There are a number of reasons why women should strength train, though many still avoid lifting weights and focus on cardio for fear of bulking up. Others don’t know where to begin and feel intimidated to start. But women shouldn’t be afraid to lift weights. According to Juan Martinez, Holistic Strength Coach and Founder of CEO, Semet Fitness, “Women typically recover quicker than men, need less cues and use every ounce of their body to complete workouts.”
Martinez and Taz Shirota, Master Trainer at Crunch Fitness, Embarcadero, gave StrongPath four compelling reasons why women should be lifting weights regularly.
Pregnancy: Today, women are encouraged to weight train during pregnancy and post-partum. Lifting weights while you are pregnant can help alleviate aches and pains as the baby grows, can help maintain a healthy body weight, and can increase stamina. At the same time, resistance training can also help strengthen a woman’s body for labor and for lifting and carrying a growing baby (along with all the accessories!).
“A woman who has been strength training until the end of her pregnancy almost always recovers her physique, especially around the waistline, and energy levels quicker,” said Shirota. There have also been a few studies that found strength training during pregnancy may also help women with gestational diabetes manage their condition. It’s recommended you check with your healthcare professional before starting a program and seek the guidance of a certified trainer to build out a workout plan that is safe for you and baby.
Regulates Hormones: Consistent exercise that includes strength training helps balance estrogen levels, “which can affect pre-menstrual symptoms like bloating, fatigue and headaches right before and during a period,” said Martinez. Maintaining the right balance can also make a difference in how effectively fat is burned. Women can also train around their cycle to gain maximum benefits. One study showed that strength training during the first two weeks of the menstrual cycle resulted in greater strength and power gains compared to the last two weeks in the cycle. Exercising during your period also releases endorphins, which are natural pain killers for cramps.
Osteoporosis: Studies show that postmenopausal women have a higher risk of osteoporosis. “Strength training has been shown to maintain, or improve bone mineral density in postmenopausal women, and strength training at high intensities seems to be most effective,” according to a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
Increase Lean Mass: As women get older, lean muscle mass is lost and is replaced by fat. Lifting weights is an effective way to preserve muscle and make positive body composition changes safely and for the long-term. Maintaining lean body mass can help fight diabetes and insulin resistance, promote bone health, improve your ability to recover from an illness or disease and help avoid falls and potential fractures.
Venturing away from cardio machines to start a well-guided strength training regime can result in various physical health benefits as well as mental well-being. As one study in Journal of Extension showed, “Strength training was associated with significant improvements in several dimensions of body image, health-related quality of life, and physical activity behaviors, satisfaction, and comfort.”