It is a well-known fact that, particularly as we get older, it is vital to keep body fat down and muscle mass at a healthy proportion. Cardio training alone is a good workout for overall cardiovascular health and fitness, but to see even more wide-ranging health benefits you need to seriously consider adding strength training to your normal regime. You may feel shy or self-conscious about lifting weights, or you may have heard myths that women shouldn’t lift because it’s bad for their joints, or it doesn’t take much weightlifting for a female to wake up looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger one morning, but these are just that – myths – and part of the reason why there aren’t more women out there enjoying the benefits of strength training. The truth is, incorporating even a small amount to start with will straight away improve your mood, help your body start burning more calories in a more efficient way and even increase the amount of calories your body burns when you aren’t exercising.
#1 Resistance training burns more fat than cardio
If you aren’t seeing the results you’d like from your usual cardio routine, then it’s time to start adding resistance (strength) training. Of course, cardio alone burns calories but when resistance training is added into the mix, the results can far outweigh what you have been seeing so far. This is due to both the way your body burns fat during strength training, and an effect called Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC); an intense bout of weight training causes your body to increase the amount of oxygen it consumes following your workout – and higher oxygen consumption means more calories burned. This effect can actually last for days, not just hours, and contributes to an overall increase in your health.
#2 More muscle improves your resting metabolism
The phrase ‘resting metabolism‘ refers to the amount of calories your body burns just to sustain itself. These calories are required even when you are sleeping, to keep systems such as your circulation and breathing going. On average, a pound of muscle burns around 30-50 calories a day (much more than a pound of body fat) just to keep itself going. That means by transforming just a couple of pounds of fat into lean muscle you are already burning off more calories even when you aren’t exercising, and those few extra calories being burned per day will soon start to add up.
#3 Leaner physique and curves in all the right places
Many females avoid weight training as they are afraid of gaining too much muscle and becoming bulky, so stick to mostly cardio regimes – running, yoga etc. The truth is it isn’t unheard of but it’s certainly rare for women to gain bulk in such a way, as they generally have enough estrogen in their bodies to prevent it. Instead, weight training will reduce your body fat, and give you a much healthier, stronger body.
#4 Long term health benefits
As well as the obvious benefits of strength training that are quickly apparent in the short term, you are also giving yourself several health advantages for later in life. Women are particularly susceptible to osteoporosis in later life. Weight training builds not only increases bone density, but also strong and healthy connective tissue, which will reduce the risk of developing this disease. Other wide-ranging health benefits include:
. A reduced risk of diabetes, as lifting weights may improve the way your body processes sugars
. A reduced risk of arthritis, due to stronger joints and connective tissue which are enhanced by lifting weights
#5 Builds confidence and stamina
As the amount of weight you are able to lift grows, so will your confidence both in and out of the gym. Not only will you feel empowered through the physical act of lifting, your constantly improving physique will also be a self-esteem boost. Household chores and running round after the kids all day will no longer wear you out, as your new-found levels of fitness help you to cope better with daily life, and carrying lots of grocery bags will be a breeze!
Resistance training can be a fantastic outlet for stress after a hard day, releasing endorphins and lifting your mood. In the longer term, having a higher level of fitness helps you to cope better with the effects of stress. It also reduces the symptoms of PMS, and even help to manage the symptoms of depression. Reduced stress leads to better quality sleep and a stronger immune system, meaning your entire outlook on life can be made more healthy and positive.
Have a look at your fitness objectives and see where strength training could fit in and how it could help you to achieve your goals. If you don’t have a training plan, maybe now is the time to start one. Hiring a personal trainer for a few sessions, if you can afford it, can help give you the initial confidence to begin with and help you realize weight training isn’t as scary as you initially thought. It also helps to be shown how to use the equipment correctly as some of it can look pretty intimidating to begin with. And finally do a little research, but if something doesn’t work for you don’t be afraid to try something new; everybody’s metabolism and genes are different and we don’t all respond in the same way to the same factors and programs.