Health & nutrition insights.

Why Women Should Lift Heavy Things – Part 1

Lifting is such a controversial subject for women, and one that I’m rather passionate about. (Shocking, I know :D) Anyone who knows me knows that I love to lift, but not only because I find a sense of enjoyment and accomplishment in it, but also because it has countless benefits to overall health and wellness! I wanted to share with you why we (and women in particular) should lift, and also to dispel the common myths that surround the topic. This will be a three-part blog series, so keep an eye out for the ones to come!

Metabolism and muscles:

First, and perhaps the most compelling reason, is the effect that lifting has on your metabolism and consequently fat loss. The more muscle a person has the more calories they will burn at rest, as well as during exercise.

Remember that daily muscle contractions from something as small as a blink to something as taxing as a heavy squat contribute to how many calories you burn in a given day. Sitting burns fewer calories than standing; standing burns fewer than walking, and walking burns fewer than strength training. The more muscle contractions you experience during a day, the more calories you’ll burn; the more lean muscle mass you possess, and the more muscle contractions your body will require in simple daily use.

As you increase strength and therefore lean mass, your body uses calories more efficiently. Vigorous weight training boosts your metabolic rate throughout the day, and this in turn makes your body more efficient at burning calories continuing into post-exercise, on top of the caloric expenditure required due to contraction. Having an exercise regimen that relies solely on cardio for fat-loss can eventually lead to stagnation, as your metabolic rate will continue to drop when your body adapts to the demand you put on it. It can be more effective overall to incorporate consistent bouts of weight training while keeping cardio to a lower frequency, which can enhance the overall metabolic effects of each mode combined more than either on their own.

The primary mechanism for the increased effectiveness is the increased mitochondria in cells, via a process known as mitochondrial biogenesis. Mitochondria are basically the “powerhouse” of cells, and by increasing these organelles you increase your metabolic rate/daily calorie expenditure. Numerous studies have illustrated that weight training greatly enhances such biochemical adaptations, while athletes who perform solely cardio can miss out on these added

When in doubt, opt for the iron over the treadmill… you’ll likely burn more calories in the end!

Bone/joint health:

Many studies have shown that lifting weights regularly can increase bone density. Those of us in our 20s and 30s don’t think about this often, but someday you will. Research shows that between the ages of 30 and 70, women lose an average of 22 percent of their total muscle. As you age, you are at risk of losing both bone and muscle mass, and postmenopausal women are at a greater risk for osteoporosis because the body no longer secretes estrogen. Resistance training is an excellent way to combat loss of bone mass while simultaneously decreases the risk of osteoporosis.

A study conducted at McMaster University found that after a year of resistance training, postmenopausal women increased spinal bone mass by 9 percent. The earlier you begin weightlifting, the greater chance you have to maintain bone health later in life. Osteoporosis and osteopenia are becoming more and more common in females (both young and old), which can likely be attributed to physical inactivity and lack of load-bearing exercises. Weight-bearing exercise in particular provides mechanical stimuli or “loading” important for the maintenance and improvement of bone health, whereas physical inactivity has been implicated in loss of bone density. In fact, low bone mass is a major risk factor for fractures in females, and one of the most effective ways to reverse degeneration of bones is to consistently train with weights; studies suggest it is quite a bit more effective than aerobic exercise as well.

Take-home point is that if you want to keep your bones healthy and strong, choose the
weights…you’ll thank yourself down the road.

Jess Tull