Training Heavy: The Benefits For Women’s Health

Not too long ago, cardiovascular activity was seen as the holy grail of fat loss. Most people thought that to shift the extra Christmas pounds, LISS (low-intensity steady state) on the treadmill was the only way to burn that fat. The resistance training area of the gym was dominated by body-building young men –  yet weight training could actually be superior to cardio for women seeking to ‘reshape’ their body.

In a society where we all have less free time and more stress, sweating for an hour on the treadmill is just not feasible for many people and this alienates them from the gym. Weight training seemed more intense, particularly as women thought that their physique would be too muscular if they followed a similar regime.

Over the last few years, there has been a rise in the availability of information and visibility of women who weight train, mainly due to social media. Attitudes towards weightlifting are starting to shift, with a greater understanding that women will not become overly muscular by incorporating resistance into their training regime – and that if they choose to it shouldn’t be viewed negatively.

Grace Beverley (@GraceFitUK) an Oxford University student who has popularised weight training on social media, with 1 million followers and over 100,000 women following her resistance training guides.

Training with resistance speeds up the body’s metabolism and continues to burn calories beyond the end of the session. This is due to the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), meaning that the basal level of oxygen consumed by the body is increased. An increase in EPOC is linked with an increase in the resting levels of calories burned by the body in a resting state. In 2018, a study in women found that after six weeks of a progressive resistance training schedule their basal metabolic rate increased significantly. Increasing the basal metabolic rate means that it’s easier to be in a calorie deficit (expending more calories than consumed) and therefore lose weight.

Resistance training could also be safer than cardio, as this is strenuous on joints and muscles which can lead to injuries – particularly in those who are older or not used to strenuous exercise. Although weight training does come with potential strains and injuries, the exercises can be easily adapted to minimise the impact on a specific muscle group or joint, with many being performed in a seated or lying position. In fact, it doesn’t just cause less strain on the joints – numerous studies have shown that weight training is effective at maintaining bone density and balance in postmenopausal women, decreasing their risk of developing conditions such as osteoporosis.

Further to the health benefits of training with weights, the impact on the happiness and confidence of women is incredible. A recent study in Ireland found that participants who performed weight training regularly had a significantly lower risk of depression and was particularly effective in those with depressive indicators.

Personally, my view of my own body has completely changed and the gym is no longer a task but an activity that I enjoy. In order to support women struggling with their health and fitness, weight lifting should be increasingly endorsed and promoted as an accessible, achievable and adaptable method to take control of your body.

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