Let’s just start off by addressing the biggest fear I hear from women about weightlifting: “I don’t want to get big and lose my feminine features.” Don’t worry— you won’t. Bulking up is not something that happens by accident, and even when done deliberately is very difficult— especially for women. The hormonal differences between men and women make men more likely to bulk up, while women tend to gain strength without size. I promise it is possible to challenge your muscles and become physically strong without looking muscly and masculine. You can, and should, regularly weightlift and progressively increase your resistance over time without worrying that you’ll turn into “The Hulk.” So, now that we’ve eliminated that concern, here is why you want to lift:
- More muscle mass will increase your metabolism. The more muscle you have the more energy your body expends—even while you sleep. The afterburn (EPOC) from weight training can last up to 24 hours post-workout, meaning you are burning more during that recovery period than you are in your normal resting state (Kravitz, 2015). If you are working on weight management, then incorporating resistance training into your exercise regime is essential. For each pound of muscle gained you burn approximately 35-50 extra calories a day (Quinn, 2011).
- Resistance training can combat the effects of aging. As we get older our bodies begin to lose muscle mass and bone density. And I’m not talking senior citizen, great-grandma knitting in a rocking chair old. We start this slow decline from the age of 40 years old! Resistance training helps to build and maintain muscle and bone, so you stay strong, and at a decreased risk of injuries. Keeping your muscles and bones strong helps you to maintain good posture, coordination, and balance. Resistance training can also help prevent osteoporosis, which women are almost 4-times more likely to develop than men (Cawthorn, 2011).
- Being stronger makes life easier. The stronger your muscles are and the more they are used to being challenged, then the easier your everyday tasks become and the more energy you have. If you are lifting 10-lbs weights during your workout, then those bags of groceries don’t seem so bad anymore. If you can support your own body weight in a push-up, then lifting your children will be easier. By being physically stronger, and by learning the proper biomechanics of movement through weight training, you will decrease your chance of injury both in the gym and in your everyday life. Strength training can improve your quality of life.
- Weightlifting can improve heart health and insulin sensitivity. Studies have shown that regular weightlifting can decrease resting blood pressure, lower bad cholesterol (LDLs), increase good cholesterol (HDLs), and increase insulin sensitivity. Adding weightlifting to your workout can help prevent heart disease and can also help type 2 diabetics manage their blood sugar levels. (Westcott, 2015; Escobar & Kravitz, 2016).
- Weightlifting is good for your mental health. Women who weightlift have shown to be more self-confident and also more content with their body image—regardless of body composition (Quinn, 2011). Mastering new exercises and seeing your strength and ability progress makes you feel good about yourself and about what your body is capable of. Studies also show that resistance training can be helpful in elevating your mood and managing stress. Some studies go as far as indicating that resistance training can be useful in combating depression and anxiety.
Resistance training can help contribute to a good quality of life and keep you healthy, strong, and feeling good. Adding resistance training into your routine just twice a week is all you need to start gaining benefits!
Cawthorn, Peggy M. (2011). Gender Differences in Osteoporosis and Fractures. Clinical Orthopedics Related Research.469(7), 1900-1905
Escobar, K., & Kravitz. (2016) L. Resistance Training and Diabetes: What’s Best? IDEA Fitness Journal, 13 (4)
Quinn, E. (2018, June 20). The Benefits of Lifting Weights for Women [Blog post].Retrieved from https://www.verywellfit.com/why-woman-should-lift-weights-3119467
Westcott, W.L. (2015). Build muscle, improve health: Benefits associated with resistance exercise. ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal, 19 (4), 22-27