Lift Your Way to Fitness

Lifting weights is a key ingredient of a good exercise program.

By Ann Bloom

Chronic cardio—it’s a common exercise condition among women. The thinking goes like this: if a little cardio is good, a lot of cardio is better. Before you know it, it’s all cardio, all the time. But what about strength? Isn’t strength training important, too? Most definitely—so why aren’t more women hitting the weight room?

Barriers to Weight Training

There are two main reasons why many women avoid the weight room: myth and intimidation.

Myth. The myth about strength training is that if you start to pump iron, you’ll bulk up like a linebacker. This is a highly unlikely scenario, thanks to a little hormone called estrogen. Women’s bodies are different from men’s, and they respond differently to strength training. Consider this myth debunked.

Intimidation. Sure, the weight room can be a little intimidating, especially if it’s filled with grunting men. Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?

  • The men glare at me as if I’m in their way.
  • I feel self-conscious among all of those grunting men.
  • I don’t know what to do in the weight room.

The intimidation factor might be real, but is it enough to stop you in your tracks? What good ever came from remaining in your comfort zone? That’s right, none. Do not pass go—head straight to the weight room.

Why You Should Include Strength Training in Your Fitness Routine

There are several good reasons for making strength training a fitness habit.

  • It is good for your bones. Weight-bearing exercise has been shown to increase bone density and improve bone health. Lifting weights can help counteract age-related bone loss. If you would like to avoid osteoporosis and bone fractures, make strength training a habit.
  • It torches calories and revs the metabolism. Strength training burns calories and creates a metabolic spike, so your body continues to burn calories even after you are done. In fact, a University of Wisconsin study found that metabolism was elevated for 39 hours after lifting weights.
  • It helps you burn fat. For every 3 pounds of muscle you build, you’ll burn an extra 120 calories per day—just doing nothing. It’s a fact. Muscle takes more energy to sustain, so by building muscle you are eliminating fat and trimming your physique.
  • It prevents injury. Strength training—especially functional strength training—includes balance, strength, and agility. This comprehensive approach helps prevent injury.
  • It promotes health. Strength training has been shown to reduce blood pressure for as many as 12 hours after a session. It can also reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
  • It’s convenient. Strength training doesn’t require a lot of time, space, or equipment. You can do it indoors or outdoors, in a hotel room, in your office, or just about anywhere. If all you have is 20 minutes, you can get a thorough workout with just your body weight—by doing push-ups, squats, planks, chair dips, and more.
  • It creates muscle tone. Strength training helps sculpt and define muscles, creating a tight, toned look.

What Are You Waiting For?

If you have mastered the chronic cardio regimen, great news: now it’s time to step away from the cardio equipment and pay a visit to the weight room. Switch it up and add strength training to your regimen two or three days per week and watch your fitness improve and the pounds melt away.

If the weight room is too intimidating, consider a group strength-training class at a gym that will focus on light weights, high reps, and lots of fun. Many personal trainers offer an introductory strength session that will prepare you to work out on your own. If none of those options is appealing, look for fitness videos that focus on strength training.