While it’s important for everyone to incorporate strength training into their fitness regimen, there are key benefits from strength training that are particularly important for women.
“Strength training should be an integral part of women's workout regimens,” according to Dr. Joel French, Head of Exercise Science at Tempo. “Despite this, the National Center for Health Statistics says only about 20 percent of women lift weights."
Whether it’s because most women prioritize cardio
over strength training
(or ignore it altogether), the lack of weights in a workout routine can present a huge gap in not only a woman’s fitness but her overall health.
1. Muscle Maintenance
This one is kind of a no-brainer. Weight training can be a total body workout and will help you gain muscle mass, and that only becomes more important as women age. Studies show that after the age of 30, women typically begin to lose muscle mass and that space left by the former muscle mass can easily be filled with fat.
Dr. French explains that after the age of 30, women who don’t strength train lose about 3 percent of their muscle mass each year. For the average woman, that’s about 3 pounds of muscle loss annually.
Building muscle isn’t just for the aesthetic purposes of muscle tone either. More muscle mass means a higher overall metabolism meaning you’ll burn more calories by just existing, even if you aren’t huffing and puffing through a total body workout. On the other side of it, as Dr. French explained, the loss of muscle mass means a decrease in metabolic rate by 15-30 calories daily.
Having more muscle also means you’ll have a lot of real-life functional fitness improvements. You could become a stronger runner
, have an easier time carrying or lifting things, and maybe even get rid of nagging body pains — there are really no downsides to putting more muscle on your frame, especially as you age.
A concern some women have is becoming bulky
due to weight training. This is a common misconception and should be a non-issue for most. Women have far lower testosterone levels than men do and won’t beef up by increasing their weighted exercises. And that thing about burning more calories thanks to more muscles? It’ll help ensure that you only burn more fat while reserving that lean muscle mass and reducing that bulk.
2. Bone Density
And it’s not just about your muscles, but what they’re clinging to, as well.
Osteoporosis, a disease that affects mainly women, can be staved off with strength training. As women age, their bones become susceptible to weakening, causing bones to become brittle, fragile and vulnerable to breaks. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, one in two women over the age of 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis. Remember when Nana broke her hip?
Strength training places stress on the tendons and ligaments around bones and in turn stresses the bones (in a good way!) encouraging them to get stronger and maintain that bone strength as you age.
“Osteoporosis and Osteopenia (a condition where new bone isn’t made quickly enough to replace old bone) are very preventable with total body strength training,” says Dr. French. “However, once you have either condition, strength training and meds can only slow the progression. Full reversal is extremely difficult and rare.”
3. Reduced risk of disease
Strength training also helps to improve how your body processes sugar, and in turn can help reduce the risk of diabetes.
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, 15 million people in the United States suffer from diabetes, one in nine of them being women. As women go through menopause, their risk of diabetes increases as they have higher risk for weight gain, particularly around the waist — a risk factor for developing diabetes.
Strength training has been shown to greatly reduce the risk or prevent diabetes among both men and women.
And it’s not just diabetes either. Dr. French says strength training has been shown to prevent — and in some cases even reverse — heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, and even Alzheimers.
How to Get Started
If you’re new to strength training, it’s important to take it slow and ensure that you’re learning proper form, training at an appropriate intensity, and following an intentional program. You’ll see the best results (and while it's easy to obsess over new muscle tone you'll have, we're talking about the deep health benefits from above) when you actually follow a plan.
For Tempo athletes, you’ll have the total gym experience with access to hundreds of strength training classes meant to help you grow those muscles and get stronger through upper, lower, and total body workouts. That, in tandem with Tempo’s real-time form correction means that for most, you can train, assured that you’re lifting in the safest way possible. And for those unsure of where to start, Tempo has several programs — weeks long series of classes — that will guide you every day through what and how you should be training, including when you should be taking a rest.
And if you’re looking to connect with other women who are new, advanced and anywhere in between when it comes to strength training, Tempo’s online community
is a great place to start.