8 reasons women need to lift weights
I am proud to be a woman who lifts weights.
Give me a pair of dumbbells and I’ll show you how to strengthen, sculpt and shape your total body. Now I want to shine a spotlight on some of the lesser known gains of strength training.
Can lifting weights burn fat? Is lifting weights good for your heart? The answer is a big yes to both! For women who lift, there are other surprising benefits to be had, from the quality of your sleep, to your mood and mental health.
If you need a little extra motivation to head to the dumbbell racks, here is why women should lift weights.
1. Fire up your metabolism
There are a lot of myths around metabolism, but the one thing we actually know will speed it up is strength training. According to a study called ‘Resistance training is medicine’ (I love that title!) just 10 weeks of resistance training can increase lean muscle mass, increase your resting metabolism and reduce fat.
Simply put, the more lean muscle you have, the more fat your body will burn even when you’re doing nothing.
On the flip side, “inactive adults” will experience 3-8 percent loss of muscle mass, “accompanied by resting metabolic rate reduction and fat accumulation”.
This is a common issue for women who have reached menopause. As women age, we’re more likely to develop visceral fat around our bellies, even if we do not put on weight overall.
Instead of asking "How many calories does weightlifting burn?" you might want to ask how many calories you're still burning long after your weights session is over!
2. Strength training builds bone density
Strength training builds way more than muscles! Any activity that “loads” or “stresses” your bones – like lifting weights – wakes up bone-forming cells and puts them to work. According to Harvard, “the result is stronger, denser bones”.
Given that women who have reached menopause are at highest risk of osteoporosis, it’s clear that one of the best things you can do for your future self is to build a strength training habit. This will help to keep you strong and active, and lessen bone loss associated with aging.
The areas where older people are more likely to fracture bones, like the wrists, ankles and hips, are also specifically strengthened with resistance training.
3. Strengthen your joints
If you’re worried about heavy weights negatively impacting your joints, think again. Strength training is a low-impact exercise that helps strengthen not only joints and ligaments, but the muscles surrounding them – making you an all-round stronger machine.
Stronger muscles and ligaments help to hold the body upright and protect your bones and joints when moving. If you’ve ever talked to a physical therapist about how to strengthen joints, this is why they’ll tell you to build up the muscles nearby.
Lifting weights will also help you reduce weight, which in turn takes the pressure off major joints like the knees, reducing the risk and pain of osteoarthritis.
4. Mood boost
The emotional benefits of exercise are so important for women, who are more likely to have mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety that are worsened by stress.
We already know that aerobic exercise can positively affect your mind. It pumps the brain with oxygen, supports neuroplasticity (your brain’s ability to learn and adapt), improves cognition and releases feel-good endorphins.
Exercise offers essential relief from the stress of daily life.
But there’s a reason I dedicated a whole page of my book The Science of HIIT to the benefits of strength training for the brain! While research in this area is still limited, promising studies have shown that lifting weights over extended periods can halt brain degeneration, as well as increase cognitive function such as memory and reasoning.
5. Lifting weights is good for your heart
It’s a huge myth that men are the only ones at risk of heart disease. In fact, heart disease is the most common cause of death for women in the US, Australia and globally. This is another reason I’m so passionate about encouraging women to pick up the weights.
A key indicator of fitness is how efficiently your body transports oxygen to your muscles, via the cardiovascular system, to release the energy needed for physical activity. And a great way to improve this cardiovascular function is through strength training.
Resistance workouts improve cardiovascular efficiency in several ways:
- training the heart to work at a faster rate and pump more with each beat
- increasing the overall volume of blood and the amount of oxygen-carrying hemoglobin which helps the body produce energy
- increasing the density and improving the function of capillaries around muscles.
6. Get a great night’s sleep
Can’t sleep? There’s a reason for that. The lifetime risk of women being diagnosed with insomnia is 40 percent higher than men. So if you want to sleep better, lift weights. No, really!
Someone just got 17 minutes extra sleep!
Regular strength training can help to improve the quality of your sleep, resulting in better overall health and longevity. One study showed that, over 12 months, people who did muscle-building “slept an average of 17 minutes longer”. I know I’d take an extra 17 minutes, how about you?
7. Confidence gains
Let’s be real: as women, we’re always battling with our bodies – hating this area and that area, comparing ourselves to other women.
As my body has changed, I have swung between loving it, hating it, resenting it and being disappointed in it. In this moment, for me, it’s about saying, “I love you for who you are”. Strength training has played a big role in turning my confidence around.
While it may not be a benefit you can measure on the scale, I’ve seen it in action as my clients make a real shift from one session to the next. When you feel good about yourself, you walk a little differently.
You start lifting, the endorphins kick in and you’re feeling good, then you see the changes all your hard work has made… What a boost in self-esteem!
8. Move better through life
Functional strength training focuses on everyday movements like bending, reaching, getting up and squatting down. Training in this way with added resistance makes everyday movements smoother and easier – especially as we age.
HIIT HIRT • STRENGTH
Ingrid Clay will get you lifting strong and burning it up with bodyweight in HIIT HIRT Strength workouts. Ingrid is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and plant-based chef who draws on her physics and engineering background to sculpt bodies through exercise and nutrition. She’s also an NPC National qualifier bodybuilder and author of The Science of HIIT.
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