Part 2: Confidence/Body Image + Stress relief/Mental health
Lifting for women has it's many benefits, including the two we touched on last time related to the increased rate of the metabolism (therefore more efficient function and fuel usage) as well as the positive effects it has on bone and joint health. If you missed the
first part to this series, you can catch it here.
This week we'll focus on a couple more benefits; and although a bit less tangible and more subjective than the first two, no less impactful to us as females.
As mentioned above, this isn't such a concrete benefit to measure, but incredibly powerful nonetheless. When we've been treating our bodies right by correct diet and training, we not only feel good physically but it has a huge impact mentally. Have you ever noticed a strong girl exuding a confidence that's intoxicating? This can come from the knowledge that you can accomplish impressive feats at the gym...that weight you deadlifted or the squat PR you set. When you realize your outer strength, you can tap into your inner strength, and that begins to radiate. When you've just done a hard strength session at the gym, challenging your willpower, mental toughness, and control, the little things in the day that would've gotten you down or made you feel incompetent and insecure just don't seem so big or overwhelming anymore. It gives you confidence. When you know you're strong with the weights, that gym confidence starts to leak into every other aspect of life.
Many females often think that the best way to shape their body and achieve a more toned look is by spending hours doing low-intensity cardio. (Refer to the first point in the previous post.) The reality is that the best way to “bring out your curves” is to build
strength and muscle in combination with good conditioning. Simply dropping your bodyfat % by long bouts of cardio may get you leaner, but it's the muscle underneath that adds the shape and and firmness to the physique. If you're lean but haven't built muscle, you're missing out on the tone in your arms, legs, shoulders, and back that create the strong, toned physique you're after. The more weight training you incorporate, the more shapely your body will become.
Most females will find along the continuum of their training that lifting not only improves their body image, self-esteem, and confidence, but also the actual shape and build of their body. These aren't benefits you want to miss out on, so add a little lifting into your cardio and conditioning sessions!
Stress relief/mental benefit
Exercise in general is a great way to manage stress, and researchers have consistently found that those who regularly strength train tend to manage stress better and experience fewer adverse reactions to stressful situations as those who don't exercise. If you find yourself stressed out, don’t hesitate to take some of it out on the iron… lifting can be extremely therapeutic. Not only is it a safe, beneficial, and healthy stress relief, it's proven that lifting greatly improves your psychological well-being and enhances your sense of vitality throughout your daily life. It’s not uncommon to feel completely wiped out after spending hours on the treadmill; lifting, on the other hand actually boosts “feel-good” chemicals in the brain called endorphins. It also releases Serotonin, a hormone known for stress relief. In fact, studies show that the heavy weight exercise protocols appear to greatly increase plasma beta-endorphin concentration, which in turn modulates mood in a positive manner. Next time you need to blow off some steam or get yourself out of funk, think about hitting the weights!
Not only does weight training reduce Low-Density Lipoproteins (LDL), which is often referred to as “unhealthy” cholesterol, but also it elevates serum values of high density lipoproteins (which is “healthy” cholesterol). Moreover, weight training is one of the most effective ways to increase insulin sensitivity. This essentially means that your body is more efficient at utilizing carbohydrates for energy and assisting the muscle building process, as opposed to storing them and being converted to fat tissue.
Many females explore the gym because they find themselves unhappy with the way they look and they're ready to make a change. But many of them, whether it's from a lack of knowledge and experience with weights or a misunderstanding of the benefits of lifting, end up doing long periods of steady-state cardio in an effort to change. Instead, these women may find better results by grabbing a barbell and letting out some of their worries on the iron.
Chronic weight training has been shown to greatly reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety in a number of studies, as well as having noticeable benefits in relation to the physique. Think about mixing up your exercise routine with weight training to reap some of these rewarding benefits!