Why should women lift weights?  In this article we will identify the ways in which the benefits of lifting weights go far beyond just muscle strength. Some women want their muscles to look defined and toned, some women, myself included, want to have very strong muscles to practice an extreme sport as they age, and other women want to feel confident in their strength to tumble around with grand kids or to catch themselves if they trip.  This is just the tip of the ice berg when it comes to benefits of strength though. In addition to this, there are benefits to lifting weights that reach far beyond benefits of physical strength and extend into major benefits to our overall health and longevity.  These benefits include combating muscle loss caused by lifestyle, osteoporosis, and mental health. 

Some strong women!!

Myth: We Gain Weight as We Age Because Our Metabolisms Naturally Slow Down

First, so-called “age related” muscle loss.  It is quite common to hear people in their 30s and 40s talk about gaining weight and being out of shape with a kind of helpless tone.  Many people in their thirties and forties, men and women, talk about metabolism slowing down, how they just can’t eat like they used to, and how they can’t run around and be active like they used to.  In all cases, this is 100% true.  Our body is changing the way it needs and uses fuel.  However, the cause of this metabolic slow down is often misunderstood.  Many men and women in their 30s and 40s believe that it is a physiological change, caused by something out of their control, happening in their bodies as they age, but this is incorrect. Barring specific illnesses or syndromes that can show up as we age, There is not a physiological change caused by aging that makes us pack on pounds as we age through midlife. So, what happens?  Why do so many of us pack on pounds as we age?

There is not a physiological change caused by aging that makes us pack on pounds as we age.

This a vet showing a cat how fat he is.

To put it briefly, life.  Life happens to us.  Think about it.  Most 22 or 27 year olds are shouldering maybe a few years of occasional sleep deprivation, a few moments of serious stress, 5 or 6 years of a weak exercise habit or inactivity, and maybe 5 or 6 years of occasionally having a terrible diet.  All of these factors cause a body to store fat, sleep deprivation, stress, poor diet, inactivity.  Now consider continuing these habits on and off for 18 years.   A 38 year old person is carrying around 18 years of occasional sleep deprivation, dozens of periods of high stress, 18 years of poor exercise habits or inactivity, and 18 years of on and off poor diet.  Experiencing all of these factors, on and off for 18 years, you can imagine that the pounds add up.

Ok, so we know that sleep deprivation, stress, inactivity, and a poor diet on and off for 18 years all adds up to less muscle and more fat on our bodies. Now, what does this mean for your metabolism?  You got it.   A slowdown.  Muscle tissue does burn more calories than non muscle tissue, so when our muscle mass is declining from inactivity and other stressful adult lifestyle factors, and we are eating the same amount of food, our body is turning the excess energy from food into fat.  A couple of decades of this, and voila, we are older, chunkier, and we struggle to be as active and we can’t eat as much as we used to without packing o pounds!  We feel like it is our age catching up to us making us chunky, but really it is a couple of decades of a stressed out, sleepless, inactive, and irresponsible eating lifestyle.  

Lifting heavy weights is the absolute best way to combat and reverse these negative heath consequences of a stressful adult life!

I think that this is great news. I was so excited when I read about this. The good news about this, is that because it is our lifestyle that gets us into this rut, our lifestyle can get us out!  Having a routine of lifting heavy weights is the absolute best way to combat and reverse these negative consequences of a stressful adult life!  There are even more benefits to lifting weights, especially for women.  Keep reading!

Not a Myth: Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis, or loss of bone density due to lower levels of estrogen in women, it can be a real thing for all women.  No avoiding it. When we hit menopause, the amount of estrogen a woman’s body produces sharply declines.  Estrogen actually plays a critical role in bone growth and regeneration.  When our bodies naturally stop producing as much estrogen, our bones naturally begin to lose density.  This is not lifestyle, this is biology.  How can women combat osteoporosis? You got it. Lift heavy weights.

We are aging women.  We want to trust our strength when we trip and fall, we want to rough and tumble a little with kids or grand kids, maybe we want to surf!  We also don’t want to break a bone in the process!  So, other than taking a calcium supplement, what can we do?  You guessed it, lift weights and build muscle mass.  Lifting weights can combat osteoporosis.

This is me, in my new weight lifting routine, and loving it. That is my try hard face!

What Does Muscle Mass Have to Do with Bone Density?

If you have stronger muscles, you will have stronger bones, even with the natural consequences of aging.  There is a relationship between muscle growth and bone growth.  When muscles are stimulated to grow and there is increased blood flow to the muscle, studies show that the bone the muscle is attached to also receives increased blood flow and is also stimulated to grow, thus regenerating bone tissue.  Growing and maintaining strong muscle leads to maintaining strong bones and even increasing bone density. 

Lifting Weights and Mental Health

For years, since distance running became popular in the 1970s, the runner’s high has been a thing, a stress free, pain free, feeling of happiness.  Scientists know that cardio activities like running produce a release of endorphins in the body and cause a stress free feeling of happiness and well being.  Today, many people treat their depression with running.  Scientists began to ask if it was only running and other cardio activities that had such a positive impact on our mental health and state of well being.   Of course, the answer was no.  They discovered that lifting heavy weights also produced a surge of endorphins that de-stressed the body, causing a sense of well being and happiness. 

So, when you make the move to lifting weights, you will not only become stronger, gain more toned muscles, and be more confident in your body’s abilities, you will also be combating and reversing years of stress and other factors that just go along with adult life.  You will be combating the onset of osteoporosis, so you can enjoy activities and stay strong for your entire life.  Finally, you will increase your happiness through the release of endorphins!  Also, you will just start to feel pretty great about yourself as you feel yourself getting stronger week after week.

If you are ready to reap all of these benefits of lifting weights, check out my Dumbbell Workout at Home for Beginners and get started today!  If you are not sure if you are up to working with dumbbells, try a body-weight workout plan that requires absolutely no equipment!  

Whether you just want to be able to rough and tumble with grand kids or if you want to learn to snowboard, lifting weights will help you reach those goals and so much more!

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