Worried about morphing into a HULKette? Don’t be! Research proves that lifting weights is essential for our physical and mental wellbeing, at ALL ages. So what are you weight-ing for?
And before you run for the hills, let us rephrase: we’re talking R E S I S T A N C E training. That means, you don’t have to lift heavy to reap the health benefits. Let’s start from the beginning…
How it works: In order to build muscle tissue, you have to create microscopic tears in your existing muscle fibres to force your muscles into repair mode. This will build new muscle mass giving you that healthy toned look and preventing sagging skin.
However, it’s important to switch things up in order to avoid boredom (which eventually leads to giving up altogether) and to keep your muscles awake and guessing. The best combo is mixing or alternating different forms of cardio (running, walking, dancing, swimming) with varied types of resistance training (lifting heavy with low reps, lifting light with high reps, using a thera band or just your own body weight – for example, when performing push-ups or burpees.) And believe us, you WILL break a sweat! Swinging a heavy kettle bell will leave you breathless, and your lungs fit and well oxygenated.
The benefits. Oh, where do we start? A healthy body is a strong body, from the inside out. That means harnessing enough muscles to perform daily activities with minimum effort and risk of injury (think: carrying heavy shopping, picking up a child, opening a jar of pickles, walking up the stairs or even getting out of bed swiftly in the morning.)
Muscles hold our bones safely in place, protect our skeleton and joints and keep the skin tight. This is particularly important for women in their 50’s who face higher risk of developing osteoporosis. The good news? Lifting weights actually increases bone mass and density!
Strength training even corrects issues related to high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes – all factors of heart disease.
As for the waist, resistance training burns more calories in less time than cardio by creating the afterburn effect (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC), which means elevated resting metabolic rate and higher calorific burn post-workout (read: burning extra calories while lying on the sofa and watching tv). What’s not to like!
Finally, there’s the mind thing: research shows that increased muscle strength leads to improved brain function and can even prevent cognitive impairment. Going to the gym for even as little as 20 minutes can boost your memory by 10% in the long run.
So why do we avoid it? Because as women, we’re terrified of becoming bulky and masculine. Luckily, it’s all a myth and one big misconception. If anything, the heavier you lift, the leaner you’ll become! That’s because a woman’s body is not designed to put on the same amount of muscle mass as men do, and despite the testosterone, even male bodybuilders have to supplement heavily with additional calories.
Well, still need more convincing? We’re got two feminine trail blazers for you: the petite athletic ballerina Misty Copeland (you can catch her in action on our site here) and the multi-talented dancing power-house that is J.LO. “I’ve started to do more weights which you need to do as you get older because you lose muscle. You have to realise that what works for you in your 20’s doesn’t necessarily work in your 40’s.”
Jennifer Lopez has been training for years with Tracy Anderson (focus: minor muscles) and Gunnar Peterson (focus: major muscles) – while each advocates different styles of exercise, both trainers heavily incorporate resistance into their methods.
And don’t forget your facial muscles! Just like the rest of your body, they can be exercised and toned by using your fingers as resistance. (Check out the benefits of Face Yoga here.)
Our verdict: You will burn more calories faster and more efficiently than when performing cardio, and you will see results quicker. But as with any workout, what you eat always has the upper hand. Think: 80% diet, and 20% exercise.
And although resistance training is indisputably extremely beneficial, it’s important to find the activity which is both enjoyable and which works for you and your body type, because at the end of the day, the BEST exercise is the one you actually DO!