Strength Training Can Deliver Big Results for Women Without the Bulk

December 14, 2021
By Angela B. Baker, JD, CFP®, CDFA®, RICP®, CLTC, CASL®
Woman strength trains in the gym with weights West Financial Services

Did you know that as adult women age, they begin losing muscle and bone mass, putting them at greater risk for injury? However, the good news is that you can mitigate your risk and take some control over whether you’re dancing — or being rolled — into your golden years.

After age 30, you may lose as much as 3 to 5 percent of muscle mass per decade, and your bone strength begins to decrease at an average rate of 1 percent per year after age 40. Less muscle and weaker bones means loss of strength and mobility, both of which can increase your risk of falls and fractures.

As a woman approaching 60, these statistics get my attention. Like many women my age, I want to maintain or even improve my health and fitness in order to enjoy an active life and maintain my independence for as long as possible. This is particularly important for women since statistically we tend to live longer than men. The good news is that, regardless of your age or ability, you can improve your health and fitness by incorporating strength training—a weight-bearing exercise—into your weekly exercise routine. Generally, a weight-bearing exercise is an activity that requires you to work against the force of gravity.

Strength training, including lifting weights and using strength training equipment, has been proven to improve the following:

  • Muscle mass: Strength training helps to build lean muscle mass and improves your balance and coordination, thereby reducing your risk of falls. Because strength training is scalable, anyone can benefit from it, regardless of age or fitness level.
  • Joint strength: Many strength training exercises are low impact, unlike running, which is high impact. So, with strength training your joint strength is improved, but the risk of injury as compared with high-impact activities is reduced. With improved joint strength, everyday activities like bending, squatting, or lifting, become easier. 
  • Cardiovascular health: Strength training can be a great cardio workout, particularly if you incorporate more than one joint and muscle group (compound exercises) and take shorter, if any, breaks between exercises. This helps increase your endurance and can also help lower your cholesterol and/or blood pressure.
  • Weight loss: With strength training, weight loss may be easier to achieve and maintain. In part, this is because increased muscle also increases your resting metabolic rate—the number of calories you burn while at rest. This “after-burn” effect may last for many hours following your workout. What may be of interest to women is that strength training has been shown to be more effective than cardio for losing belly fat. That being said, for overall health and wellness, women should engage in both strength training and cardio exercises, while also eating a sensible diet.
  • Bone strength: Strength training helps you maintain strong, healthy bones, which can lower your risk of osteoporosis, a very common condition in post-menopausal women. A total body strength training program can have a positive impact on all your bones, especially bones of the hips, spine, and wrists, which, along with the ribs, are the bones most likely to fracture if you fall.
  • Mood, mental health, and wellness: When you exercise, your body releases endorphins into your blood that trigger a positive feeling in your body and also act as a natural pain reliever. Those that run describe this effect as a “runner’s high.” Strength training can have the same effect.
  • Longevity: As we age, we become more susceptible to age-related chronic conditions which can reduce our life expectancy. A 2019 review published in Frontiers in Physiology suggests that strength training may be even more effective than cardio at reducing a number of age-related chronic diseases.

If you want to enjoy an active lifestyle as you age and maintain your independence for as long as possible, consider starting a strength training program, or add strength training to your current workouts two or three times per week. If possible, work with a Certified Personal Trainer who will build a program tailored to you and remember to consult with your doctor before starting any new workout program.

Now that you know that adding strength training can help lead to a longer, healthier and more active life, consider what that may mean in regard to your finances - which is by the way where we excel!

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Sources:

Ansorge, Rick Medically Reviewed by Wheeler, Tyler MD. (August 24, 2020). Best Exercise for Osteoporosishttps://www.webmd.com/osteoporosis/guide/osteoporosis-exercise

Berg, RL, & Cassells, JS, editors. (1992). The Second Fifty Years: Promoting Health and Preventing Disability. Institute of Medicine (US) Division of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention; Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK235613/

Eustice, Carol. Medically reviewed by Vincent, Chris, MD.  (April 8, 2020). Weight-Bearing Exercises and Their Health Benefitshttps://www.verywellhealth.com/what-is-weightbearing-exercise-189731

Harvard Health Publishing.  Harvard Medical School. (2020-2021). Discover the huge health benefits of strength training with 4 New Total Body Workouts! https://www.health.harvard.edu/promotions/harvard-health-publications/strength-and-power-training-a-guide-for-adults-of-all-ages

Harvard Health Publishing. Harvard Medical School. (April 11, 2021). Slowing Bone Loss with Weight-bearing Exercise. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/slowing-bone-loss-with-weight-bearing-exercise

Healthy Living. First Care Clinics. (November 11, 2019). Importance of Weight-Bearing Exercise. https://firstcareclinics.com/importance-of-weight-bearing-exercise/

Home Health Care. (December 17, 2018). What Are Weight Bearing Exercises? https://www.sonashomehealth.com/what-is-a-weight-bearing-exercise/

ISSA. For Women Weight Lifting is Essential, Here’s Why.(2019). https://www.issaonline.com/blog/index.cfm/2019/for-women-weight-lifting-is-essential-heres-why

Lajiness, Laura. (September 25, 2020). 8 Benefits of Strength Training That'll Convince You To Try It It's not *ALL* About Cardio. https://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/a34030549/strength-training-benefits/

Mcleod, Jonathan C., Stokes, Tanner & Phillips, Stuart M. (June 6, 2019). Department of Kinesiology, McMaster University. Resistance Exercise Training as a Primary Countermeasure to Age-Related Chronic Disease. Hamilton, ON, Canada MINI REVIEW article Front. Physiol., https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2019.00645  https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphys.2019.00645/full

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