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The Benefits of Resistance Training: Why women need more than cardio!

Updated: Mar 26, 2023

An unfortunate but still common stereotype is that women only need to do cardio. I believe there are a lot of reasons for this. In the nineteenth century and before, women participating in sports and fitness was frowned upon as it was believed that they needed to maintain their modesty and femininity. There were many barriers to break through to generate acceptance and equal opportunity for women in fitness (and certainly there are more barriers that need to continue to be addressed in the future). But we do owe thanks to the many women before us who paved the way. You can learn more about them with a short article on women’s sport history here and another on the pioneers of women’s history specific to strength sports here.

Despite the progress, there are still issues preventing women from resistance training. Many women feel uncomfortable in traditionally male dominated gym environments for a variety of reasons. Oftentimes, women avoid resistance training due to a fear of becoming “too muscular” or a general lack of knowledge in the weight room. This is unfortunate because resistance training is so important for men AND women! Below are some of the many benefits of resistance training for women.

  • Lose fat!

    • “The more days, time, and effort women devote to strength training, the lower their body fat and the higher their fat-free mass tend to be” in middle aged women.1 You can lose fat and have improved body composition with strength training!1

  • Improve your muscle mass!

    • Resistance training does improve lean body mass and decreases total fat mass in those in their 70s.2 Don’t believe that you are too old to build muscle!

    • And no, you won’t bulk up! Women have too little testosterone to bulk-up without SIGNIFICANT commitment to working out, diet and lifestyle changes.

  • Improve bone density!

    • Postmenopausal women with osteopenia or osteoporosis safely improved their bone mineral density with supervised high intensity resistance and impact training.3

    • Free weights were significantly superior to machines for improving hip bone mineral density.4

    • Maximal strength training was even safe and effective as it showed improved bone mineral content.5

  • Improve osteoarthritic pain!

    • Resistance training does improve pain and physical function in those with knee arthritis.6 Motion is lotion for those joints.

  • Improve balance and decrease risk of falls!

    • Resistance and agility training reduces the risk of falling in women aged 75-85 by 57.3%.7

    • Resistance training is an important component to decreasing risk of falls but other areas should be addressed as well. Contact a physical therapist for a formal evaluation.

  • Improve sleep!

    • Those following a formal exercise training program were able to fall asleep faster with less use of medication.8

  • Improve memory and cognitive function!

    • Resistance training improves cognitive function in older adults.9

    • Strength training created positive brain changes and less white matter wasting.10

  • Improve mental health!

    • Resistance training is found to significantly reduce anxiety symptoms.11

    • Strength training was found to be as effective as aerobic training in improving depression.12

  • Decrease risk of type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease!

    • Resistance training leads to improved systolic blood pressure and decreases risk factors for metabolic syndrome in women.13

    • Strength training reduces the risk 2 diabetes by 30% and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease by 17% in women compared to those who did not do any strength training.14

  • Improve urinary incontinence!

    • Resistance training can improve the strength of the pelvic floor muscles and decrease frequency of urinary incontinence in women.15

    • If you have issues with incontinence, please schedule an evaluation with a qualified pelvic health physical therapist. You don’t have to live with incontinence!

  • Better resistance against COVID-19!

    • Higher muscle strength and muscle mass predicts a shorter length of stay if hospitalized for moderate to severe COVID-19.16

  • Improve tendon and ligament health!

    • Your tendons and ligaments do adapt and respond to loading with resistance training and it may decrease your risk of injury.17

  • Meet your functional goals like being able to:

    • Workout or continue participating in recreational activities you love safely and without pain.

    • Lift heavy items for work duties or to put items into storage at home.

    • Push a heavy wheelbarrow when doing yard work.

    • Carry a heavy car seat, paint can, bucket of water, etc.

  • Enjoy your family and age strong to:

    • Pick up your kids/grandkids and get up and down off the floor to play with them.

    • Be a part of whatever activities it is your family loves to do the most.

This is not even an all-inclusive list of the benefits of resistance training! And it applies to women of literally all ages! It is never too late to start. But it is of course better to start sooner than later and start reaping all the above benefits.

If you would like to start a resistance training program but are not sure where to start, please contact us at Outshine. We would love to chat and see if we can help you, whether that is with us or elsewhere. Outshine does has a few options that might fit your needs. If you are local in the Asheville, NC or surrounding areas, you can participate in our women’s small-group clinical strength training classes. If you would like a little more individualization, then you can take advantage of our 1-on-1 performance therapy services to get you moving better and achieving your goals. We can schedule a free consultation phone call to talk about your goals, experience and fitness level, injuries and limitations and more to see how we can help!

Commit to the process of getting to the best version of you today!

Reference List:

1. Burrup R, et al. Strength training and body composition in middle-age women. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2018;58(1-2):82-91. doi: 10.23736/S0022-4707.17.06706-8

2. Vikberg S, et al. Effects of Resistance Training on Functional Strength and Muscle Mass in 70-Year-Old Individuals With Pre-sarcopenia: A Randomized Controlled Trial. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2019 Jan;20(1):28-34. doi: 10.1016/j.jamda.2018.09.01

3. Watson SL, et al. High-Intensity Resistance and Impact Training Improves Bone Mineral Density and Physical Function in Postmenopausal Women With Osteopenia and Osteoporosis: The LIFTMOR Randomized Controlled Trial. J Bone Miner Res. 2018 Feb;33(2):211-220. doi: 10.1002/jbmr.3284.

4. Shojaa M, et al. Effects of dynamic resistance exercise on bone mineral density in postmenopausal women: a systematic review and meta-analysis with special emphasis on exercise parameters. Osteoporos Int. 2020 Aug;31(8):1427-1444. doi: 10.1007/s00198-020-05441-

5. Mosti MP, et al. Maximal strength training in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis or osteopenia. J Strength Cond Res. 2013 Oct;27(10):2879-86. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e318280d4e2.

6. Turner MN, et al. The Role of Resistance Training Dosing on Pain and Physical Function in Individuals With Knee Osteoarthritis: A Systematic Review. Sports Health. Mar/Apr 2020;12(2):200-206. doi: 10.1177/1941738119887183

7. Liu-Ambrose T, et al. Resistance and agility training reduce fall risk in women aged 75 to 85 with low bone mass: a 6-month randomized, controlled trial. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2004 May;52(5):657-65. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2004.52200.x.

8. Yang P, et al. Exercise training improves sleep quality in middle-aged and older adults with sleep problems: a systematic review. J Physiother. 2012;58(3):157-63.doi: 10.1016/S1836-9553(12)70106-6.

9. Yoon DH, et al. Effects of Resistance Exercise Training on Cognitive Function and Physical Performance in Cognitive Frailty: A Randomized Controlled Trial. J Nutr Health Aging. 2018;22(8):944-951. doi: 10.1007/s12603-018-1090-9.

10. Herold F, et al. Functional and/or structural brain changes in response to resistance exercises and resistance training lead to cognitive improvements - a systematic review. Eur Rev Aging Phys Act. 2019 Jul 10;16:10. doi: 10.1186/s11556-019-0217-2

11. Gordon BR, et al. The Effects of Resistance Exercise Training on Anxiety: A Meta-Analysis and Meta-Regression Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Sports Med. 2017 Dec;47(12):2521-2532. doi: 10.1007/s40279-017-0769-0

12. Moraes HS, et al. Is Strength Training as Effective as Aerobic Training for Depression in Older Adults? A Randomized Controlled Trial. Neuropsychobiology. 2020;79(2):141-149.doi: 10.1159/000503750

13. Tomeleri CM, et al. Resistance training reduces metabolic syndrome and inflammatory markers in older women: A randomized controlled trial. J Diabetes. 2018 Apr;10(4):328-337. doi: 10.1111/1753-0407.12614.

14. Shiroma EJ, et al. Strength Training and the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2017 Jan;49(1):40-46. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001063.

15. Wikander A, et al.The effect of progressive resistance training on pelvic floor muscles and urinary incontinence in women. Charles Darwin University. 2019.

16. Saulo G, et al. Muscle strength and muscle mass as predictors of hospital length of stay in patients with moderate to severe COVID‐19: a prospective observational study. J Cachexia Sarcopenia Muscle. 2021 Dec; 12(6): 1871–1878. Doi: 10.1002/jcsm.12789

17. Docking S, et al. How do tendons adapt? Going beyond tissue responses to understand positive adaptation and pathology development: A narrative review. J Musculoskelet Neuronal Interact. 2019; 19(3): 300–310.

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