Lifting weights is probably one of the best activities a woman could ever do to improve her body and well-being. Despite this, many of us are resistant to lifting weights because we are afraid of becoming “bulky,” and thus, losing our femininity to muscle.
I admit to being guilty of thinking this way in the past and being unaware of the true benefits resistance training has for the female body. For years I held myself back so as not to be considered less attractive to the opposite sex, not realizing I was also holding myself back from being the best and healthiest version of myself.
After seriously researching the topic, it became clear that becoming very muscular requires a lot of time (i.e., years), intense training, purposely overeating to provide energy to growing muscle, relentless consistency, and probably some form of coaching / mentoring. In many cases, it requires a regimen of drugs and elite genetics. A bulky physique is not obtained accidentally.
I felt the need to bring that up since becoming “bulky” seems to be the most touted obstacle to resistance training by so many women. Since we have somewhat cleared the air on that, here are 11 appealing reasons why every woman should lift:
1. Superior Fat Loss
When only cardio is used for weight loss, the bulk of the loss is not just fat and water. A lot of muscle ends up getting lost in the process. When this happens, you lose weight only to end up a smaller version of your former self as there is little change in actual body composition. This is why someone can lose a huge amount of weight, but not really appear any more ‘fit’ than when they were heavier…or even end up looking worse! They lack the muscle beneath the remaining fat to give them a “toned” appearance.
For the ultimate body transformation and fat loss, it is important to spare as much muscle as possible while burning as much fat as possible. Lifting plays a huge role in maintaining muscle on a cut (diet). If you are a beginner or returning from a long hiatus, you can even build muscle at the same time you are losing fat, improving your end result even more.
Less fat and more muscle means a smaller waist and sculpted curves. Compare the physique of a long distance runner to a pole vaulter. Their bodies are a reflection of what they train for. One is primed for endurance, the other for strength and explosiveness. Who would you rather have a similar physique to? If it’s an explosive athlete, you’ll definitely need to pick up heavy weights.
Another thing to consider (especially if you need to lose a lot of fat), building muscle will go a long way to helping reduce the presence and appearance of loose skin.
3. Increased Metabolism
When you add muscle to your body, you increase your metabolism. Your body will burn more calories even while resting. And if you lift with intensity, several studies have shown that you will continue to burn calories many hours long after the workout has ended.
4. Bone Health
If you don’t care about bone health, you should. Not only are women much more likely to develop osteoporosis than men, but you don’t have to be “older” to be at risk. It’s also worth noting that anyone with thyroid / gland problems, and those small in stature will be at increased risk for osteoporosis.
This disease of the bones causes bones to be very weak (lose density) and break easily in places like the hips, wrist, and spine (vertebrae). A break can happen from something as simple as going up the stairs, lifting an object, or even just bending forward. It can seriously impair your life and leave you disabled.
Weight training has a profound effect on counteracting the loss of bone mass. The downside is that the effects are diminished after menopause so the best thing you can do is get started sooner rather than later. Your bones will thank you for it as you age.
5. Better Sleep
Consistent sleep deprivation is associated with:
- Cognitive impairment
- Mental illness
- Cardiovascular disease
- Daytime sleepiness
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Diminished quality of life
O’Connor, Herring, and Caravalho (2010) found that physically active people usually have healthy sleep patterns and a lower risk of sleep apnea.
Their research also discovered that depressed people with sleep disorders showed a 30% improvement in sleep from regular weight lifting after 8-10 weeks.
Other studies have shown resistance training to benefit the sleep of older adults as well.
6. More Energy
94% of the 70 randomized studies on exercise and fatigue show that exercise is clinically beneficial, even more so than drugs or therapy in reducing fatigue (O’Connor, Herring, and Caravalho). In fact, strength-training-only intervention results in the largest improvements in chronic fatigue.
7. Healthier Heart
Lifting reduces your heart rate (Stone et al., 1991), which is considered a health benefit, and there are studies showing that it reduces blood pressure (although, more research is needed). The American Heart Association recognizes resistance training as significantly benefiting those with heart disease.
8. Less Anxiety
O’Connor, Herring and Caravalho (2010) reviewed several training studies of the effects of resistance training on anxiety, and found that resistance training is a meaningful intervention for those suffering from anxiety.
9. Fight Depression
“Four studies have investigated the effect of resistance training with clinically diagnosed depressed adults. The results are unanimous; large reductions in depression from resistance training participation.” – Amenda Ramirez and Len Kravitz, Ph.D.
About twice as many women experience depression as compared to men. The good news is that weight lifting can relieve the symptoms of depression, or even reverse it. Many women who suffer from depression often have problems with sleep, self-esteem, fatigue, and weight fluctuations…all which resistance training can address. Resistance training also causes the release of endorphins, a hormone that stimulates feelings of happiness, reduces the perception of pain and acts as a sedative.
10. Improved Self-Esteem
There is something empowering about achieving a personal record or acquiring the milestone ability of being able to squat your own body weight. In order to become strong and develop muscle, we often have to make sacrifices. We make it to the gym even when we don’t feel like it, learn to say “no” to foods that will take away from our goals, develop an increased capacity for patience, and come to appreciate the beauty of sculpting our bodies into a stronger / leaner form. These things inevitably flow into our personal lives, affecting how we see and think of ourselves. Imagine how it would make you feel to crush your strength goals, have less fat, a smaller waist, and sculpted body.
11. Increased Brain Cognition
As per Wikipedia: Cognition is the set of all mental abilities and processes related to knowledge, attention, memory and working memory, judgment and evaluation, reasoning and “computation”, problem solving and decision making, comprehension and production of language, etc.
O’Connor, Herring, and Caravalho (2010) noted that seven randomized controlled studies show that resistance training improves several aspects of cognition in healthy older adults. One of the most profound effects is improvement in memory and memory-related tasks. It also appears that improved executive functioning (the ability to plan, organize and complete tasks) is one of the major benefits from resistance training (Anderson-Hanley, Nimon and Westen, 2010).
Every woman should lift because of the numerous effects and benefits to the female body, such as superior fat loss and weight management, enhanced curves, increased metabolism, healthier bones, better sleep, more energy, a healthier heart, less anxiety, a means to fight depression, improved self esteem, and even enhanced cognition at an age where mental faculties tend to decline. What do you think? Are you convinced every woman should lift?
1. Guadalupe-Grau, A., Fuentes, T., Guerra, B., and Calbet, JA (2009). Exercise and bone mass in adults. Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 39(6), 439-68.
2. O’Connor, P.J., Herring, M.P. and Carvalho, A. (2010). Mental health benefits of strength training in adults. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 4(5), 377-396.
3. Stone, M.H., Fleck, S.J., Triplett, N.T., & Kramaer, W.J. (1991). Health and performance-related potential of resistance training. Sports Medicine, 11, 210-231.
4. Anderson-Hanley, C., Nimon, J.P., and Westen, S.C. (2010). Cognitive health benefits of strengthening exercise for community-dwelling older adults. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 32(9), 996-1001.
I also heavily borrowed from the work of Amenda Ramirez and Len Kravitz, Ph.D., who have published their review through the University of New Mexico’s website.