Lift Like a Man
I distinctly remember walking into the weight room in my college gym. I remember the odd looks I received from the men in that room. I was the only women in a largely male dominated activity. Determined to work out, I proceeded to lift as best as I could. The equipment was set high and the testosterone was high. It was very intimidating. Not to be frightened away, I continued to show up and lift 3-4 times a week even attempting to drag a roommate for a little female support. However, it was not my roommates thing like it was mine. Eventually the men were used to seeing me there. A few started to spot for me and show me some lifts. Why did I put myself through the awkwardness? I had gained the ‘freshman 15’. You know those 15 pounds when you move away, buy your own food (or junk) and eat popcorn for dinner. No amount of Jane Fonda aerobics (yes, I am dating myself) and rec center classes were helping me. But weight lifting did. After 6 weeks, I lost the inches, my clothes fit better and I felt great!
Is Lifting the New Running?
What a difference some years make! Now you can walk into any gym and women of all ages are lifting, doing kettle bells, press-ups and bench presses. All pushing their bodies for maximum benefit. For women over 40 lifting has become the new running. More and more older women swear by weight training. Even Hollywood has gotten into the act – Jennifer Lopez, Cameron Diaz and Jane Seymour – all looking great with weight training.
Women 40+ are getting strong, burning calories, and building healthy bones with weight training.
A 2011 paper from the ACSM called Resistance Training is Medicine asserts that “muscle loss is the single greatest contributor to age-related decline in metabolism.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states “adults over 30 experience a 3 to 8 percent loss of muscle mass per decade.” Muscle has a higher metabolic rate than fat, the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn not only during exercise but also at rest. Weight training workouts can burn 25% more additional calories in the hour after your workout than a cardio workout. This is called the ‘after-burn’. Forcing your body to lift heavy weight repeatedly will stimulate muscle growth, which creates a higher metabolism. Because of hormonal changes as women get older, we naturally lose bone density. Lifting weights helps prevent bone deterioration and increases bone strength. So important in preventing osteoporosis! Even doing everyday activities can be enhanced with weight training. Squats with weights help maintain the strength in your quad muscles. This is essential for walking up the stairs, getting into a car and getting out of a chair. All important for maintaining your physical health and freedom later in life.
The Fear of Bulking Up
Many women used to avoid weight training for fear of ‘bulking up’. That has changed as we have learned more about lifting for women. According to the Women’s Heart Foundation, “High levels of estrogen make it very difficult for women to become overly muscular.” The changes to muscle in women are generally related to tone, strength, and endurance. The results are firm, feminine toning, not bulky masculine muscles. When women participate in heavy weight training, their bodies actually become smaller due to more muscle and less fat. Women actually become leaner and curvier, which often leads to an increase in body image and self-confidence.
It’s a Win Win!!
And there are more benefits to weight training for 40+ women! Building muscle helps protect joints, increase you balance which is so important to aging and having your mobility, positive mood effects, increases serotonin, decreases anxiety levels and controls blood sugar. What’s not to love! It takes a surprisingly short time to build muscle. You can notice results almost immediately and see significant benefits within two weeks. Personally, if I can only choose between a cardio workout and a weight training workout, I go for the weight training. I get very little weight training benefit from my cardio workout. However, I can still have some good cardio benefits during my weight training workout. It’s a win win!
How You Can Get Started!
You can start with small changes even right from your home:
- Wearing a weight vest adds to your body weight and increases the load you carry. You can purchase from most athletic stores or Amazon
- Hill climbing, hill walking or stair climbing can increase your muscle mass. The main thing is to ‘overload’ the muscle so it repairs itself and comes back stronger.
- YouTube Be Fit and Body Rock TV offers workouts for free at just about every level and goal
- Dumbbells, weight bars, and kettle bells are all easy to purchase at most sport stores.
- Pull that old aerobic step out of the attic to use as your bench
- Resistance training – push-ups, pull-ups, crunches are an easy at home workout
- Large rubber bands for resistance training are an easy find at most sport stores.