Trying to lose weight? Put down the cookbook, and pick up some dumbbells. Some common misconceptions deter women from lifting weights, but the truth is weight lifting can help eliminate body fat. One study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, demonstrated that women who strength trained twice a week for two years decreased their body fat by 3.7 percent compared to those who did not. Discover the truths behind the mistaken beliefs about women and weight training.

Myth: Lifting weights will make me look bulky.

Fact: This one may be the most prevalent misconstrued belief about weight lifting for women. Women do not naturally produce as much testosterone as men, so it's unlikely that women will look masculine or bulky. Research has shown that women have about 10 to 30 percent fewer muscle-building hormones than the average male. Lifting weights will offer you tone and definition.

Myth: Doing cardio is enough if I want to lose weight and look great.

Fact: While hopping on the elliptical machine is certainly better than sitting on the couch, it may not be enough to give you that beach body you desire. A combination of cardiovascular exercise, resistance training, and proper diet is the best way to optimize your weight loss. As your lean muscle mass increases, so does your resting metabolic rate. This means that by building small amounts of muscle, the amount of calories you burn during the course of the day escalates. The same American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that women who lifted on a regular basis gained 14 percent less abdominal fat than women who didn't. By combining cardio, weights, and diet, your weight loss attempt can be a triple threat.

Myth: I don't need to be strong.

Fact: No individual, male or female, needs to press 400 pounds off his or her chest. But building some strength can be beneficial in your daily routine. By increasing your strength, simple tasks like carrying your child, taking out the garbage, and changing a tire become easier and will make you less prone to injury. A recent study proved that strengthening the lower back muscles has an 80 percent success rate of preventing back pain. Weight training also strengthens your connective tissues, which can help prevent injury to the joints. If you're a golfer, a cyclist, or just someone who goes for the occasional jog, strengthening your muscles will help improve your athleticism and your endurance.

Myth: Lifting weights has no real health benefit.

Fact: On the contrary, lifting weights properly has many health benefits. Strength training helps your bones and can prevent mineral loss, consequently reducing your risk of osteoporosis. In addition, diabetics can reap weight-lifting rewards. A study performed by the University of New Mexico found that weight training improves insulin sensitivity and blood glucose control. Finally, weight training can also help prevent heart disease. An article published by Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association stated that weight training improves cardiovascular function by decreasing an individual's blood pressure and heart rate when lifting or carrying objects. What's more, it helps to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase HDL (good) cholesterol.

Myth: I'm too old to lift weights.

Fact: Proper weight and strength training can benefit adults of any age, especially those over the age of 50. As you age, your muscle tissue deteriorates. Weight training can build muscle and slow muscle loss over time. Many of the common physical effects of aging-fatigue, gaining fat, and losing muscle-are worsened by inactivity. Aside from strengthening your muscles and bones, resistance training can improve your mobility, decreasing the risk of injuries due to falling, and enhance your overall energy. Reasonable weight training can also relieve some of the pain related to arthritis, according to a Tufts University study.

Don't forget, it's best to consult a fitness professional before beginning a new exercise routine so you can safely enjoy the advantages it offers.