you age.
3) You will build muscle mass – toning, not bulking!
Through strength training, muscles get larger, which is also known as muscle hypertrophy. This increase in muscle mass has many advantages for women. First of all, it will give you a tight, toned body. You will not become overly muscular or ‘bulky’ like men because women have 10 to 30 times less of the hormones that cause muscle hypertrophy. When women lift weights, the changes to their muscles are related to tone, strength and endurance rather than size. Therefore, the resulting look is firm, feminine toning rather than bulky masculine muscles.
Building muscle mass does not only apply to young women; the benefits apply even more to older women. This is because as you age, your muscle mass diminishes. You can counteract this effect through strength training and make sure you remain strong and independent into your elderly years. – Picking up those grandkids will be a doddle!
4) You will decrease the risk of injury
I have already outlined the benefits of strength training on bone strength, which can help reduce the risk of fractures and bone related injury, but strength training may also help reduce the risk of other injuries. This type of training not only builds stronger muscles, but also builds stronger connective tissues and increases joint stability. This will have a knock on effect on your balance and coordination. Therefore, making your everyday movements more stable and efficient. This will become particularly important as you become older to maintain your independence.
5) You will be healthier and happier
Strength training is thought to help the management of chronic conditions such as back pain, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, obesity and even depression. Recent research by Dr. Barry Franklin, of William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, states that strength training can improve cardiovascular health by lowering LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol, increasing HDL (‘good’) cholesterol and lowering blood pressure. In addition, Dr, Franklin noted that strength training may improve the way the body processes sugar, which may reduce the risk of diabetes.
Interestingly, a Harvard study found that 10 weeks of strength training reduced clinical depression symptoms more successfully than standard counselling did. This may be due to the fact that women who strength train commonly feel more confident and capable as a result of their training which are important factors in fighting depression.
To conclude, it is clear from these benefits that every woman should be including some sort of strength training in their weekly routines. I have outlined the main benefits in this blog, which state not only the physiological benefits of strength training to your body and overall health but also the psychological benefits it will give to you. To sum up, strength training will make you stronger, make you burn more fat, make you look more toned and feminine, make you healthier, make you injury-free, make you more independent as you get older, and make you happier! What more could you want! So ladies, my message to all of you for this New Year 2015 is to start strength training! And if you already have, keep it up! I promise you once you start, you will never look back!
This article is by Coach Claire. Get in touch with us today if you are ready to start your own success journey and get real results from your training!