Why Weight-Bearing Workouts are Good for Women by Yolande Green

During the past few years, more studies have shown that sensible strength training produces many health and fitness benefits. Key research has shown the positive physiological responses to basic programs of strength exercise. Below are 12 examples of the benefits that strength training provides for women.

1. Reduces muscles loss: Women who do not do strength training lose between 5 and 7 lb of muscle every decade. Although aerobic forms of exercise improve cardiovascular fitness, they do not prevent the loss of muscle tissue. Only doing strength exercises maintains muscle mass and strength throughout a woman’s life. 2. Prevents metabolic rate reduction: Muscles are very active tissue, so any muscle loss is accompanied by a reduction in resting metabolism. Research has shown that the average adult experiences a 2 to 5 percent reduction in metabolic rate every decade of their lives. Because regular strength exercise prevents muscle loss, it also prevents the accompanying decrease in resting metabolic rate.

Metabolic rate is the rate at which your body is able to turn your food into energy, rather than depositing it as body fat. 3. Increases muscle mass: As most women do not perform strength exercise, they first need to replace the muscle tissue that has been lost through inactivity. Fortunately, research shows that a standard strength training program can increase muscle mass by about 3 lbs over an eight week training period. This is a typical training response for those women who do a 25-minute weights program, three days a week. 4. Increases metabolic rate: Research shows that adding 3 lbs of muscle increases a woman’s metabolic rate by 7 percent and daily calorie requirement by 15 percent. When at rest, 1 lb of muscle requires about 35 calories per day for tissue maintenance; during exercise, muscle energy utilization increases dramatically. Women who replace muscle through sensible strength exercise use more calories all day long, even at rest, so they reduce the likelihood of putting on weight.

5. Reduces body fat: Research has proven that strength exercise can produce 4 lb of fat loss after three months of training, even though the subjects in question were eating 15 percent more calories per day. That is, a basic strength-training program resulted in 3 lb more lean weight, 4 lb less fat weight, and 370 more calories per day food intake. 6. Increases bone mineral density: The effects of progressive resistance exercise have similar effects on both muscle and bone tissue. The same training stimulates increased muscle myoproteins and mineral content. It has been demonstrated that significant increases in the bone mineral density of the upper femur (the top thigh bone) can occur after four months of strength exercise.

7. Improves glucose metabolism: A 23 percent increase in glucose uptake after four months of strength training has also been reported. Poor glucose metabolism is associated with adult late-onset diabetes, so improved glucose metabolism is an important benefit of regular strength exercise. 8. Increases gastrointestinal transit time: One study showed a 56 percent increase in gastrointestinal transit time (how fast food passes through the intestines) after three months of strength training. This is a significant finding because delayed gastrointestinal transit has been related to higher risks of colon cancer. 9 Reduces blood pressure: Strength training alone has been shown to significantly reduce resting blood pressure. A study revealed that strength training plus aerobic exercise is also effective for improving blood pressure. After two months of combined exercise, the participants saw a significant drop in their blood pressure.

10 Improves blood lipid levels: Research has shown that an improved blood lipid profile can be achieved after several weeks of doing strength exercise. This has been shown to help reduce high levels of cholesterol, which has been linked to the risk of heart attack. 11. Reduces lower back pain: Several years of research on strength training and back pain has shown that strong lower back muscles are less likely to be injured. One study found that patients with lower back problems had significantly less back pain after doing 10 weeks of specific (full-range) strength exercise.

12. Reduces arthritic pain: Sensible strength training has been found to ease the pain of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis in many sufferers. This is good news because most women who suffer from arthritis pain need strengthening exercise to develop stronger muscles, bones and connective tissue.

Yolande Green is the author of the new book, “Weight-bearing Workouts for Women” (2004: Ulysses Press, 1-800-377-2542, www.ulyssespress.com; $12.95; ISBN 1-56975-390-3).