While I’ll choose cardio over weights any day, I’m sharing the benefits of strength training for women and 5 reasons why I tack on weight lifting to my daily fitness routine.
Benefits of Strength Training For Women
Most days of the week, you can find me getting in a 30-minute cycle sesh followed by a 10-15 minute weight class. Or doing a 45-minute bike bootcamp, which is a mix of cardio on the bike and strength on the floor.
While I’ve always favored cardio to strength (summer runs, winter walks, double header soccer games, and aerobics-style classes at the gym), I know that it’s key to incorporate weight-bearing exercises into a balanced fitness routine, especially for women.
This past summer, before I started the cycling craze, I was really enjoying my weekly home workouts. I needed to rest my foot from overuse after I did so much walking in the spring, so I turned to low-impact weight classes on YouTube. I could feel myself getting stronger with weights.
While jumping on the bike for a class with Cody is convenient, I’m committed to squeezing in a couple of strength sets each week – not just for body composition, but for the long-term benefits of being strong. I want to be stronger than ever in my 40s!
If you favor cardio like I do, knowing the important health benefits of strength training encourages me to pick up the weights more often.
Benefits include improved physical performance, movement control, cognitive abilities, and self-esteem.
Strength training may help prevent and manage type 2 diabetes by decreasing visceral (a.k.a. belly) fat, reducing blood sugar, and improving insulin sensitivity. It may also enhance cardiovascular health, reduce blood pressure, decrease LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol. – PubMed
Strength training can improve your mood and mental health, according to a meta-analysis of 33 clinical trials (over 1,800 subjects) published in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Psychiatry in 2018. It found that participants who performed resistance training showed a significant reduction in symptoms of depression. – Women’s Health
Any type of movement can help boost your mood, but strength training helps me with self love and body image too.
Strength For Strong Bones
Strength training is one of the very few ways to make bones denser, a perk that is especially important for women.
Lifting something heavy, like a dumbbell, makes bones bear more weight; in exercise, stressing your bones is a good thing.
Bones are constantly remodeling, explains Anthony Hackney, an exercise physiologist at the University of North Carolina. “Your body is always adding calcium to your bones and taking calcium away from your bones,” he says.
This delicate balance starts to tip as people age, and “they lose more mineral from the bone than they’re able to lay down,” Hackney says.
Over time, bone gets less dense and more brittle and prone to osteoporosis, a condition that affects about 10 million Americans—80% of whom are female. Women have smaller, thinner bones than men from the start, and after menopause they lose estrogen, a hormone that protects bones. – TIME
5 Reasons Why I Strength Train
1. It keeps my bones healthy.
Regular cardio keeps my heart health in check, but building muscle is best for bones. While this isn’t a benefit I can notice in plain sight, I know I’m helping to keep my body strong and healthy for the long run.
“By stressing your bones, strength training can increase bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.” – Mayo Clinic
2. It revs up metabolism.
While my cardio sessions can burn off a big chunk of calories in less than an hour, picking up my set up of dumbbells and kettlebell keeps the body engine burning long after the workout is over. I rarely pay attention to how many calories my Apple watch says I burned in any given workout, but I know that the more muscle I have, the more active my metabolism will be throughout the day.
“A good resistance workout increases your excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, referring to the calories your body continues to burn after a workout. Resistance or strengthening exercise keeps your metabolism active after exercising, much longer than after an aerobic workout.” – Everyday Health
3. It steers my stress away.
I’ve been dealing with an increased amount of stress and anxiety (new to me) lately, and exercise has definitely helped blow off some steam.
Sometimes I’ll even ask Thomas if he can keep an eye on the kids for 10 minutes while I escape to the basement for some me-time – even that can turn my mood around almost immediately!
I used to have an all-or-nothing mentality when it came to workouts – especially strength training – but now even a couple of sets of squats, lunges, and push-ups count in my book.
Bonus: I don’t usually break too much of a sweat weight lifting, so it’s easy to squeeze in without needing a full shower.
“Strength training will elevate your level of endorphins (natural opiates produced by the brain), which lift energy levels and improve mood… But for strength training, additional research that’s looked at neurochemical and neuromuscular responses to such workouts offers further evidence it has a positive effect on the brain. As if that isn’t enough to convince you, there’s evidence strength training may help you sleep better, too.” – Everyday Health
4. It boosts my confidence.
Consistent exercise makes me feel good about myself, plain and simple.
But, I will say, my favorite version of my body was actually in 2015/2016 when I was lifting weights on the regular. It’s a snowball effect – see metabolism point above – combined with a little sculpting that brings those arm muscles out 😉
5. It allows me to keep up with my kids.
With two active boys at home getting bigger by the day, I’m not hesitant to pick up a 30-pound Birch or wrestle with an 8 year old.
Strength training not only helps to build strong bones and muscles, but it also helps with joint flexibility and balance. I want to be agile and injury-free so I can chase my kiddos around for years to come.
Toddlers make great kettlebells too!
What’s your preference – weights or cardio?
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