3 Surprising Health Benefits of Strength Training for Women
All modalities of exercise will help you burn calories and lose weight.
But strength training will help to promote the growth and maintenance of lean muscle mass.
In other words, making you toned and lean is the job of strength training.
According to Dr. Caroline Apovian, MD, Endocrinology Diabetes & Metabolism, “as we age, our metabolism changes— this process begins around the age of 30 and by age 45, you’re burning about 200 calories fewer per day than you did when you were 25.”
This often translates to weight gain of up to 12 pounds per year, she added.
As we age and our hormonal levels fluctuate, muscle loss further lowers your body’s metabolism, replacing your lean muscle tissue with fat, which generally settles in around your midsections, hips and thighs.
In our post cardio vs weight training, we talked about how muscles contribute to about 20 to 25 percent of total energy expenditure.
Loss of it would most definitely lead to less efficient metabolism and eventual weight gain.
Put simply, you want to reverse muscle loss as much as possible.
Keeping higher proportion of muscle mass is really the key to a higher resting metabolic rate.
One way to reignite a stalled metabolism is to perform strength training exercises— she advices that we need to lift weights.
Yes, weight lifting is not by any means a men’s sport.
Us women need to lift weights and perform strength training exercises to build muscles to keep the metabolism working efficiently to prevent gaining extra pounds and developing a spare tire around our midsection.
Fear of You’ll “Bulk-up” Like Mens
We are all guilty of staying away from the weights with fear that “lifting weights” can make us ‘bulky’.
But the truth is far from that.
Women simply don’t have enough testosterone to bulk up.
According to a study by William Kraemer, PhD and Professor of Kinesiology, Physiology and Neurology at University of Connecticut, women have little testosterone hormone and the little we do have declines with age.
Women simply don’t have the same level of testosterone as male do to build big muscles (Testosterone is produced by both males and females but is more prominent in males.)
As testosterone is the major growth factor for muscles in both men and women, women not having as much testosterone than men shows in the size of muscles we can develop.
Yes, for us women, it’s practically impossible to “bulk up” naturally.
So what do we get?
Instead, we get toned.
Instead of our muscles begin to bulk up, we build beautiful muscle definitions that look healthy, sexy and slender.
so, fear not— lifting weights will only firm and shape your muscles not bulky.
1. Burn Fat and Calories More Efficiently
Weight training strengthens and tones your muscles.
Muscle growth eventually converts to visible well-shaped muscle tone and definitions we love.
Just think of Jessica Alba and Jennifer Lopez. Jennifer Lopez is famous for here tough weight training routines with her
celebrity trainer Gunnar Peterson and often credits her well-shaped butt to squats and lunges.
Her claim definitely has scientific evidence.
It’s the work of what’s called lipolysis.
When you perform an intense weight training workout (also known as metabolic training), it stimulates lipolysis, a process where fatty acids get broken down and released into the bloodstream to be used as energy.
Lawrence Herrera and Len Kravitz, Ph.D. analyzed several studies to see the correlation between weight training and fat burning— his research revealed there is indeed an increase in fat metabolism after a weight training session.
In fact, the researchers found that energy expenditures were elevated approximately 10.5% for 40 minutes after the workout.
They also pointed out that glycerol levels (the marker for lipolysis) were raised significantly to 78% during and 75% after the resistance training— and indirect calorimetry data showed that fat oxidation was 105% higher after a resistance training workout.
For more on their finding you can visit the article title You Can do Burn Fat During Resistance Exercise.
To achieve this level of muscle building and fat burning with strength training, MensFitness.com, recommends following a “strength training program” that includes hitting all the major muscle groups through compound exercises or exercises that require movements at multiple joints.
Some of the most well-known compound and multi-movement exercises are squats, shoulder press, and lunges. All of them can be performed with or without weights.
If you are more comfortable using a machine, that’s fine to start. However, to get a full benefit of multi-movement exercises, learning to work with a free weight such as dumbbells is a good idea.
Perform the following the exercises to get started:
- Leg press
- Chest press
- Leg extension
- Shoulder press
- Seated row
- Lat pull down
All of these strength training exercises help with building muscle mass and improving lipolysis(fat loss). All in all, they give you the body transformation you are after.
2. Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
An intense weight lifting session can burn up to 300 to 500 calories per hour. A major calorie burning per session if you ask me!
Weight training has also been scientifically proven to boost BMR (basal metabolic rate) for up to 24 hours after a workout.
This is known as EPOC, or the afterburn effect, which in part helps fuel the repair of exercise-induced damage.
The EPOC generally tends to be modestly greater, adding about 6 to 15 % more calories to the overall workout energy expenditure, according to ACSM HIIT training guidelines.
So according to the calorie chart below, for someone who weights a 140 pounds did an intense weight training workout for 55 minutes with minimal rest between each exercise, she gets to burn approximately 500 calories during the session and additional 30 to 75 calories post workout.
Your BMR simply means that if all you did was sitting around, how much energy would your body or how many calories would it burn?
That’s your Basal Metabolic Rate, or BMR.
This is the basic number of calories you need to function in day to day life.
Although BMR varies from person to person depending on a number of factors, here’s a quick breakdown of what affects a person’s BMR:
Weight and height: The bigger or taller you are, the more energy your body needs to sustain itself. I’m talking about lean mass here – the more muscle mass you have, the higher your basal metabolic rate will be.
Age: We all know our metabolism declines as we get older. Sometimes we can often feel it –. This is largely because we lose muscle mass as we get older (especially if we don’t do things to build and maintain it!). This is why strength training is so important.
We can slow down muscle decline and even gain muscles mass with a consistent weight lifting program.
Gender: Men tend to have a higher composition of lean mass compared to women. As such, women also tend to have lower BMRs.
According to Livestrong.com, through analysis of original research from the Journal of Applied Physiology— researches determined that men had an average of 72.6 pounds of muscle compared to the women who had 46.2 pounds.
This comes as no surprise and explains exactly why men generally tend to lose fat faster than women.
While it is difficult to estimate your metabolic rate, research has shown that the Mifflin St. Jeor Equation consistently gets it within 10% of the actual BMR.
Here it is the equation:
BMR formula, where S is +5 for males and −161 for females.
Yeah, I don’t think I want to plug numbers into that equation either. We can start getting into P = heat production (measuring metabolism).
You can use free calculators online with great ease to estimate your BMR.
Let me link you to a couple:
- Net BMR Calculation
- Global RPh Clinician’s Reference
Once you have your BMR, you know from a metabolic standpoint, generally how many calories you need to eat a day to stay the same weight or maintain your current weight.
While BMR doesn’t tell us exactly what happens when you have an active day where— you do things like weight lifting and house chores, it tells what you can expect your total daily energy expenditure is to be.
Simply put, your BMR or basal metabolic rare is how many calories your body burns at rest.
An increase in lean muscle mass with weight training will increase your BMR and increase the number of calories your body burns without doing anything.
The bottom line is, you will burn more calories when you have more muscles as opposed to fat.
What is osteoporosis? Let’s just start there.
Osteoporosis is a medical condition in which the bones become brittle and fragile from loss of tissues, typically as a results of hormonal changes or deficiencies of calcium and vitamin D.
Loss of bone density not only increases the chance of you falling or losing balance but also put you at high risk for bone fractures even from a minor fall.
Weight training does more than strengthens and shapes your muscles. It hedges you from those risks related to osteoporosis.
Regular weight lifting increases bone density, which reduces the risk of bone fracture and osteoporosis. It’s an important benefit in your golden years.
Jay Hoffman, PhD and Chair of Education and Human Sciences at University of Central Florida, says in a paper for the American College of Sports Medicine ACSM that strength training improves bone density, promotes joint health and mobility, and reduces injury.
This health benefits of strength training alone makes it important at every age, but especially for seniors to remain independent and enjoy a fulfilling quality of life, it’s a benefit you can’t overlook.
Growing number of researches show that adults over the age of 80 who do weight-bearing programs can significantly reduce bone loss and increase bone mass.
Most women exercise to lose weight, thus get gravitated towards calorie burning cardio on machines.
Although it’s true that cardio burns significantly more calories than weight lifting exercises (see my post : cardio vs weight training), the reality is that women should be lifting weights as much as men and get the not-to miss benefits such as bone health, which so happens women are five times more likely to develop osteoporosis than men.
We have smaller, thinner bones than men to begin with, and we lose bone mass at a rapid rate after menopause (usually around the age of 50) when we stop producing a bone-protecting hormone called estrogen.
In the five to seven years following menopause, women can lose up 20% of their bone mass.
It’s important we start lifting irons to protect ourselves from health struggles due to bone density loss.
Take Home Message
There you have it!
A hand full of reasons why strength training for women is beneficial— whether promoting fat loss to preserving muscle loss, there are hard to miss benefits in lifting weights.
Let us know your thoughts and feel free to suggest us more benefits of weight lifting for women. We are happy to look into it and add them to our list!