Strength training for women has many benefits, and it’s never too late to start.
It is common knowledge that exercise is beneficial for physical and mental health. Research shows that strength training for women, in particular, is uniquely beneficial and doesn’t necessarily mean lifting heavy weights like a bodybuilder.
Strength training for women involves using your body weight, dumbbells or other weights, or using resistance bands. Since lean muscle mass decreases with age, adding resistance to a fitness routine can help women become stronger, leaner and healthier at any age.
The benefits of bodybuilding for women
“Strength training helps improve a woman’s overall health in many ways,” says Emily Hill Bowman, MD, Nebraska Medicine adult primary care provider. “Besides the many health benefits, women can also reduce their risk of diseases unique to them such as osteoporosis after menopause and pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and postpartum depression. “
Osteoporosis has reached 18% in women over 50. Urinary incontinence affects between 25% and 45% of women over 20 and over 40% of women over 60. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. United States, causing approximately 1 in 5 female deaths. Today, approximately 1 in 16 women aged 20 and older (6.2%) have coronary heart disease.
Strength training can make a difference and help improve those stats.
The benefits of strength training include a decreased risk of:
- Heart problems, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and stroke
- Diabetes and blood sugar regulation
- Developing dementia with age, including Alzheimer’s disease
- Some cancers due to maintaining a healthy weight
- Thinning bones and osteoporosis, especially after menopause
- Hot flashes during menopause
- Common Urinary Problems
- Fall injuries
Strength training also benefits women by helping them to:
- Manage weight and increase metabolism
- Improve quality of life and help you maintain your independence as you age
- Manage chronic conditions like arthritis or back pain
- Improve mental health and sharpen thinking skills
- Improve sleep quality
- Relieve pain, improve posture and balance
Strength training can help women with pelvic floor problems and diastasis recti
“A woman’s pelvic floor muscles can weaken and cause problematic symptoms over time,” says Dr. Hill Bowman. “Strengthening the pelvic floor can help with incontinence or urinary leakage, vaginal problems and bowel movements. It may be helpful to see a pelvic floor physiotherapist so they can help you understand which muscles to isolate with appropriate strengthening exercises.”
Some women may suffer from diastasis recti which separates and spreads the abdominal muscles during pregnancy and postpartum due to stretching. Strength training and resistance exercises can help strengthen the pelvic floor and tighten affected muscles. Because specific exercises can make diastasis recti worse, work with a fitness professional or physical therapist who has experience with the condition.
How to get started: 5 tips to set you up for success
The American Heart Association recommends strength training twice a week and cardiovascular exercise two and a half hours a week.
“It’s never too late to start exercising,” says Dr. Hill Bowman. “Strength training at any age is good for your health, and what you build now pays dividends later. Start slow and build up over time. Walking is a great place to start, along with yoga, pilates or other low-impact ways to build muscle.. The key is to pick exercises that you enjoy alone or with friends so you can stick with them.
Start by adding strength and resistance to your fitness routine once or twice a week, depending on your current health. Once you have started, slowly work towards this goal:
- Strength training two days a week for 15-30 minutes each day
- Cardiovascular or aerobic exercise two and a half hours per week at moderate intensity or 75 minutes at high intensity
Prepare for success and make it fun
Move your body as you see fit. You’re not limited to walking on a treadmill or some form of exercise you hate. Get out and go for a hike, join a dance class, sign up for an online fitness membership, or initiate fun activities with friends.
Help yourself by:
- Put it on your calendar and commit.
- Tell your friends or family that they are accountable.
- Prepare everything the day before to be ready to leave when the time comes.
- Use a tracking app to help track your progress
- Consider exercising with a friend or a group to motivate yourself.
“While you exercise, listen to your body,” advises Dr. Hill Bowman. “Start slower with less intensity. You can always build from there. If you push too fast or don’t use proper form, you risk injury. Listen to your body and if something hurts, Slow down. Start slowly to rebuild your stamina.”
Fitness options are nearly endless these days.
Gyms and workout clubs are great, but there are plenty of ways to exercise at home and outdoors without the cost or travel. Get some fresh air and start walking, adding light weights as you get stronger. Search online for free yoga tips, find a fitness app or online membership for the workouts you love, or explore free fitness videos to guide you.