5 Reasons women should lift weights.

People watching is one of my favorite things about working at a gym.

There are people who know what they’re doing and people who clearly don’t (and, to those people, I am here for ya!) and people who are figuring it out.

And while everyone has their own little gym quirks, here are a couple sweeping overgeneralizations about the people who fall into the “don’t know what they’re doing”:

The women spend a lot of time on the treadmill, bike or elliptical. Or in a group class.

The men do bicep curls and bench presses. (Like, you have legs too, dude.) But that’s a topic for another time.

Many women focus on cardio because they want to lose fat and burn calories and this is what they think they’re supposed to do. Cardio is part of a well rounded fitness routine. Yes, that’s true. However, if you ask them what their idea body looks like, most women have a toned fit image in their mind. Spoiler alert: this body that you want does not come from cardio alone.

Some women are also nervous about lifting weights. Maybe because it’s a new thing for them and they’re unsure what to do. Maybe because they are honestly worried about “bulking up” (can’t happen….because hormones). Maybe they’re just intimidated to go to that part of the gym because that’s where the muscley dudes hang out.

Here are five reasons why women should lift weights:

Body composition. Most women who are in a fitness regimen are doing it to lose fat. They jump on a treadmill or bike to burn calories and decrease fat stores. Seems like it makes sense, right? While this may show some results initially, as time goes on the body adapts and cardio alone will not prove effective long term. By adding strength training into the mix, you begin to burn calories in a different way and to build muscle mass.  As your muscle mass increases, your body will burn fat more efficiently and begin to change its overall shape.

Bone density. As we age, we are at risk for losing bone mass and muscle mass. After menopause, our bodies no longer secrete estrogen. This leaves us at risk for osteoporosis. Strength training is a simple and effective way to make up for that. Increasing muscle mass can improve bone mineral density. Stronger muscles also provide more support for bone structure.

Less stress and improved sleep. Exercise in general is a great way to combat stress. Strength training helps to regulate bodily functions like blood pressure and resting metabolic rate which contributes to reduced stress. This goes hand in hand with a good quality night’s sleep.

Heart health. As mentioned above, moderate-intensity strength training improves blood pressure. It not only increases blood flow but also builds lean muscle which alleviates pressure on the heart. We’ve already mentioned that strength training improves your body composition. Visceral fat is the fat that lives in the abdominal cavity around the internal organs, including the heart. Subcutaneous fat lives directly under the skin. Visceral fat is associated with heart disease. Research from the Journal of the American College of Cardiology reports that, regardless of weight, higher levels of visceral fat lead to an increased risk of heart disease. Improving body composition through weight training has the added benefit of heart health.

More energy. Whether it’s cardio or strength training, exercise will improve blood flow increasing your energy. Exercise will give you an endorphin boost that makes you feel more energetic (and some would say happier) throughout your day!

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