Many women avoid lifting weights, especially heavier weights due to the fear of bulking up. This is one of the most common misconceptions in the fitness realm. The fact of the matter is that women should lift weights, and not be afraid to go heavier. The reason men bulk up is because of the levels of testosterone that they naturally have. Women typically have ten to 30 times less testosterone than men and therefore have no need to worry about turning into the next Arnold Schwarzenegger.
By lifting more weights, women can reap many benefits that cardiovascular exercise just can’t provide.
1. You will become stronger.
By lifting weights, you increase the strength of your muscles and therefore will be able to perform everyday activities with more ease and less dependence on others. By being stronger you will also be at less risk for injury throughout other exercise programs that you may follow.
2. You will burn more fat.
By increasing your muscle mass (not by a ton), you will also increase your resting metabolism. This will help you burn more calories not only during your other workouts, but throughout the day. The more muscle you have, the more energy your body must burn to fuel your muscles with energy. The energy that is used to run your body on a daily basis can be provided by the fat stores that you have.
3. You will build stronger bones.
Osteoporosis is an all too common bone disease, especially in women. This is due to the hormonal changes that a woman’s body goes through during menopause. By lifting weights and doing weight bearing exercises (squats, deadlifts, standing presses, etc.) the bones in the body come under more stress and this causes them to naturally “remodel” themselves in order to accommodate the added stress of weight lifting. This will make your bones stronger and less likely to break down due to osteoporosis. It is also important to have adequate calcium and vitamin D in the diet to provide the important building blocks of bones. The current recommendation for calcium intakes for women is 1200mg per day.
For reference, a cup of skim milk is about 300mg.
4. You will build stronger connective tissue.
Not only will your muscles and bones be stronger, but you tendons and ligaments will become stronger through adaptation to the weights being lifted. As long as you have good form, this will help prevent against back pain, knee pain and arthritis in many joints. Lifting weights will help increase the density and strength of the connective fibers that hold your muscles together and your muscles to your bones.
5. You will help reduce stress and depression.
A study from the Journal of Medical Sciences found that intense exercise with weight lifting decreased signs of depression 50% more effectively than a low intensity workout. Also, there was a direct correlation with gains in strength and the reduction of depressive symptoms. On a vitality and quality of life scale and survey post experiment, it was found that there were better results from the high intensity and weight lifting group.
The next time you are at the gym, consider the weights your friend, and know that you have nothing to fear! If you are new to weight lifting, be sure to consult or even hire a personal trainer to help with proper form and exercise.