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Why Women Should Strength Train

Strength training is exercise using some type of resistance (dumbbells, barbells, machines, rubber bands, body weight, etc.) to build strong muscles. Some people believe that only men need to improve their strength but the truth is that women can benefit from having a stronger body too. In fact, the benefits of strength training go far beyond firm muscles and a shapely body. There are many surprising health benefits that you wouldn’t expect from lifting weights (the most common form of strength training).

Aesthetic benefits
These are the beauty related benefits. Strength training gives you a tighter leaner body because a firm muscle is more compact and dense compared to a flabby muscle.

Strength training is an essential part of a weight control program because the more muscle mass you have, the faster your metabolism. Muscle tissue is more metabolically active than fat tissue. In other words, it burns more calories. One of the reasons why women gain weight faster as they get older is muscle atrophy. Muscles that are not challenged by strength training become smaller with age. Smaller muscles means less calories burned everyday.

Although a woman cannot hope to increase muscle size as dramatically as a man (women have very little testosterone, the male sex hormone), applying the appropriate strength training techniques can put a little muscle bulk when it is needed to create a more symmetrical figure. For example, if a woman has narrow shoulders and big hips, the shoulders can become a little wider so the hips don’t look so big. Conversely, if a woman has thin legs, strength training can make them a little fuller so the lower body matches the bigger upper body. The secret is basically in the amount of weight you lift and how many times you lift it. To make a muscle bigger, choose a weight that you can only lift for six to eight times before your muscles get tired. For firmer muscles without an increase in size, lift a weight light enough that you can lift it 12 to 20 times before your muscles get fatigued.

Strength training coupled with flexibility training (stretching exercises) can improve posture by making sure that muscles are balanced. For example, stooped rounded shoulders can be improved by strengthening the muscles at the back of the shoulders and between the shoulder blades while stretching the muscles in the chest and the front of the shoulders. Bad posture does not only increase the risk of injury in the lower back, it also detracts from the beauty of a woman.

Physiological benefits
These are the health benefits that you will not see right away and are not obvious to other people.

Strength training can help prevent osteoporosis because strong muscles equal strong bones. Scientists believe that when a muscle contracts against resistance, the pulling force it exerts on the bones causes the bones to become denser and stronger. Strength training also helps improve balance so unnecessary falls are prevented.

It can help an older woman cope with osteoarthritis because strong muscles are better able to absorb the stress around the affected joints.

Although aerobic type of exercise (walking, cycling, dancing, jogging, etc) is the most common exercise recommendation for people with high blood pressure, strength training done properly and safely has also been found to help normalize blood pressure.

Strength training can reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the “bad” kind) and improve the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL (the “good” kind).

Post-menopausal women tend to accumulate more fat in their abdomens than in their hips, buttocks, and thighs because of the changes in hormone levels. They end up having the same fat distribution pattern as a man – especially the storage of visceral fat. This kind of fat is not found under the skin (this is called subcutaneous fat) but found around the abdominal organs. It has been associated with a higher risk of heart disease. Research has found that strength training can significantly reduce visceral or intra-abdominal fat in older women.

Researchers have discovered that strength training can also help to keep insulin levels normal, which can reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Psychological benefits
Studies show that having a strong body improves self-confidence and self-esteem in women. Aside from knowing that you look good, knowing that you can take care of yourself physically is a great morale booster.

You cannot separate the body from the mind or vice-versa. When you are depressed, it shows in the way you walk and the way you hold yourself. When you are feeling physically weak, you also feel emotionally and mentally down. Strengthening your body helps to strengthen your mind and emotions.

Independent golden years
This is the one benefit of strength training that I always keep in mind when I lift weights. Since I come from a family of people who live long, I will probably make it to my late nineties. For so long as my mind remains intact, I want to make sure that I will be a strong and healthy old woman who doesn’t need anyone to give her a bath or help her out of a chair or feed her. Strength training is one of the ways that I am going to be able to live out my golden years in an independent dignified manner.

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