Why Should You Lift Weights?

For optimal fitness, experts tell us it's important to use weights or weight machines along with performing cardiovascular exercise such as running, biking or walking. But a lot of us are still shy when it comes to the weight room at the gym, preferring to leave it to the grunting male masses. After all, isn't it just about vanity and watching yourself in the mirror between reps? And really, why would we try to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger when we'd rather focus on burning off fat with cardio?

While strength training definitely can sculpt muscle and help you build a better physique, the benefits of lifting weights go beyond appearance. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends strength training for women specifically to help us with everyday activities. Our lives are demanding, and a strong woman is much more capable than a weak one of lifting growing children, pushing heavy grocery carts, and moving furniture to vacuum behind it. Need more encouragement? Here are a few good reasons to strength train:

  • You'll shed pounds. Studies show that a woman who strength trains two or three times a week for two months will gain nearly two pounds of muscle but lose 3.5 pounds of fat. Lean muscle also kicks your metabolism into higher gear, enabling you to burn up to 50 extra calories each day for each new pound of muscle. But don't worry—women generally don't bulk up like men do. We simply don't have enough testosterone.
  • You'll be a better athlete. You may not consider yourself a jock, but you'll do better in whatever sport you enjoy, from a casual weekend game of tennis to a bike ride around town with the kids. You'll fatigue much less easily and decrease your risk of injury.
  • You'll say goodbye to back pain and arthritis. Muscles aren't the only body parts to benefit from strength training; connective tissues strengthen and joints stabilize as well. By working on your lower back muscles, you can significantly reduce problems in this area.
  • You'll be able to fight depression. According to a Harvard study, 10 weeks of weight training were more effective in getting rid of depressive symptoms than counseling. Women who train generally feel more confident and capable than they did before.

You don't have to join the men at the barbell rack to reap the benefits of training. Join a women's gym or invest in weights you can use at home. Just start lifting.