It has long been known that everyone will benefit from strength training. Strength Training is so essential that the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) along with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Heart Association (AHA) have listed it as a part of their recommendations on quantity and quality of exercise to prevent chronic disease. Men and women both need strength training, but, how we train and how our bodies respond to training are slightly different.

According to ACSMs physical activity recommendations for healthy adults, men and women need no less than 150 hours a week (roughly 30 minutes a day, 5 days/week) of vigorous activity to remain healthy and prevent disease, with 2-3 days a week consisting of resistance training with 8 to 12 repetitions per exercise. Strength Training, also known as Resistance Training, Weight Training or Strength & Conditioning, is a form of physical activity that is designed to improve overall muscular fitness by exercising a muscle or a muscle group against external resistance.

When I recommend that women participate in strength training, I always hear the same comment; “I don’t want to gain too much muscle and get bulky.” This is understandable, but there is a difference between Hypertrophic Body Building and a solid strength and conditioning program. Men have higher levels of the anabolic testosterone than women, the human growth hormone responsible for muscular hypertrophy. Regardless, pound for pound of lean tissue, women can see linear improvements in muscular strength than their male counterparts.

It is hard for my young female athletes and clients to envision themselves as their elder counterparts, let alone the need to plan for potential future age-related issues. Sarcopenia, which is defined as a loss in muscle mass due to aging, and osteoporosis, which is a loss in bone mineral density over time can both be reduced or reversed by lifting heavy weights. Hypertension, which is an persistent elevation in blood pressure can also be remedied by consistent strength training. Weight loss is also possible and more probable with resistance training.

I have heard women say that they “will lift weights after they have burned the fat off.” Lean tissue increase facilitates a loss in body fat by boosting metabolic tissue in the body. As muscle size and density increases, it uses more energy, therefore resting metabolism is higher. A higher metabolism also means a lower risk for diabetes and metabolic disease. This makes strength training an essential part of weight management.

Overall functional capacity improves, which means the ability to do daily tasks increases with less effort. This is specific and beneficial to everyone, from children to elderly to elite athletes. Simple tasks that most people take for granted such as getting off of the floor or washing dishes becomes more possible as strength and flexibility are improved. Athletic performance and sport specific abilities can improve as power output, agility and endurance are all increased. Reduced risk of injury, back pain & arthritis, along with improved energy, circulation, coordination, balance, bone and ligament strength are also seen throughout all ages as proper muscle strength and conditioning is maintained.

Resistance training benefits during pregnancy: Maternal fitness is essential to the health and wellness of expectant mother and child. In addition to weight management, pregnant and prenatal women in a regular strength training program can see lower risks of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and pregnancy-related injuries and pain such as low back pain. Preeclampsia, which includes maternal hypertension, proteinuria (the presence of excess proteins in the urine), and edema leading to possible seizure and/or cerebral hemorrhage and death. Gestational diabetes which is marked by higher levels of blood sugar occurs in 10% of all pregnancies and can develop into type 2 diabetes postpartum. The increase in resting and active metabolism from strength training lowers these risks while improving body composition and overall body image throughout the pregnancy. Higher fitness levels also contribute to lower risk for postpartum depression and faster recovery from delivery.

Improving muscular fitness is essential for women in all stages of life. Strength training programs should be simple and focused to be effective and enjoyable. For the safest, most effective program, you should contact our certified fitness professionals. At Carolina Gold Fitness, we create custom, safe and effective strength and conditioning programs to help improve health, fitness and performance. We offer free fitness and wellness consultations to help you find the best fit for you individual needs. Contact us at 828.209.8776 and we can set you up for long term success.