OK, ladies - how often are you hitting the free weights? Or do the treadmill and elliptical take up most of your time? If you're in the latter group, you're not alone. Typically women are less likely to make a habit of weightlifting than men, and will often choose to go the cardio route instead in order to burn fat and stay in shape.
Part of this is due to the stubbornly persistent myth that if you're a woman and you lift weights, you'll end up looking "bulky," instead of lean and toned. But any trainer will tell you, this is simply not the case. In fact, scores of studies have shown that strength training is actually a key activity for women to add to their workouts if they want to lose weight and look svelte; below are seven reasons why it's important for women to lift weights.
1. You'll blast the fat away.
According to a recent study published by the Harvard School of Public Health, weightlifting has been shown to be more effective for burning fat--especially that ridiculously stubborn belly fat--than aerobic exercise. While cardio tends to burn both muscle and fat, weightlifting almost solely burns fat. So instead of slogging away on the elliptical for an hour, you can pump some iron for about 15-20 minutes and melt that fat off your body!
2. You'll burn more calories.
Strength training builds your muscles, and the more toned your muscles are, the more calories your body will burn when at rest. You see, the amount of muscle mass you have will largely determine what's known as your resting metabolic rate, which is the amount of calories your body burns when you're just chilling out, doing nothing. The more muscle you have (versus fat), the more energy your body will expend, which means that even as you're taking a shower, brushing your teeth, etc., your body is burning calories at a higher and more efficient rate. Strength training can turn your body into a calorie-melting machine!
3. Your flexibility will improve.
A study published by the University of North Dakota revealed that strength training exercises can boost the flexibility of your muscles just as much as static stretching. Just think about it: Muscles that are regularly being worked out will be stronger and more resilient, which means that they'll be more flexible and less prone to injury.
4. You'll have greater bone strength.
One of the most common health threats to women as they get older is osteoporosis, which is an age-related bone disease that causes the bones to become brittle and more fragile over time. Strength training builds the muscles that surround your bones, and can actually stimulate the growth of new bone cells, which increases bone density. This will make your bones stronger and better able to fight off those not-so-pleasant effects of aging.
5. You'll have less joint pain.
Keep in mind that your muscles are responsible for holding your joints in their proper place. Without strong, healthy muscles, your joints will bear most of the impact from various movements such as walking, running, or jumping. Building up your muscles will keep your joints from taking unnecessary beatings all the time, which can relieve joint pain and keep you feeling more youthful.
6. You may even drop a size (or two).
Many women shy away from weight training for fear of looking too bulky or masculine, but truth be told, there's very little chance of the average woman packing on any significant size without basically living in the gym. One reason for this is that women only produce about 5-10% of the testosterone that men produce, which severely limits their ability to "size up" in the muscle department. What will happen, however, is that the more firm and toned your muscles become through weightlifting, the more muscle mass your body will have, which can diminish your overall size by burning excess fat. So instead of bulking you up, strength training will slim you down.
7. You'll have more physical power and control.
There's nothing worse than feeling fragile, weak, or out of control of your own body. Strength training will give you a greater sense of control and power over your own muscles, which will make you feel more aware of your body's movements and more physically centered. Not only that, but when performing practically any type of exercise, you'll feel stronger and more powerful, because your muscles will have been trained to operate at a more efficient level. In a sense, strength training can bring out the "Wonder Woman" in you!
As you can see, there are several fantastic reasons to add weightlifting to your exercise regimen. So ditch the myths and misconceptions, and start receiving the benefits of a strength training routine!