Today I’m going to explain why women, who care about their health or want to get in better shape, should be focused on building muscle and increasing strength. The main focus for this post will be the physical benefits of weight training.
If you are looking to improve your body composition, you must build muscle! Muscle is metabolically active, you have to burn calories to just maintain it. Basically, this means that the more muscle to you have, the higher your resting metabolic rate. The higher your metabolism, the more food you can eat without your body storing it as fat! Women naturally have less muscle mass then men, it’s therefore even more important that we prioritise exercise that supports the growth of muscle.
I think some women worry about bulking up if they weight train – let me reassure you, this will not happen unless you try reeeeally hard to get big! Women do not produce as much testosterone as men, so we cannot gain the amount of muscle a man would through strength training. Muscle is also much more dense than fat, so 1kg of lean muscle takes up less space than 1 kg of fat – build muscle and lose fat and you will find yourself smaller than before! You can take my word for it, I can now fit my arse into a smaller sized pair of jeans than before I started strength training, my waist and hips are smaller but I have more lean muscle mass.
Please do not get hung up on whether weight training will make you look manly – muscles are sexy, developing your shoulders and glutes will give that hour glass shape. So many women want to look toned, to achieve this look there must be some underlying muscle, a woman who loses fat and has no muscle will look thinner but perhaps may not see that healthy ‘toned’ shape she was hoping for.
Apart from helping us to look better naked, the long term health benefits of strength training are amazing! Gaining muscle can slow down or even prevent sarcopenia: sarcopenia is the loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength as a result of ageing. Effects of sarcopenia include frailty, problems with mobility, falls and fractures, decreased activity levels, loss of independence, weak bones, and weight gain from lack of activity.
So, a lot of the things we associate with getting older can be prevented by strength training! Grip strength alone is an amazing measure of health and predicted life expectancy. The stronger your grip, the longer you’re expected to live.
Lifting weights not only affects our muscle but it keeps are bones healthy too! Thanks to the drop in oestrogen after menopause women are at a higher risk than men of developing osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is caused by a decrease in bone density, it’s what many people call ‘brittle’ or ‘fragile’ bones. It is why, when a woman in her 80’s falls, she is much more likely to break a bone than a woman in her 20’s.
Osteoporosis, like sarcopenia isn’t inevitable. Women that strength train will benefit from an increase of regional bone density and therefore decrease their risk of suffering a fracture if they fall. Plus they’re less likely to fall in the first place with more muscle mass and better mobility.
So getting stronger, in my opinion is one of the best kept anti-aging secrets out there and something that all women should embrace!