If the title of this article shocks you, well it was meant to. Many women spend hours and hours each week working up a sweat by walking, running or using a machine like the Elliptical Trainer. They end up spending all of their devoted exercise time to aerobic conditioning, which leaves no time remaining for anaerobic workouts.
They in return end up “spinning their wheels”. They’re stuck at the same weight with little or no positive movement toward their weight loss and fitness goals. Yet, if just a couple of short strength training sessions were added to replace some of their cardio workout time, they could break-through plateaus and reap a wealth of health benefits.
There are many, many benefits to strength training. It has the potential to:
- Lower resting heart rate
- Reduce blood pressure
- Improve cholesterol profiles
- Reduce intra-abdominal fat, which in turn can help lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes and hypertension
- Help preserve bone mass
- Increase calories burned which helps promote weight loss
Unfortunately, many women are still either uneducated about the amazing benefits of strength training and/or afraid that they will “bulk up” and therefore they avoid resistance exercises. According to a study published in 2006 by Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, only 17.5% of
adult women performed strength training.
As shown above, there are numerous reasons why women should begin incorporating strength training into their workout routines today! But as history has shown, benefits such as preventing diseases and improving overall health are not usually the driving force behind change. Visible and measurable physical improvements such as a decrease in the scale tend to be the most motivational. So, let’s take a closer look at how strength training helps promote weight loss.
Moderate aerobic exercise, such as walking, has a metabolic cost of 5-7 per minute on average (in other words, it burns 5-7 calories). Moderate to vigorous strength trainings has a nearly equal metabolic cost at 5-8 per minute. So both walking and strength training can promote an equal amount of calories burned during the actual activity. But, there’s an extra benefit to strength training: you burn calories after you’ve stopped working out! Resistance training recruits both slow and fast twitch muscle fibers so the metabolic rate stays elevated longer. This means that you are burning calories long after you’ve stopped working out. One study showed an increase in metabolic rate even the next day post exercise. The study also showed that 24-hour post-exercise fat oxidation after strength training increased by an amazing 93%.
The benefits are both proven and clear, but some women still fear that they will get big, bulky looking muscles and look more masculine then they prefer. This really is a myth. In reality women simply do not have the necessary quantities of testosterone to build muscles like a man. It is a rare case when a woman has the potential for above average hypertrophy (increase in muscle size).
Also, often times a woman adds strength training to her exercise regimen and begins to see the numbers on her scale go up instead of down. This is immediately seen as a failure to many and the abandonment of the program occurs. In this case, using the scale to determine progress can be very misleading. An increase does not necessarily indicate fat has been gained. The exact opposite is more likely the cause. Muscle tissue weighs more by volume than fat tissue. A pound of fat occupies 18% more space than a pound of muscle.
Since women tend to correlate success and the scale readings so closely, it is highly recommended that women simply not weigh themselves regularly, Instead they should use other measurements, such as body fat percentage to gage progression. It’s very common for women to actually “weigh” their self-esteem when stepping on the scale rather than tracking their true health improvements.
Now that you know how important strength training is to overall health, here are some tips for getting started:
- Don’t go overboard and abandon your cardio sessions. Aerobic exercise is equally important and should be done 3-5 times per week.
- Start by adding in two strength training sessions per week.
- Choose weight sizes that will fatigue your muscle after about 8 repetitions.
- Select exercises that will work all of your major muscles.
- Include a variety of different strength training equipment like dumbbells, machines, balls and bands.
Copyright 2009 Lynn Bode