The Importance of Strength Training for Women as They Age
I haven’t purposefully sought out female clients over 40 but, as a 45 year old woman myself, most of my clients have ended up being just that. It’s great, I love it, we understand each other pretty well and, as a woman of similar years, I can relate to their struggles to keep the fat off and to try to stay relatively lean.
One thing I have been amazed by is the answer I get to this question: I ask, “Do you do any kind of resistance or strength/weight training?” The answer is nearly always a “No.” I am a big fan of strength training so I have been quite surprised at all the “no’s” I have received. A lot of these women would spend hours on the treadmill and cross-trainer thinking that this was doing them nothing but good. Some of them have had poor advice over the years; a few have been slightly intimidated about lifting weights as they weren’t sure what to do; nearly all of them just didn’t associate strength training with any major benefits.
For years, cardio has been drummed into us as a way to control weight and keep fit, and it most certainly does help, but, as we age, our bodies naturally change and skeletal tissue (lean muscle tissue) is one thing that starts to deteriorate. This deterioration of muscle can start as early as in our 30’s and I found that my clients were just completely unaware of this and also oblivious to the benefits of strength training to help maintain and preserve their precious muscle tissue.
Nearly all my clients now do some kind of strength training exercises either using barbells, dumbbells, kettle bells, resistance bands or their own body weight.
Fat Loss Versus Weight Loss
All of those that have been doing this as part of their exercise programme have gained some lean muscle tissue and their body fat percentages have fallen, even though the scales may not have shown a big variance in actual weight loss. These women are now also more aware of weight loss compared to fat loss. They understand that weight loss isn’t always a good thing if you are losing muscle tissue in the process, and have therefore developed a better understanding of the nutrition associated with this process. They are also feeling more confident in the way their clothes fit and they often comment on having a smoother shape especially around their mid sections.
The Benefits of Strength Training
So why should we encourage our female clients to start strength training? Because strength training has many benefits and here are a few:
1. It Helps Maintain Bone Density
Strength training helps prevent bone loss and in particular osteoporosis in women. Osteoporosis is a debilitating disease and can have a profound affect on everyday life. The International Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that 200 million women worldwide are affected by osteoporosis - that’s a huge number. The National Osteoporosis Foundation says that bone loss usually speeds up in both men and women during midlife and that, for women, bone loss increases significantly after menopause. Weight bearing exercises help to prevent this bone loss and can even help build new bone; this is a great reason alone for women to start lifting those weights.
2. Muscles and Aesthetics
By the time we are 70, it is estimated that we will have lost between 50-55 per cent of our lean muscle tissue. We don’t want to lose this, muscle tissue helps us move and balance, maintains our posture and gives us a strong defined shape.
3. It Will Help With Weight Management
The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that the day after women did one hour of strength training they burned about an extra 100 calories compared to working out without lifting weights. Working out with weights will burn more calories and that’s got to be a bonus if you are trying to maintain or lose weight. And the more lean muscle tissue you add to your body the more fuel your body needs to maintain this muscle therefore increasing your Basal Metabolic Rate.
4. It Will Increase Your Self-Confidence
You will get stronger, leaner and have more energy.
Strength training has lots of advantages and will help your female clients stay strong and healthy so they can continue to do the things that they take for granted now into their later years. Who wouldn’t want to be able to chase their grandchildren up a hill or teach them to ride a bike! I know that I hope that I will be able to.