Increasing and maintaining muscle mass is one of the best ways to help keep body fat at bay and to improve overall fitness, particularly as you age. Resistance exercise such as weight training is the best way to build muscle mass. So why is the number of women who participate in any formal or consistent weight training workout so low?
A lot of women today still believe that lifting weight, particularly heavy weight, will make them big and bulky. Here’s where a brief lesson in science is useful: Testosterone and human growth hormone are the two major hormones involved in building muscle. Everyone has them both, but men have way more testosterone than women. In general, women have about 15-20% less concentration of testosterone in their body than men do. Without that extra testosterone, we ladies simply can’t (yes, I mean can’t, as in we are biologically unable to) build the big muscles like guys.
The female athletes and bodybuilders that you see with more masculine levels of muscle take supplements to enhance (legally or otherwise) their natural levels of testosterone so that they can build larger muscles than most women. In addition, they endure extreme training sessions and diets to attain and maintain that level of muscle. It’s science, so stop worrying. Whatever your reasons for avoiding the weights, if you are a woman, here are some of my favorite reasons why you need to take strength training seriously.
You Will Be Physically Stronger:
For all my independent ladies - Increasing your strength will make you far less dependent upon others for assistance in daily living. Chores will be easier, lifting kids, groceries, and laundry will no longer push you to the max. If your maximum strength is increased, daily tasks and routine exercise will be far less likely to cause injury.
You Will Improve Your Attitude and Fight Depression:
Women who strength train commonly report feeling more confident and capable as a result of their program, all important factors in fighting depression. Physical activity reduces stress by releasing endorphins, which are feel-good hormones. Although both cardio and strength training stimulate your body to release endorphins, your body produces more endorphins in a faster period of time when you’re weightlifting than when you’re only doing cardio.
You Will Lose Body Fat:
The average woman who strength trains two to three times a week for two months will gain nearly two pounds of muscle and will lose 3.5 pounds of fat. As your lean muscle increases so does your resting metabolism, and you burn more calories all day long.
You Decrease Your Risk of Osteoporosis:
Weight training can increase spinal bone mineral density (and enhance bone modeling). This, coupled with an adequate amount of dietary calcium, can be a women's best defense against osteoporosis.
You Will Reduce Your Risk of Diabetes:
Weight training may improve the way the body processes sugar, which may reduce the risk of diabetes. Adult-onset diabetes is a growing problem for women and men.
So stop believing the old myth that you’re going to get ‘big and bulky’, pick up something heavier than a 3lb dumbbell and start realizing some of the benefits of pumping iron.