Women’s bodies are built different from men’s to accommodate the changes of pregnancy and childbirth. Although women may store fat differently and have less muscle mass than men, it’s still important that women include weight resistance training in their exercise routines.
Lifting weights is an important part of staying fit. Yet many women do not pick up weights out of fear of bulking up and gaining weight. In a 2011 opinion poll conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, less than 20% of women said they accomplished the CDC’s recommended 2.5 hours of aerobic exercise and two periods of strength training each week.
Contrary to popular belief, women who weight train will not turn into the bulking behemoths of competitive weight lifting. The Women’s Heart Foundation says that high levels of estrogen make it quite difficult for women to become overly muscular. When they strength train, rather, women’s muscles will improve in tone, endurance and strength instead of size.
Resistance training provides an efficient way to build strength and burn calories. A study from researchers at the University of New Mexico found that the body will take between 15 minutes and 48 hours after exercise to return to a resting state. That means that a person continues to burn calories after exercising, a phenomenon known as after-burn or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. The more intense the workout, the longer the after-burn may last.
Studies performed at the Quincy, Massachusetts, South Shore YMCA found that the average woman who strength trains two to three times a week for two months will gain nearly two pounds of muscle, but lose 3.5 pounds of fat. With that lean muscle addition, resting metabolism increases and more calories can be burned each day.
The following are some additional benefits of strength training.
• Reduces risk of heart disease by lowering LDL cholesterol and increasing HDL cholesterol.
• Builds stronger muscles and connective tissues that can increase joint stability.
• Improves the way the body processes sugar, which can help reduce the risk of diabetes.
• Reduces rates of depression. A Harvard University study found that 10 weeks of strength training reduced clinical depression symptoms more successfully than standard counseling. Women who strength train commonly report feeling more confident and capable.
Women with no strength training experience can consult with a personal trainer who can teach them proper strength training form. This ensures that the exercises are being done efficiently while reducing the women’s risk of injury. Qualified trainers also can keep people moving toward fitness goals.