The Benefits of Strength Training for Older Women

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WOMEN AND WEIGHT-LIFTING: WHY SHOULD WOMEN LIFT?

WOMEN AND WEIGHT-LIFTING: WHY SHOULD WOMEN LIFT?

Women have traditionally shied away from weight-lifting for fear of appearing "too masculine" or "getting too big." Female strength sports were not fully recognized until the 1970s and 1980s, when female powerlifters were recognized in 1987, the Women's Weightlifting Championship was established in 1987, female bodybuilding shows were held in 1977, and the Strongest Woman competition was held in 1997.

Since the inception of CrossFit in the early 2000s, the concept of female strength athletes has grown in popularity (Rohloff, 2013).

Strength training, on the other hand, has far-reaching implications and benefits that go beyond sports performance. For women of all ages and stages of life, strength training is an essential part of a well-balanced fitness routine and a healthy lifestyle.


WOMEN SHOULD LIFT FOR 5 REASONS

For aesthetic reasons, many women will begin a weight-lifting program. Perhaps she saw a picture of a very lean and toned woman on a social media post or in a magazine article that she aspires to be like. Perhaps she's been told that lifting weights will help her lose weight while she's on a diet.

Strength training can improve aesthetics, according to these intangible motivators. Increased lean body mass can help with fat loss, but the very real and often life-changing benefits of a strength training program far outweigh them.


1 PAIN RELIEF AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF GOOD MOVEMENT PATTERNS

Do you remember the old adage, "If you keep making that face (or, in this case, making that movement), you'll get stuck that way?" The human movement system is prone to muscle imbalance and the development of dysfunctional movement patterns, so there is some truth to this statement.

Many adults suffer from chronic pain in their neck, back, knees, or shoulders. 70 percent of adults will experience one of these problems at some point in their lives (Davis et al., 2012). Musculoskeletal pain and related syndromes are the most common cause of disability in the world today. Chronic faulty movement patterns are frequently blamed for this type of pain.

Women are frequently under pressure to see that number on the scale drop, and they may resort to disordered eating habits and fad dieting to achieve this goal. Resistance training programs can help women shift their focus away from weight loss and toward increasing strength.

Szabo and Green (2002) discovered that participating in a resistance training program improved the psychological outcomes of women who had previously struggled with eating disorders. Finally, strength training programs can help us break free from a cycle of dieting and unrealistic body image goals.


AN IMPROVEMENT IN THE RESTING METABOLIC RATE

Women are frequently under pressure to keep that number on the scale from dropping, and they may resort to disordered eating and fad dieting to achieve this goal. Resistance training can help women shift their focus from weight loss to strength gain.

Resistance training improved the psychological outcomes of women with a history of eating disorders, according to Szabo and Green (2002). In the end, strength training programs can help us break free from a cycle of dieting and unrealistic body image expectations.


METABOLIC RATE IN THE RESTING STATE

Resting metabolic rate (RMR), which accounts for 60 to 70% of total daily energy expenditure (TDEE), accounts for the majority of our TDEE. Because muscle is highly metabolically active, a person's lean body mass (muscle, bones, connective tissue, and body water) has a significant impact on overall RMR and metabolic rate. This means it takes more energy to keep itself alive than adipose (fat) tissue.

Sarah and Rachel, for example, are both 30-year-old women who stand 5'4" and weigh 140 pounds. We might assume that because these two women are the same height and weight, they have the same metabolic rates. There is, however, a significant distinction.

Rachel is a recreational powerlifter who works out five days a week and has a body fat percentage of 18% of her total body weight. Sarah, on the other hand, is sedentary and has a body fat mass that accounts for 35% of her total weight. Sarah has a lean body mass of 91 pounds, while Rachel has a total lean body mass of 114.8 pounds.

  • Rachel's RMR is 1,497 calories per day.
  • Sarah's RMR is 1,263 calories per day.

Increased muscle mass from strength training leads to more fat loss over time, as shown in this example. Strength training does not use a lot of energy in and of itself; rather, it raises your TDEE, which can lead to a leaner physique over time.

Because of her significantly higher lean body mass, Rachel's RMR is significantly higher than Sarah's. The bottom line is that having more muscle mass increases our daily calorie burn, not just on training days.


LOWER METABOLIC SYNDROME RISK (EH HEM...DIABETES AND HEART DISEASE)

In the United States, type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM) affects 8.6% of the population. This means that one out of every twelve adults in the United States has type 2 diabetes (Westcott, 2012). Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is now the leading cause of death among women in the United States.

These two disorders are linked because the incidence of CVD is much higher in people with DM, and people with DM are more likely to be diagnosed with CVD later on (Garcia et al., 2016). Metabolic dysfunction and inflammation in the body cause these two disorders. Strength training can help with insulin sensitivity, metabolic efficiency, and inflammatory markers in the body.

Regular strength training has been shown to reduce CVD risk by 40 to 70 percent in men and 40 percent in women (Liu et al., 2019). (Shiroma et al., 2017). The bottom line is that strength training reduces our risk of diabetes and heart disease significantly.


BONE MINERAL DENSITY IMPROVEMENT AND PROTECTION

Osteoporosis is a bone fragility disease that often goes undetected until the affected person suffers a fracture. Did you know that one out of every three women will suffer an osteoporosis-related fracture at some point during their lives? Osteoporosis is the most common bone disease in the world, and it is becoming more common as people live longer lives.

This condition is marked by a loss of bone mass and overall weakened bones, putting the affected person at risk for fractures and eventually immobility. Bone, like muscle and fat, is a dynamic tissue that is constantly broken down and replaced by the body. For this tissue to remain strong and healthy, the rate of bone accretion (bone growth) must outpace the rate of bone resorption.

Similarly, the skeleton must be subjected to some stress (greater than the stress of daily activities) in order for this process to take place. Resistance training is the most effective way to apply the proper amount of stress to bone tissue to promote bone formation (Hong & Kim, 2018). The bottom line is that strength training helps us keep our bones strong and healthy.


How Often Should a Woman Lift Weights in a Week?

This question is entirely dependent on your objectives, movement patterns, and training phase. Two sessions per week, with 8-12 repetitions of 8-10 exercises targeting major muscle groups, can be enough to maintain basic health (Hurley et al., 2018). A well-rounded strength-training program, on the other hand, includes a flexibility component (strength and foam rolling) and must address any movement compensations you may have first and foremost.

Some women may be apprehensive about progressing past phase 2. Women who want to make longer-term strength gains should cycle through Phases 3 and 4, which may necessitate more training frequency, such as four sessions per week instead of two. Female athletes may benefit significantly from Phase 5 and will need to train more frequently (Clark et al., 2014). A qualified NASM-CPT can help you create a plan to achieve your objectives.


IS IT POSSIBLE TO LOSE WEIGHT BY LIFTING WEIGHTS, OR SHOULD I PRIORITIZE CARDIO?

Consider the case of Rachel and Sarah.Skeletal muscle is a metabolically active tissue that accounts for a large portion of your daily energy expenditure. In a healthy person, skeletal and cardiac muscles account for about 30% of the total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) (McPherron et al., 2013). The higher an individual's resting metabolic rate is, the more skeletal muscle they have. Similar to having a healthy amount of skeletal muscle, having a healthy amount of skeletal muscle improves insulin sensitivity. If weight loss is your goal, these factors will help you lose more weight over time.

Cardio, on the other hand, is an essential component of any weight-loss program. When a caloric deficit exists, or when TDEE exceeds total daily energy intake, weight loss occurs (TDEI). Strength training may burn fewer calories per session than cardio exercise, but cardio is still required to increase TDEE. Consider it from a financial standpoint.

Strength training is your stock market investment, while cardio is your daily income from work. Strength training will increase your skeletal muscle mass and indirectly increase your TDEE by increasing your RMR, while cardio will directly increase your TDEE (Summerfield, 2016). The bottom line is that a well-rounded fat-loss exercise program will include both cardio and resistance training.


WILL STRENGTH TRAINING MAKE ME VERY BULKY?

While large, bulky muscles are a dream come true for some women, they may make others nervous about beginning a strength training program. Females have smaller muscle fibers, a lower concentration of type-II (fast-twitch) muscle fibers, and a much lower serum level of testosterone (the most potent anabolic hormone) (approximately one-eighth to one-tenth) than their male counterparts.

These factors allow males to experience greater muscle hypertrophy (growth) than females, even when they are subjected to similar training volumes (Miller et al., 1993). It's also worth noting that developing very muscles necessitates a combination of targeted high-volume strength training and meticulous nutrition.

To put it another way, both men and women must put in a lot of effort and dedication to succeed. The bottom line is that, while participating in a strength training program may result in some muscle hypertrophy (yay gains), it is unlikely that it will result in large, bulky muscles.


WILL LIFTING WEIGHTS INJURE ME?

Gym equipment can be intimidating at times. Some women are concerned that lifting weights will injure them, particularly if they have a musculoskeletal problem (i.e., back, knee, or hip pain).

If appropriate corrective exercises are used, a properly designed strength training program is more likely to reduce the risk of injury and, conversely, may improve musculoskeletal pain syndromes (Clark et al., 2014). Working with a qualified fitness professional is the most effective way to assess your movement compensations, correct them, and learn safe and appropriate weight-lifting techniques.


CONSIDERATIONS FOR WOMEN OVER 50 WHO WANT TO LOSE WEIGHT

Even after menopause, many women are still capable of participating in strength training programs. With lower levels of circulating anabolic hormones (estrogen and testosterone) and fewer muscle satellite cells, it's possible that strength gains will be more difficult to achieve, though muscle hypertrophy can still be achieved with properly planned training programs and nutrient timing.

There is nothing about this stage of life that prevents a woman from achieving extreme strength (if desired). There are, however, a few points worth mentioning.

This age group is more likely to suffer from CVD complications. Furthermore, the prevalence of conditions such as high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes mellitus may preclude certain types and intensities of exercise and/or necessitate medical clearance before beginning an exercise program.

It's also worth noting that osteoporosis is a possible risk for women in this age group, and high-impact exercise, exercises that put a lot of pressure on the spinal cord, and exercises that put a lot of pressure on the spine may be contraindicated in some women in this age group.


LAST WORD

For women of all ages and stages of life, a regular and appropriately designed strength training program is an important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Resistance training can help us achieve our more aesthetic fitness goals by strengthening our muscles, bones, metabolic systems, and psychological well-being.

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