The importance of strength training in women:
The importance of strength training in women cannot be understated. Typically, as women age, they attempt to control their weight and shape through diet and cardiovascular exercise, which is great. South Arkansas offers lots of opportunities for stimulating outdoor cardio exercise such as hiking, running, swimming and more. Strength training, however, is a much more effective way to accomplish these goals and provides many more wide-ranging benefits. Strength training is also effective in women of any age, adolescent to the elderly.
The particulars of a program should always be discussed with an exercise professional. However, women should generally strive to perform a full body strength training routine two to three nonconsecutive days per week. The routine should include at least 5 or 6 multi-joint exercises (i.e.; squats or lunges for legs, presses for the chest, a “pull” for the back, and exercises for the core). These exercises should be performed with a weight heavy enough to make the exercise difficult for between 8 and 12 repetitions. These 8-12 repetition sets should be repeated at least 3 times.
The weight utilized in the exercise is the critical point of interest. As a program is implemented, it is important to begin slowly, maybe by performing a single set of each exercise at a comfortable weight during the 2 or 3 workouts of the first week. Then as time progresses, sets are added, and more importantly, weight is added until the final few repetitions are difficult to complete.
Another option is BodyPump, one of the Les Mills classes held at both JRMC Wellness Centers. BodyPump uses weights to work all the major muscle groups, but the training is choreographed to music and is presented in a group class setting. It’s also perfect for those who have never lifted weights before, because it teaches proper form and what specific exercises are designed to accomplish.
Finding time to adopt an exercise routine can be challenging, so if you can’t make it to the gym, there are also ways to sneak some strength training into your routine at home. You can do squats and lunges while brushing your teeth, and you can use canned goods or milk jugs filled with kitty litter in place of weights.
Below are just some of the benefits of a routine consisting of the elements described above.
Strengthen and Increase Lean Muscle Tissue
Overloaded muscles will become stronger. That increased strength will make all daily activities easier. The increase in muscle tissue will raise the metabolism and make body fat loss and weight maintenance easier. Many women are under the misconception that strength training with “heavy” weights will lead to “bulking up.” The addition of muscle mass in men is due primarily to the fact that they have testosterone levels 10 to 30 times higher than women. Therefore, it is impossible for the vast majority of women to gain muscle tissue in any volume approaching men.
In the absence of strength training, adults begin to lose as much a 1% of their muscle mass in their late 20’s or early 30’s. This begins a vicious cycle of weakening, less physical confidence, decreased activity and less joint flexibility. The cycle, very often, leads to falls and broken bones in later life. Strength training breaks this cycle and gives an individual more independence and less risk of life altering events as they age.
Stronger, Denser Bones
Typically, between the ages of 30 and 35, natural hormonal changes in women cause a decrease in bone density. This loss of density begins as osteopenia and may lead to osteoporosis. Multi-joint strength training stems the loss and may, in fact, reverse this process. Additionally, the earlier in life that women begin strength training, the more increase in natural bone density. This will give more “bone in the bank” to deal with any natural decreases later in life.
If the big three benefits above are not enough to make you a believer, strength training also: lowers bad cholesterol (LDL), raises good cholesterol (HDL), improves self image, reduces the symptoms of depression, decreases back pain, and helps fight arthritis. So, in effect, strength training is the ultimate anti-aging strategy for women (and men). Do your research and begin a program soon. The quality (if not the quantity) of your life depends on it.
The Jefferson Regional Medical Center Wellness Centers, located in Pine Bluff and White Hall, offer a variety of fitness options for all ages and interests. Free weights, machines, cardio equipment, personal trainers and a full schedule of Les Mills classes are available at both facilities. For more information call the Pine Bluff (870-541-7890) or White Hall (870-850-8000) facility.