Benefits of Strength Training for Women
Strength training does so many amazing things for the body that it should be included in everyone’s fitness program, no matter what their overall goal may be. From boosting metabolism by building muscle mass, to lessening the risks of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, strength training, especially when combined with a healthy diet, offers countless benefits that lead to a better overall quality of life. One of the greatest and most important benefits of adding extra weight to your workout is that strength training builds bone mineral density. This is truly a welcome benefit to both men and women; however, it is extremely vital to women’s health.
The Most Important Part of a Woman’s Fitness Program
Although men and women will both experience bone loss with age, postmenopausal women are more likely to face rapid bone mineral density loss because of the loss of the hormone estrogen. Bones are live tissue and renew or remodel throughout our lives with the help of bone building cells called osteoblasts that build new bone, and osteoclasts that tear down or “resorb” old bone. In the presence of the hormone estrogen, the body is able to build and remodel new, strong bone. After menopause and the loss of estrogen, the body simply cannot build as much strong, new bone anymore. This leads to the loss of bone mineral density, leaving our bones porous and more susceptible to fractures, especially in the hips, spine, and wrists. This is the devastating bone condition called osteoporosis.
Weight Bearing Exercise and How it Builds Bone Mineral Density
To counter the effects of bone mineral loss, weight bearing exercises in our activities is a must. Weight bearing exercises are those in which the muscles and bones are working against the force of gravity. This can be walking or running, aerobic exercises, and of course, strength training. Though there are many aerobic types of weight bearing exercise that will help build bone density, strength or weight training is possibly the greatest option simply because, with adjustments to an individualized program, strength training is one of the few activities that can be done from the time you’re able to follow instruction and hold those dumbbells in your tiny hands, to the time you’re frail, and well into your 90’s. The same just cannot be said of most other weight bearing activities. Also, you’re able to build and strengthen bone throughout your entire body, not only in the lower body, as with running, walking, or jumping.
Strength training includes both body weight exercises, like squats and push-ups, and equipment based weight training with dumbbells, resistance bands, weighted medicine balls and other weighted equipment. By adding strength training to our exercise program, we build bone density, and add strength to our bones. This is because of something called “Wolf’s Law”, which states that bones will adapt to the stresses being placed on them by laying down stronger bone where it is needed. Because bones are live tissue and renew throughout our lives, as new stronger bone is remodeled through weight bearing exercise like weight training, we will ultimately lose bone mineral density at a much slower rate as we reach our later years.
It’s Never too Late to Begin Strength Training
You can begin building stronger bones at any point in your life. Studies have shown that even extremely elderly people can build bone mineral density with strength training. The human body is amazing and your bones will adapt to the new stresses they are being challenged with. Even though we’ll never have the bone mineral density we had when we were 20, by beginning and continuing to weight train, you can keep your bones stronger longer.
Won’t Lifting Weights Make Me Bulky?
We women simply cannot develop the big muscles that men can get. First, men have more testosterone in their bodies than we women do. Also, men naturally have more muscle mass than women. Therefore, they are simply built to be more muscular than women. However, even men have a hard time building larger muscle mass. A very specific diet and very specific type of training is needed to build the large muscle mass that body builders have. Therefore, we women have to accept the reality that we won’t suddenly wake up one day with big bulging biceps from strength training.
More Strength Training Benefits for Women
Ladies, if all of the above information isn’t enough to convince you that lifting weights should be the main focus of your exercise program, let’s review all the awesome benefits that strength training can give your body.
Other than building bone density, here are more benefits of strength training for women –
- It lessens the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer and all risk factors that lead up to these diseases.
- More muscle is built, which means less fat mass.
- More muscle mass means higher metabolism. This causes a greater post workout expenditure of calories as the muscles recover from the strength training workout, so calories continue to be burned even at rest.
- Muscle mass maintained through our younger years will ultimately cause us to experience a much slower loss of muscle and strength in our later years.
- Strength training improves posture. Proper technique for most strength training exercises requires a neutral spine with shoulders pulled back and down, and exercises like rows, require the shoulder blades to be retracted or squeezed together.
- Strength training improves balance, because your full body – joints, muscles and even your brain, are all working to hold the equipment and your body in proper alignment.
- It not only relieves stress and can release those “feel good” endorphins, more studies are showing that it fights depression.
- Strength training develops beautiful, toned muscle mass when combined with appropriate cardio. Ladies, this will give us a more beautifully shaped upper body as well as shapely lower body, so we’ll look more balanced in our fitness from head to toe.
Because of the countless health benefits of strength training, it should be the main focus in every woman’s fitness program. We women truly stand to gain the greatest benefit from weight training – healthy bone density as we age. For stronger bones and an overall healthier lifestyle for years to come, combine strength training with a complete, balanced diet, rich in calcium, vitamin D, and leafy greens. Don’t hesitate, Ladies, lift those weights!
1. NSCA’s Performance Training Journal, Issue 11.1, Jan./Feb. 2012, Resistance Training for Postmenopausal Women, Brad Schoenfeld. https://www.nsca.com/publications/reports-and-journals/performance-training-journal/
2. Petersen, T. (2008). Sr Fit Second Edition: The Personal Trainer’s Resource for Senior Fitness, ed. Bazzle, P., American Academy of Health and Fitness.