Do you know girls who show up at the gym and stay on the treadmill the whole time?
Now, I get that it’s good they’re going to the gym because exercising and cardiovascular health is very important. But those girls may be shorting themselves by never picking up any weights. It’s time to change that mentality with strength training.
Why is strength training important? Because, as we all age, strength training helps us maintain our functional strength, allowing us to be more independent longer. But there are more reasons why the ladies should also be picking up some weights.
1. Build Muscle, Get Lean
In addition to giving you functional strength – which you need to perform everyday tasks – lifting also helps build muscle and, more muscle equates to burning more calories throughout the day, which helps you tone and lose weight.
You may have heard that muscle burns calories more quickly than fat – that’s true. This metabolism boost is what allows you to reach your weight-loss goals. It’s a snowball effect; the more you strength train, the more muscle you build and the more calories you burn.
Start off by performing some simple bodyweight exercises like squats, lunges, pushups, crunches and planks to get your muscle-building metabolism machinery cranking!
2. Bone Strength
As women age, research has shown, they become more vulnerable to osteoporosis and bone fractures. Strength training can help stave off osteoporosis because it also improves bone strength.
A study from McMaster University found that over the course of just one year, post-menopausal women increased their spinal column bone mass by 9 percent via strength training. Just one year! The “jarring” of strength training on the bones causes them to reinforce themselves and thus get stronger! Who would have thought to lift for your bone health?
3. Reduce Aging on the Cellular Level
A final benefit of strength training that isn’t discussed often is that it can really reduce your cellular aging.
Not familiar with that? Well, what it means is, lifting weights helps slow the aging process (known as the shortening of telomeres) when done in combination with a healthy diet and proper sleep regime (Puterman et al 2014).
A study published in Molecular Psychiatry found that, in a group of non-smoking post-menopausal women, those who had a healthy diet, paid attention to their sleeping habits, and exercised had less cellular aging then those who didn’t.
One thing I want to note is that while this study didn’t specifically mention strength training as the form of exercise performed in the study, with the other added benefits it has, it’s a no brainer to include in your daily life.
Ready to Pick Up the Weights?
Are you too intimidated to pick up the weights? You shouldn’t be. All it takes is actually getting started, and while that seems rather obvious, it’s that first step that is the hardest. But just think of the benefits we just discussed – aren’t those worth a little strength training 2-3 times a week?
If you can’t get past the intimidation, though, never fear because exercises like those mentioned above can be done in the privacy of your own home. You can even purchase small weights at a sporting store or online and use them at home as well. Pick a few exercises like arm curls, overhead presses and bent-over rows to get started. Here’s a video from fitness guru Neila Rey that might help:
Let’s face it, we stick to what we know and what is most convenient and for many people that is the treadmill. But often when we step out of our comfort zone, that is when the real growth occurs. It’s time to step off the treadmill and pick up the weights (or perform bodyweight exercises) a few times each week. Not only will it help you build muscle and bone strength but it will also improve your overall health. Ready to get started?
Puterman E, Lin J, Krauss J, Blackburn EH, Epel ES (2014) Determinants of telomere attrition over 1 year in healthy older women: stress and health behaviors matter. Molecular Psychiatry.
Josh Anderson (M.S., Personal Trainer) is the founder and editor of DIY Active: “Fit.Food.Life. No Gym Required” (www.DIYActive.com). He enjoys blending the latest science with fitness practices to help you exercise smarter.
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