I remember going to the gym for the first time a little over 10 years ago and being so excited to just get on an elliptical and go for 30-45 minutes. I remember thinking that this was the ultimate in “working out” and that it was all I needed to be “skinny” and “in shape”.
I also remember trying to use a few of the weight machines. I did a couple leg presses and a couple seated rows but I would do maybe one set and then stop and not understand why people were sitting around waiting for their next sets. I saw these exercises as a novelty (I don’t need to get stronger, I’m a girl!) and never really gave them a second thought.
It wasn’t until after the birth of my second baby where I began to look at weights differently. I started following some fitness accounts on Instagram and that was all it took for me to think “wow, women can lift weights and not look like bodybuilders”. I began looking up exercises on Pinterest and ultimately went with an at home workout from Beachbody called the 21 Day Fix to get me started with really being comfortable using weights. After doing the program multiple times, I was liking the way I felt and looked, but, I knew I needed more and my creative mind started working a mile a minute.
I decided, first, that I really wanted to know more about programming and how to create an effective program for myself, but also for others.So, I decided to sign up for a certified personal trainer certificate through the American Council on Exercise (ACE).
Over the past 6 months, I have learned a lot. Not just about the different types of resistance exercises that you can incorporate into a workout (I honestly thought that this was all there was to becoming a personal trainer. . .yeah, I know, I was so wrong) but also how to program so that you are gaining strength and more muscle overtime.
This certification process has really made me fall in love and become even more passionate about resistance training and has showed me that it is truly the real deal when it comes to getting and staying fit.
In this post, I want to share with you the top 3 benefits (from my perspective) of resistance training. These are the three things, that as I learned them, I really said “a-ha, this is why we should ALL be doing resistance training for our health!” These are the three things that I wish I had known 10+ years ago because, if I had, I would have started weight training so much sooner!
My hope with this post, is that I can reach on more woman and convince her that lifting weights isn’t just for guys or getting “bulky”, that it truly will benefit you health wise, now and into the future.
First, and probably the most beneficial in the short AND long term is how resistance training changes body composition.
The body is made up of fat weight and fat-free weight (also known as lean mass) which consists of muscle, blood, bones, skin, organs and tissue (basically everything in your body that isn’t fat is included in your lean mass weight). As we get older, lean mass progressively decreases in those individuals who do not resistance train. In other words, if you don’t use it (your muscle), you lose it.
A woman who does not strength train loses about a half pound of muscle per year. For example if you take a 30 year old woman who is 120lbs and has 20% body fat (that’s 24lbs of body fat and 96 pounds lean mass) who does not weight train, by the time she gets to the age of 50 her body composition will have changed dramatically even if she does not gain any weight at all. With a loss of half a pound of muscle mass per year, she will have lost 10 pounds of muscle over that 20 year period meaning that at age 50 she now has 34lbs of body fat and 86 pounds of lean mass. She has the same amount of weight but has more fat.
The above paragraph is not meant to be “doom and gloom”, so I’m sorry if it came across that way. Instead, I want to let you know that by starting a resistance training program now, that you can reverse the process of muscle mass loss! There have been many studies that have shown doing several weeks of strength training (yes, sticking to a program is key) can lead to not only a gain in muscle mass but also a loss in fat.
Resting metabolic rate (RMR) is defined as the number of calories expended per unit at time of rest. In this case, a “unit” is a pound or kilogram of body weight.
Your RMR is directly related to the amount of muscle that you do or do not have. The more muscle you have the more calories your body burns at rest, it takes more calories to maintain a pound of muscle than it does to maintain a pound of fat. As you lose muscle, your RMR goes down, meaning you are burning fewer calories at rest. This decrease in your metabolism means an increase in body fat, because calories previously used to maintain muscle are instead being stored as fat. This is why many people see an increase in weight as they age or find it harder to lose weight as they age.
The good news is, as you gain muscle, your RMR goes up, meaning you are burning more calories at rest. And, you don’t need to work out for months to begin seeing the positive side effects (an increased RMR) of weight training either. Just one resistance training session (an intense session) can raise your resting heart rate for up to 72 hours post workout, this is believed to be the case because of the energy your body is using to rebuild muscle.
INJURY AND DISEASE PREVENTION
Probably the most important reason to exercise, that many people don’t think about in their 20s/30s/40s is that it is a great helper in the prevention of injury and disease as we age.
Yeah, I know, it isn’t glamorous to think about aging but you know what is going to make it a whole hell of a lot less glamorous? Being in pain, not being able to have full mobility, and dealing with disease (preventable or not).
Starting a resistance training program now and staying consistent (or even starting later in life) leads to stronger muscles which can mean less back pain (ok, this might be a positive now as well, I know so many moms who complain of low back pain), it can lead to improved functional ability in everyday movements; like bending down, turning, and even balance, and can help reduce pain caused by arthritis.
Do you need another reason?
An increase in bone mineral density is a direct benefit of resistance training. What does that mean? It may reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
As you can see, the benefits are real and incredibly important, not only now but for long term health as well.
I look back at my younger self and wish I had known these benefits when I first got introduced to working out for health. Resistance training isn’t just about lifting huge weights with the hopes of gaining huge muscles. Resistance training is about changing your body’s composition in a beneficial way, making it more efficient for weight loss (or if weight loss is not a goal, it can be beneficial in maintenance as well), and helping with pain and injury prevention.
Strong muscles are not a novelty and resistance training is not just something for men. Strong muscles are for everyone serious about the health and longevity of their bodies.
One Last Thing
Resistance training comes in all shapes and sizes, and at home training can be just as effective, if not more effective, than working out at a gym. It really all comes down to a solid program that works with your goals in mind within the time frame that you have available to train.
Reference: American Council on Exercise Personal Trainer Manual 5th Edition