There is a common misconception that cardio is for women, and strength training is for men. This line of thinking creates major problems for both the men and the women who have this mindset. For men, if they only focus on strength training and never work to improve their endurance and flexibility, they will end up looking muscular, but those muscles won’t have much function outside of the gym. For women, only focusing on cardio will give you great endurance, but you will be limited to that. Fitness is about function, not just how you look. A fit person can put their body to the test in a variety of ways and have it hold up and perform well. Now let me clarify something. If you are really passionate about running or lifting weights or whatever your “thing” is, you can still focus primarily on that activity. It’s really important to find an activity you enjoy. But don’t neglect other aspects of your fitness. Make sure to strength train at least 3 times per week to add some variety to your routine.
That being said, I want to address 5 big reasons why women especially (but men too) should be strength training on a regular basis, even if it’s only 3 times per week.
- Bone density – Statistics say that after puberty, men and women lose about 1% of their bone density every year. That is why middle aged and older folks often have problems with weak bones. Osteoporosis isn’t something that comes on suddenly when you get old, it happens gradually over time unless you do something to prevent it. One of the best ways to prevent bone density loss (and even reverse it in some cases) is to strength train. Exercises like pushups and squats and lifting weights (ladies, you too) will give you bones of steel if you train them regularly.
- Functionality – A strong woman can pick up and move heavy objects. She can climb several flights of stairs without a problem. She can do a lot of things and feel strong doing them.
- Confidence – An all too common struggle as a woman is low self-esteem. Let’s face it, girls – we often don’t feel very confident in our own skin, do we? Strength training can actually help improve confidence. When you know that your body is strong and capable, it’s easier to walk with your head held high.
- Physical Health – Studies show that you don’t just burn calories during a strength training workout, but also after. When you do steady state cardio (like running on a treadmill for an hour), you only burn calories during the exercise. When you lift weights or do other strength training exercises, you burn calories for hours after you are done training. This can help you lose weight or maintain a lean figure. Strength training also drastically improves coordination and good posture, both of which will make everyday life a lot more manageable.
- Aesthetics – Now that I’ve talked about how fitness is about function, not just looks, let’s talk about looks. Who doesn’t want to look good? Even if that isn’t the most important reason for working out, it still is a great benefit. In today’s society, a lot of us picture “beautiful” as being really skinny, like the photoshopped women on the front covers of magazines. That’s right, I said photoshopped. Most so called supermodels don’t look like they do in magazines, and if they do it’s because they abuse their bodies by starving themselves and living a very self injurious lifestyle. Everyone has a different idea of what “beautiful” looks like, but can we agree that being pretty doesn’t mean being a “…stick figure with poofy lips who cares only about herself” (as Edna Mode would say)? It does mean training your body wisely, being strong, and being beautiful from the inside out.
*NOTE* I want to take a second to dispel a myth about women and strength training. Ladies, if you are worried about looking like a bulky bodybuilder, you can put your worries to rest. You would have to be on steroids and train an insane amount of hours each day to look like that. As women, we just don’t have the hormones needed to produce huge muscles. Some women are naturally more muscular than others, but even then a muscular woman is not going to look like a muscular man. Trust me, if you start strength training, you will fall in love with the results, both functionally and aesthetically.
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