Gone are the days of weightlifting feeling like an exercise regimen only suitable for big, burly guys donning spandex and ripped t-shirts; and, thank goodness! Strength training is an important component to any fitness routine. The CDC recommends including muscle strengthening activities at least 2 days per week and incorporating all major muscle groups.1
Since it’s Women’s Health Month we’re specifically going to focus on the top benefits of strength training for women.
1.) Increased Bone Density
The load that is placed on your body during resistance or weight bearing exercise helps stimulate the process of osteogenesis or bone growth. That may not sound that interesting, but bone density for women begins to rapidly decrease after menopause, which increases risk for osteoporosis and other disease. But, here’s the cool part: A study following postmenopausal women performing strength training at least 2-3 times per week for a full year showed that they were able to restore their bone density!2 No need to wait to incorporate strength training into your routine though. The best way to adopt healthy habits is to start now and stay consistent over time.
2.) Improved Mood
Sure, anything that makes you “feel” powerful can help boost your mood. But, a recent study in JAMA Psychiatry found that people with mild to moderate depression who incorporated strength training at least 2 times per week experienced a reduction in their symptoms. The same study also indicates that there may be even more benefits for those with more severe mental illness.3
A different study suggests that regular exercise can also help protect your brain from age-related cognitive decline. This is largely in part to exercise firing up the neuro-muscular connection and activating the hippocampus, which is the part of your brain associated with learning and memory.4
3.) Lowered Risk of Diabetes
It may not be the most noticeable benefit, but strength training can help lower risk factors associated with Type-2 diabetes. A 2016 study from Harvard following 36,000 women between the ages of 47-98 found that women who regularly did muscle strengthening exercises earlier in life had a 30% lower risk for Type-2 diabetes and a 17% lower risk for cardiovascular disease.5 Specifically, regular weight training is associated with a lower percentage of abdominal fat – a leading risk factor in Type-2 diabetes.6
4.) Increased Fat Burning
A recent article from the FASEB Journal researched how resistance training impacts body composition. The study found that in response to the load of strength training, muscle cells release a substance that causes the fat burning process to begin!7
Even at rest, a pound of muscle burns around 3 times as many calories per day as a pound of fat. So, maintaining lean muscle mass is a fantastic way to help keep your metabolism humming, even when you are not exercising.8
Want to read more about strength training? Check out these articles:
- Weight Training or Cardio for Fat Loss?
- 5 Ways to Fire Up Your Metabolism
- 5 Smart Strategies for a Successful Workout
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, March 17). How much physical activity do adults need? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved April 21, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm
2 Hong, A. R., & Kim, S. W. (2018). Effects of Resistance Exercise on Bone Health. Endocrinology and metabolism (Seoul, Korea), 33(4), 435–444. https://doi.org/10.3803/EnM.2018.33.4.435
3 Strengthen your mood with weight training. Harvard Health. (2018, October 1). Retrieved April 21, 2022, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/strengthen-your-mood-with-weight-training
4 Basso, J. C., & Suzuki, W. A. (2017, January 1). The effects of acute exercise on mood, cognition, neurophysiology, and neurochemical pathways: A Review. Brain Plasticity. Retrieved April 21, 2022, from https://content.iospress.com/articles/brain-plasticity/bpl160040
5 Strasser, B., & Pesta, D. (2013). Resistance training for diabetes prevention and therapy: experimental findings and molecular mechanisms. BioMed research international, 2013, 805217. https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/805217
6 Shiroma, Eric J., Nancy R. Cook, JoAnne E. Manson, M. V. Moorthy, Julie E. Buring, Eric B. Rimm, and I-Min Lee. 2017. “Strength Training and the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease.” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 49 (1): 40–46. https://doi.org/10.1249/mss.0000000000001063
7 Mechanical overload‐induced muscle‐derived extracellular … (n.d.). Retrieved April 21, 2022, from https://faseb.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1096/fj.202100242R
8 Does strength training really increase metabolism? ACAP HealthWorks. (2017, September 22). Retrieved April 21, 2022, from https://www.acaphealthworks.com/strength-training-increase-metabolism/#:~:text=Building%20more%20muscle%20mass%20is,roughly%20two%20calories%20per%20day.