By now most of you know that you need to workout. However, what most of you don’t know is that how you workout is as important as the duration and intensity of your workouts! Moreso, many of you of you don’t know that there are incredible physical, emotional and psychological reasons why women should lift weights as part of their workout regimen.
I am a big fan of HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts. I love that they’re quick, intense and create a metabolic fire that burns for hours post-workout. Big fan. But, what I talk less about are the benefits of strength training (aka weight training, resistance training, etc.).
So, I dedicate this post to all the women out there who lift weights and strength train.
Here are my top 7 simple reasons why you should trade in some of your cardio workouts for barbells and weights:
You may have heard the term functional fitness thrown around quite a bit lately. It’s one of the fitness industry’s “latest” buzzwords. And, while I don’t tend to jump on many fitness bandwagons, functional fitness is something I truly believe in. I’m a busy Mom and business owner and being fit has enabled me to far exceed my own expectations with respect how much I can get done in a day. I attribute a lot of my strength and stamina to being fit. So, I’m functionally fit.
What does it mean? It means that you’re doing a workout that helps you manage “better” throughout your day. Functional fitness programs usually include carrying, lifting, squatting, rotating, everyday movements you go through throughout your day. Think about everything you do in a day. Carrying groceries, lifting toddlers or car seats, heaving laundry upstairs, bending down to pick up Cheerios 797 times a day.
Now, imagine if you were stronger. How much easier would it be to manage your groceries, your toddler, the Halloween decorations you’re trying to get down…and then put up? Strength training helps with functional fitness because, well, you get stronger. The stronger you get, the less demanding life’s tasks will seem to you. YAY functional fitness.
Increased Caloric Expenditure (Burn)
The more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns at rest. Did you read that? Go on, read it again. The more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns AT REST. In fact, for most individuals, for each pound of muscle you gain, you burn 35-50 more calories per day. Woop! Now, that may not seem like a lot but it adds up. Oh yes, it does.
Let’s say you start strength training and you lose 5 pounds of fat and gain 2 pounds of muscles. In your eyes, you’re down 3 pounds. Well, not only are you down 3 pounds but now, at rest, you’re burning 70-100 more calories per day. Gain 5 pounds of muscles? Now you’re burning 175- 250 calories/day! See? It adds up.
In addition, the great thing about muscle? It helps your body metabolize fat as an energy source. So, not only are you burning more calories with muscle when you workout you’re able to use fat as an energy source quicker and more efficiently. Go muscles! You beautiful things, you!
I do hate to be the bearer of bad news, but ladies, as we get older we have a tendency to see a decrease in bone density. This decrease can lead to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis leads to broken bones, weakness, injury and a decreased ability to get out and get active.
Have no fear, that doesn’t have to be your fate. Strength training and lifting weights can help combat osteoporosis by increasing bone density. There are numerous research studies out there that can back up this claim: one study showed an increased spinal bone density of 13% after six months of strength training. Another research study showed an increase of 19% of hip bone density after just 16 weeks of lifting weights. 19%! So go on, start lifting!
Fitness tip: In order to get the most bang for your buck when it comes to strength training to improve bone density, be sure you’re doing weight-bearing exercises. This means get off the machines! Stand up and lift weight while you’re supporting your own weight. If you do need to sit down, sit on a stability ball or unstable surface.
I’ve said that exercise is medicine over and over and I will continue to say it until you all believe and accept that to be truth. While most people think that the endorphins released through high-intensity exercise are the most effective way to help someone who suffers from depression, in fact, some of the best results are derived from programs where participants lift weights.
One Harvard study found that participants with clinical depression showed fewer symptoms of depression after 10 weeks of strength training compared to standard counseling. In other words, strength training was more successful at reducing some of the symptoms of depression than counseling. Yay muscles!
Strength training also has a tendency to make individuals “feel stronger” and more capable, both factors in helping to combat depression. This brings me to…
There’s something about weight training and women who lift weights. The gains we make during strength training are visible and we love to celebrate each muscle change. It’s awesome. I love seeing women post pictures of their newly found biceps muscle or of a triceps muscle they forgot they have. The pride in seeing muscles pop out may seem silly…until you lift weights. It’s ridiculously fun!
And, for those women out there concerned about “bulking up”, please know this: women generally have 10-30 times less of the hormones that cause muscle hypertrophy (growth). So, don’t sweat it. You’ll find that strength training aids in leaning you out and defining your muscles and that makes you “feel” stronger. You’ll be stronger too, but the mental benefit on this one is something that I felt should be highlighted.
When you feel strong, you’re more confident. When you’re more confident, you try more things. And trying new things can bring a lot of joy and happiness. So go on. Go feel strong!
Bring on the War Against Aging
While I don’t want to get slain for saying this, a lot of women want to fight off looking older.
Here are the facts: research has shown over and over again that between the age of 30-50 you’ll likely lose 10% of your body’s total muscle. Even worse? That muscle loss gets replaced by fat. Even worse? Fat takes up about 18% more space than muscle. So, while your weight may remain the same, your jeans and clothing will start to fit differently.
So, lift weights! Keep your muscle mass consistent. By doing that you’ll have all the added benefits of higher metabolism and fat oxidation (see #2) and your clothes will still fit! Use it or lose it has never been more accurate when it comes to aging and muscle mass!
I love how our body works. I love that we react to stress and that fitness, yes fitness, can help you manage it and return you back to resting rates sooner rather than later. It’s been shown that people who lift weights and participate in strength training programs are able to decrease their blood pressure and “flush out” negative hormones more quickly than unfit individuals.
Oh yeah, baby. Lifting weights and getting stronger helps you get back to your “normal” after a stressful situation. And, isn’t that worth it? Lift weights! Stress less! YAY!
There you have it! My top seven reasons why you should incorporate lifting weights into your fitness regimen. There are many more reasons as to why you should start strength training, including better heart health, better sleep, reduced risk of diabetes, a decreased chance of injury and a decreased risk of arthritis…and so on and so on!
Fitness tip: If you’re unsure how to lift weights or you don’t have a strength training program, ask a professional to design a program and show you how to properly complete the exercises! Don’t go in there willy-nilly. You could hurt yourself. If you’re not comfortable lifting weights in a gym, as a trainer to design you an at-home workout and get yourself some free weights! Bam!
And yes, I said willy-nilly.
So go on. Go lift weights. Start strength training. Be strong. You can do it.
Off you go!