Are you a woman? Is weightlifting a part of your athletic training routine? It should be.
“The American College of Sports Medicine recommends weightlifting for all adults at least twice a week, with three times a week being optimal,” says Michele Olson, ACSM fellow and professor of exercise physiology at Auburn University at Montgomery in Alabama.
Despite what the ACSM recommends, most Americans fall short of that mark. According to a survey administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 29 percent of adults meet the minimum recommended weightlifting schedule. Compare that with 52 percent of adults who get the minimum recommended cardio minutes per week, according to the same survey.
Because women, biologically, have less muscle mass than men, it is especially important for women to weight train to replace the natural loss of muscle that occurs with age.
Women, maybe you’ve thought about lifting weights. Maybe you’ve even done some dumbbell curls or picked up a barbell. Maybe you don’t feel comfortable entering into the perceived “men only” part of your gym.
You’ve probably heard the horror stories: lifting heavy weights makes women bulky, it’s dangerous, it’s bad for your bone and joint health, etc. These are wives tales. But, unfortunately, it feeds into stereotypes that are keeping too many women from experiencing the profound benefits of weightlifting and athletic training.
Yoga and Pilates are great ways to maintain weight management, but they aren’t enough to help you reach your optimal health.
Here are a few reasons that you should add weightlifting to your workout plans.
- Lose weight and maintain weight management. As you increase strength and lean muscle mass, your body uses calories more efficiently. Your muscles contract whether you’re breathing or running uphill. When your muscles contract, you burn calories. The more muscle contractions you experience during a day, the more calories you’ll burn. If you have more lean muscle mass, you’ll have more muscle contractions and thus burn more calories.
- Get curves. According to Kellie Davis on BodyBuilding.com, “As you build muscle, your body begins to take a nice hourglass shape. Though endurance exercise can help you lose weight, that weight comes in the form of both fat and muscle tissue. If you’re losing both fat and muscle, you can lose those lovely curves as well. Strength training can help create and sustain them.”
- You’ll lose 40 percent more fat. If you think cardio is the key to blasting belly fat, you’re only half correct. When Penn State researchers put dieters into three groups—no exercise, aerobic exercise only, or aerobic exercise and weight training—they all lost around 21 pounds, but the lifters shed six more pounds of fat than those who didn’t pump iron. Why? The lifters’ loss was almost pure fat; the others lost fat and muscle.
- You’ll build stronger bone and joint health. As you age, bone mass decreases which increases your likelihood of one day suffering a debilitating fracture or suffering from osteoporosis. But, there is good news; a study found that 16 weeks of resistance training increased hip bone density and elevated blood levels of osteocalcin – a marker of bone growth – by 19 percent.
- You’ll handle stress better. Scientists determined that the fittest people exhibited lower levels of stress hormones than those who were the least fit. Another study found that after a stressful situation, the blood pressure levels of people with the most muscle returned to normal faster than the levels of those with the least muscle.
Now that spring is finally here, it’s time to begin reaching your full potential. Weightlifting and athletic training can improve your body, mind and your outlook on life. So, what are you waiting for?