How Beneficial is Lifting Weights?
There’s a lot of distortion about lifting weights – particularly if you’re female. Approximately 9% of the United States population incorporates weight training in their daily lives. The number of men who lift is almost double the number of women who lift.1
Until very recently, positive depictions of women using weights for body wellness were almost nonexistent. Women are encouraged to be toned but not muscular. In the entertainment industry, women who weight-trained were usually depicted as hyper-masculine and undesirable. They were a punch line, a stereotype.
As a result, strength training wasn’t a big part of the exercise regimen for many women for decades. Instead, they were (subtly) encouraged to focus on aerobics, running, swimming, and other forms of exercise to avoid looking “manly.”
This misconception could be a mistake for long-term health.
There are a lot of misunderstandings attached to women who include weights in their fitness habits. Here are some common myths about women and strength training.
3 Biggest Weight Lifting Myths2
- “Bulking” Like a Man – Women may think that lifting weights will cause them to bulk up or look bigger than they are. Most females (with some clinical exceptions) have 15-20 times less of the testosterone that their male counterparts possess. Since testosterone is the primary hormone your body uses for muscle growth, it’s difficult (and sometimes impossible) for women to gain the muscle bulk that men can. If you’re not utilizing anabolic steroids, it’s simply not a thing for the majority.
- To Lose Weight, Focus on Cardio – While cardio is excellent for many aspects of your health, it certainly isn’t the only way to lose weight. In fact, muscle burns more fat. When you strength train, your body continues to burn fat long after your workout is over. This means less fat and leaner muscle. Also, muscle doesn’t turn into fat if you drop off your gym routine (they’re completely different tissues inside your body).
- Light Weights Make Lean Muscle – Women who work out regularly may be under the belief that doing endless repetitions with lighter weights will create longer, leaner muscles. Starting with a lower weight is important at first to gauge your ability. However, staying at a low weight doesn’t have much of an impact on your muscles at all. Gradually increase the weight and stick to lower reps for a more athletic physique of lean muscle mass.
Let’s break down the reasons why you need to add weight lifting to your life. You might be surprised to learn the benefits your entire body will gain!
7 Health Reasons to Start Lifting Weights
- Cut your risk of metabolic syndrome. Research from the University of North Florida found that women who strength train have a 37% lower risk of metabolic syndrome, which is linked to higher risks of heart disease and diabetes.
- Minimize muscle loss as you age. After age 40, you lose between 3-8% of your muscle mass every year. Having less muscle means your body doesn’t burn fat as efficiently (hence the tendency to gain weight as we age). There’s also evidence that lifting weights can help protect your connective tissues (such as tendons and ligaments) to help lower your risk of injury.3
- Preserve your bone density. As you age, the strength of your bones begins to decline. This increases your risk of fracture. One study found that lifting weights for 16 weeks raised levels of osteocalcin by 19% (a compound related to bone growth) and measurably increased hip bone density.
- Keep your brain strong and focused. All exercise is amazing for your brain but multiple studies with lab animals and humans have connected strength and resistance training to better cognitive function in the areas of concentration and memory.4
- Improve your nightly sleep quality. Exercise is one of the best (and most natural) ways to improve your quality of sleep. Inadequate sleep has been linked to a higher risk of disease, behavioral disorders, and cognitive decline as you age. Weight lifting in particular has provided incredible data in regard to sleep quality.
- Boost your mood and relieve your stress. Including weights in your exercise regimen improves stamina, energy, and overall mood. This is due to the release of endorphins you experience during and after working out. Researchers believe strength training is an excellent way to help relieve some of the most troubling effects of anxiety and depression.
- You might live longer. One study from the University of South Carolina found that participants who included resistance or strength training to their exercise routines were far less likely to develop major diseases such as heart disease and cancer. It was referred to as “exceptional survival.”5
Alterations to your physical appearance are a given when you include consistent exercise to your daily life. Lifting weights is an outstanding way to help burn fat, sculpt your body, and improve self-esteem. Physically, you’ll see changes but don’t get too caught up on the scale, the size of your jeans, or the time your personal journey will take.6
Do it to feel good. Do it to help prevent disease. Do it to live longer. The rest will follow.
1 Science Daily: Lifting weights protects against metabolic syndrome, study suggests
2 Fitness: 3 Myths About Lifting Heavy That Women Need to Quit Believing
3 Healthline: The Importance of Strength Training for Women
4 Greatist: 19 Reasons to Start Strength Training
5 Huffington Post: 13 Reasons To Start Lifting Weights
6 Women’s Health: 12 Reasons You Should Start Lifting Weights Today