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Strength Training for Women

I see them jogging along the roads, I see them in gyms sweating on the cardio equipment, and I see them breathless in aerobic classes. Who are they? They are women over forty competing against age and the forces of gravity.

In my profession, I frequently hear statements like the following from my female clients: “When I was younger, I could take off extra weight by just jogging an extra few miles but, since I turned forty, I’ve gained weight I can’t get rid of.” And “I’m starting to look just like my mother!”

I am a personal trainer, and I help these frustrated women tone and shape their bodies. When I ask them about their exercise programs, I hear “cardio, cardio, cardio” and very little about Strength Training also known as weight lifting.

Cardiovascular Exercise is good and should be part of any Fitness program. However, as women age, they should build their exercise routines around Strength Training.

Women who are over forty years of age have issues to consider that younger women don’t have to deal with. These include; a slowing metabolism, a less fit and firm appearance, a decrease in bone density, and an increased risk of injury in everyday activities.

Muscle Up your Metabolism
As you get older, you naturally lose muscle, which is the major cause of your metabolism slowing down. Cardiovascular exercise does nothing to reverse this process but Strength Training does.

Wonder why losing muscle causes your metabolism to slow down? Here is the answer: If you think of your body as an automobile then your muscle is the engine that burns the fuel and fat is the baggage you carry in the trunk.

Muscle is that active part of your body that burns the calories you consume each day. A pound of muscle can burn as much as 50 calories in a day.

Fat, on the other hand, is the body’s security blanket. Your body mainly stores fat just in case you need it for fuel in times of famine. It is not very active. A pound of fat only requires about five calories daily to exist.

Starting at age forty, you naturally lose between a half-pound to a pound of muscle each year. That muscle is replaced by fat if diet and exercise stay the same. This is the chief culprit responsible for those sagging body parts my female clients complain so much about.

From age forty to age fifty, you could lose as much as ten pounds of muscle. That’s about a 500-calorie per day deficit in your metabolism. Those extra 500 calories each day that you are not burning are being turned into fat. Now, do you see why those jeans don’t fit the way they used to?

Strength Training is the key to reversing this process. It builds muscle and reduces fat. The results of a study by Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D. and Strength Training consultant for the American Council on Exercise, showed that women who weight lift typically lose twice as much body fat as muscle that they gain.

Angie Dowd, age 46, has been running and doing various forms of cardio exercise consistently for most of her adult life. She says, “Even though I was exercising regularly, once I turned 40, I started gaining weight. That weight became increasingly difficult to get rid of, and I noticed certain parts of my body were starting to sag.”

Angie began Strength Training and as a result, has added muscle, reduced body fat, and lost inches. Those troublesome places that were sagging before are now firm. Angie says, “It seems that through Strength Training, I have redistributed my weight. It’s as if my body fat has been changed into muscle, and I look and feel better than I have in years.”

Strengthen your Bones
After women turn age forty, their rate of bone loss exceeds the rate of new bone formation, meaning that bone density starts to decline. This is the reason why some older women are hunched forward.

Strength Training can slow and even reverse this process. This form of exercise increases muscle strength that results in stronger bones and better posture.

Dargan Williams, age 51, has seen a big change in her body since she started weight lifting. Dargan says, “I’ve always been thin and my family has a history of osteoporosis. That is why I started Strength Training. As a result, I have added muscle, I am much stronger and I feel toned instead of skinny.”

Firm Up
Muscle is that component of your body that makes you look firm and fit. However, most women over forty concentrate on cardio to tone their bodies because that’s what worked when they were younger. They fail to realize they no longer have the muscle mass to firm up as they once did.

The main reason you lose that firm and fit appearance as you age is the loss of muscle. If you want to fight the forces of gravity then you have to build some muscle. Kim Miller, age 46, swears by Strength Training to keep her body toned. “By building and maintaining muscle, my body stays firm and that makes me look and feel younger. If you want to get rid of that jiggle in certain areas then you have to lift weights”, she says.

Staying Active and Injury-free
Building strength also allows you to do all your daily activities more easily. Pediatrician Dr. Sharon Foster, age 55, believes that lifting weights helps her to compete with women 20 years younger on the tennis court. “When I beat the younger women, they can’t believe how fast and strong I am. I feel as strong now as when I was 35”, she says.

Weight lifting increases strength and stamina, and gives you the confidence to maintain an active lifestyle. Dargan Williams, mentioned earlier, plays tennis at least three times a week and goes horseback riding once a week. “Strength Training has allowed me to maintain as active a lifestyle in my fifties as I did in my thirties. I would never had the courage to begin horseback riding if I had not been Strength Training,” she says.

Many of the changes that women over forty normally associate with getting older are caused by muscle loss and inactivity. That old phrase “use it or lose it” is definitely true when it comes to looking fit and staying young.

The good news is you don’t have to succumb willingly to the forces of gravity. Through Strength Training, you can reverse muscle loss and slow down the aging process.

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