During the last couple of decades, researchers have made extremely compelling arguments for the benefits of strength training (also referred to as weight training or resistance training), particularly for women, and for both men and women over the age of fifty. However, the number of women and elderly who participate in strength training is still quite low. Most women who exercise are spending most of their gym time on cardiovascular exercise. Whatever your reasons for avoiding the weights, here are ten reasons why you need to take strength training seriously, and most of these reasons apply equally to men.
1. You Will Be Physically Stronger
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, or beyond your limit. Daily tasks and routine exercise will be far less likely to cause injury. Even moderate weight training can increase a woman’s strength by thirty to fifty percent. Research also shows that women can develop their strength at the same rate as men, when measured in percentage growth terms.
2. You Will Lose Body Fat
The average woman who strength trains two to three times per week for two months will gain about a kilogram of muscle and will lose almost two kilograms of fat, assuming no other diet or exercise changes. As your lean muscle increases so does your metabolism and you burn more calories all day and night. For each kilogram of muscle you gain, you burn 80 to 110 more calories each day.
3. You Will Gain Strength Without Bulk
Unlike men, women typically don’t gain size from strength training because compared to men; women have ten to thirty times less of the hormones (namely testosterone) that can cause muscle hypertrophy. You will, however, develop muscle tone and definition.
4. You Decrease Your Risk of Osteoporosis
Weight training can increase spinal bone mineral density (and enhance bone modelling) by thirteen percent in six months. This, coupled with an adequate amount of dietary calcium, can be a woman’s best defence against osteoporosis.
5. You Will Improve Your Athletic Performance
Providing the strength programme is suitably matched to your athletic requirements, strength training improves athletic ability and decreases the risk of injury. Golfers can significantly increase their driving power. Cyclists are able to perform for longer periods of time with less fatigue. Skiers improve technique while minimising risk of injury.
6. You Will Reduce Your Risk of Injury, Back Pain and Arthritis
Strength training not only builds stronger muscles, but also builds stronger connective tissues and increases joint stability. This acts as reinforcement for joints and helps prevent injury. A recent twelve year study showed that strengthening the lower back muscles had an eighty percent success rate in eliminating or significantly alleviating lower back pain. More than eighty percent of the population will suffer period/s of lower back pain during their lives. Strength training can also ease the pain of osteoarthritis and strengthen joints.
7. You Will Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease
Strength training can improve cardiovascular health in several ways including lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol, increasing HDL (good) cholesterol, and lowering blood pressure. When cardiovascular exercise is added, these benefits are maximised.
8. You Will Reduce Your Risk of Diabetes
Strength training improves the way the body processes sugar, which reduces the risk of diabetes. Adult-onset (Type II) diabetes is a growing problem for men and women, & more lately, even children! Strength training can increase glucose utilisation in the body by 23 percent in four months.
9. It Is Never Too Late To Benefit
If we lead a sedentary lifestyle void of sufficient strength training, from our mid twenties we lose approximately one percent of both muscle mass, strength and bone density per year. This rate of loss increases to approximately two percent per year when we reach about 70 years of age. This trend is highly reversible. Women and men in their 70’s and 80’s have built up significant strength through weight training, and strength improvements are possible at any age. However, a strength training professional should always supervise older participants, particularly when starting a new programme.
10. You Will Improve Your Attitude and Fight Depression
A Harvard study found that ten weeks of strength training reduced clinical depression symptoms more successfully that standard counselling did. Women and men who strength train commonly report feeling more confident and capable as a result of their programme.