Calling all cardio junkies! It’s time to step away from the treadmill and pick up a set of weights. You don’t have to give up cardio, but here are some reasons to include strength training in a well-rounded fitness routine.
By Andrea Blair Cirignano
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You’ll conquer your fearsistock/Antonio_DiazIn recent years, there’s been a movement to rid women of their hesitation to weight train for fear of bulking up or feeling out of their element. “I work with many women that are truly apprehensive about stepping into the ‘men’s’ part of the gym,” says Julie Lohre, owner of FITBODY.com. “They have been on the outskirts of the cardio machines, or may have taken aerobic classes, but they have been afraid to check out the barbells and dumbbells.” Lohre adds that most of these women are surprised at “how quickly they become comfortable with the weights and how fast they see results.”
Your bones will get strongeristocknancypicsPass on the milk and grab a set of hand weights instead. Lifting and weight bearing exercise builds bone density far more efficiently than downing dairy. Even the National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends weight bearing exercise to build strong bones and prevent falls in patients already suffering from bone disease. Find out the silent signs you may have osteoporosis and not know it.
You will not bulk upistock/skynesherWe’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. “Many women are concerned that training or lifting heavy weights will cause them to become masculine looking and to gain significant amount of muscle and that is simply not the case,” says Lohre. “The unique chemical makeup of a woman’s body inherently offers her lower amounts of testosterone [the primary hormone that allows men to accumulate muscle more quickly].” She also says that if you vary your exercises and make sure you can safely handle your chosen weight, you’ll be strong and defined, not bulky.
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You’ll fire up your metabolismistock/shapechargePound for pound, muscle burns more than double the amount of calories than fat while you body is at rest so while you may think of cardio as fat burning, putting on more muscle will actually help you burn more fat while you sleep or sit on the couch. This is key for a speedy metabolism because even the most active woman likely spends more time sitting and sleeping than moving. If you take up weight training and still feel like your metabolism isn’t up to speed, check out these medical causes of a slow metabolism.
You’ll age a little easieristock/laflorBecause of the long list of benefits, including stronger bones, faster metabolism, muscle mass maintenance, and lowered stress levels, Lohre says that strength training for women in the aging population is critical. For women picking up weights for the first time at an older age, she adds that it is important to take the movements slowly. “Listen to their body and when a movement does not feel right, make adjustments to make it work better for you.” Find out the habits of people who look and act younger than their true age.
You’ll improve in other areas of fitnessistock/PeopleImagesOf course you’d expect to get stronger from a new weight training routine but you can also expect to get faster and more flexible too so it’s essential to include strength training for runners and all other endurance athletes. “From a performance stand point, in 16 weeks of my online training most women increase their strength significantly by doubling the number of strict push ups she can do, improve cardiovascular endurance noted by a 2:30 decrease in a one-mile run time and improve flexibility by three inches in the ‘sit and reach’ test,” says Lohre, “You’ll be stronger, faster, and better for life.”
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You will sleep betteristock/GeorgeRudyWhen your metabolism is on fire and you’re operating with optimal energy levels, you’ll find it so much easier to sleep. Our bodies want to move so you’ll notice you fall asleep faster when you’re more active but if you’re still stirring at night after adding in new weight bearing exercises, try working out earlier in the day or these tricks to have a better night’s sleep tonight.
You’ll have more energy for everyday lifeistock/FatCameraOur daily life mimics so many of the activities we do in the gym (or vice versa) so if you vary your exercise routine, you’ll be better prepared to enjoy activities outside of the gym. “The right strength training helps prepare your body for the vigor of everyday life,” says Lohre. “Playing with your kids, lifting boxes onto shelves, hiking through the woods, and climbing stairs without getting out of breath are just a few of the things you’ll find easier to do.”
Your confidence will sky rocketistock/PeopleImagesLohre says that most women are surprised at how much they can actually lift, “are far stronger than they give themselves credit for” and are also surprised at their level of pride when they hit a new goal or personal best on a lift. “What I love best about strength training though is the psychological impact it has on a woman’s mindset,” she says. “Strength training helps us both look better and feel better.” Try these other confidence boosts too.
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Your overall health will improveistock/monkeybusinessimagesWhile vanity in wanting to look good in a swimsuit or for a special event might initially draw us to exercise, in the end, it’s all about feeling healthy and improving our lives. “Long term, the changes associated with adding strength training are incredible,” says Lohre, “Yes, her body is going to become tighter, more defined and harder. She will see huge increases in strength and endurance. But also, she can expect to have more energy, to sleep better, have a better sex drive and to see a decrease in health concerns.”