Strength Training for Women
By Jennifer Kohler, MS, FNP-BC, CLC
Physical activity is vital to well-being, from decreasing cardiac risk factors to helping manage stress management; exercise is a key component. Strength training is very important for women, yet many women do not know how to incorporate strength training or worry about changing their physique if they start lifting weights. Others do not feel comfortable lifting weights or feel intimidated to start.
Why should you lift? Strength training has numerous benefits including decreasing body fat while building muscle. Increased muscle mass leads to an increased resting metabolic rate, so just by building some muscle, you can improve your metabolism. Building muscle in women does not result in a “bulky” appearance. Women bodybuilders work extremely hard and use many variables to achieve that level of muscle mass. You can lift heavy and often without the fear of changing your physique to an extreme. You can gain muscle definition and tone which can lead to enhancing your shape.
Strength training has positive benefits for bone health as well and increases bone density. This, coupled with adequate calcium and vitamin D, will add to decreasing your risk of osteoporosis. In addition, becoming stronger helps with mobility, builds stronger connective tissues, and increases joint stability which decreases your risk of injury. When you gain strength, certain tasks can become easier, and you may not feel as fatigued when completing them.
Weight training has been shown to decrease your risk of diabetes and cardiac disease; when combined with cardiovascular exercise this is maximized. Cardiovascular exercise does not mean logging hours on the treadmill, in fact, weights can be used in ways to give you the benefit of increasing lean muscle mass and reap the benefits of a cardiovascular workout. Lifting weights can even improve your mental health by fighting depression and increasing your confidence. Strength training can be built into any exercise plan and can include bodyweight, resistance bands, dumbbells, barbells, and weight machines.
It is never too late to start, and there are women in their 70-80’s who can gain significant improvements in their strength by starting a program safely. Explore what works for you, and what you enjoy! Find a new workout, try some weight training, and build your strength physically and mentally while acquiring many benefits.