When I started going to a gym regularly and lifting weights, I remember thinking:
I don’t want to bulk up. I simply want to be a little bit stronger.
Would I bulk up, like the Incredible Hulk? What benefits would weight training, or resistance training, give me? Why should I do this? And how did this fit into my health goals?
As I wondered about all these questions about women and weight training, I realized I had to do a little research.
And I learned I wouldn’t bulk up, because as a woman I didn’t have enough testosterone to do so. (Yay, estrogen!) I also learned about the benefits of weight training, and over time I changed my mindset about lifting weights. Now, I happily show up at the gym two days a week, looking forward to getting stronger.
And that’s my goal. To age strong. Not Hulk-strong, but Amy-strong.
To be able to lift myself off the floor when I decide to stoop down to play with my dog, or even pull myself up if I fall. And to be able to get out of a chair, or up from my bed, with ease – now, and in 10 or 20 years.
Why Do Women and Weight Training Go Together?
Specialists in exercise science say women neglect strength training at their own risk, because bigger muscles help generate more strength and force.
“Muscle mass allows us to move,” says Larry Tucker, a professor in exercise sciences at Brigham Young University, in this TIME magazine article. “Young people tend to take for granted the day-to-day parts of life that require strength, like walking up stairs or picking up a baby.
“But a sedentary lifestyle means that people are gradually becoming weaker over time,” he says. “Building muscle can fight back against that process.”
So what do the experts recommend?
For adults, two sessions of strength training per week, along with at least 150 minutes (30 minutes per day, 5 days per week) of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, or 75 minutes of high-intensity aerobic exercise.
But most Americans aren’t doing that.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in the most recent Physical Guidelines for Americans, about half of all American adults—117 million people—have one or more preventable chronic diseases. And regular physical activity could benefit people suffering from seven of the 10 most common chronic diseases.
Yet nearly 80 percent of adults are not meeting the key guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity. Only about half meet the key guidelines for aerobic physical activity.
What Benefits Can Women Expect?
But what benefits can come from strength training?
Weight bearing or weight-loading activity promotes not only muscle growth but also bone growth and strength. Many women suffer from bone density issues such as osteoporosis, which can be ameliorated by strength training.
Weight lifting also helps control weight, lowers body mass index, and can lead to a healthier diet.
Women who engaged in strength training had a lower risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease than those who didn’t, according to research.
So which exercises work best?
Resistance exercises using body weight, resistance bands, weight machines, hand-held weights, and some forms of yoga all count.
Body weight exercises include push ups, pull ups, and planks. Resistance bands can work at home or on the go.
Need some resources to get started? Check with your healthcare provider before starting a new workout if you’ve been sedentary, and pace yourself. It takes time to create new habits.
How does strength training fit into your health-care goals? Comment below or send me a note.
Hi! I’m Amy, an integrative health coach, offering grace and space for a healthier you. I partner with people who want to create new habits so they can improve their overall health and well-being. Click here if you’d like to work with me through coaching, and subscribe here to my weekly Well Check emails and other updates.