NHS guidelines recommends you do strengthening activities at least 2 days a week, regardless of your gender, but stereo typically, the term ‘strength training’ can conjure images of bulky, oiled up men, grunting in the weights section of the gym. Understandably, this can seem an intimidating environment for people new to the game.

Is this why only 7% of free weights users are women? [1] Even when there are so many Strength Training benefits for Females?

1. The ‘lean’ look.

For seasoned cardio bunnies and yoga doers, strength training may be loooow down the list of exercise. When weight loss is the goal, cardio’s high caloric burn, and yoga’s focus on flexibility are both loved for achieving the ‘lean’ look, but strength training can help speed up your progress.

Since muscle burns an estimated three times more calories than fat, adding two to four pounds of muscle can translate into an extra 100 calories burned each day. A high-intensity strength routine has been shown to bump metabolism by 20 percent for several hours post-workout.

You may find you’ve lost inches from your frame, but according to the scales you weigh the same. Don’t worry! Fat takes up a lot more space than the same weight of muscle, as it’s packed a lot tighter. Therefore, you’re more likely to lose inches of body fat, and be replacing it with tight, lean muscle. Nice!

One of the most common reasons women avoid strength training is because they are afraid of “bulking.” However, women have a much tougher time gaining muscle than men, as with 10-30x more testosterone they are predisposed to gain muscle quicker.

If you do see a woman with impressive muscle mass, tip your hat to the time, effort and commitment that it must have taken!

2. Development of metabolic flexibility.

Your metabolism is the chemical engine that uses energy to keep you alive, but its quality is determined by its flexibility, i.e. the ability to use multiple energy sources to fuel day-to-day living, digestion and exercise.

Within 21st century life, the majority of us are tapping into sugar as our primary fuel, however this wasn’t always the norm; for our ancestors, fat would have been the source. Even now, the leanest of people have enough fat stored to fuel multiple days of activity.

So, why the switch to sugar over fat?

Refined carbohydrates: processed baked goods and sugars have become a cornerstone of the modern western diet, with time pressure and stress exacerbating our reliance upon these convenient foods. But when we over consume them, we develop a resistance to the hormone insulin. This is bad, as insulin carries energy to the cells in your body, therefore if your body is desensitized to insulin, it isn’t receiving the energy you are already providing it. This can lead to increased hunger, poor appetite regulation, unreliable energy and blood sugar chaos as experienced in pre and type 2 diabetes. Eek!

Strength training is part of the solution of developing metabolic flexibility, as it increases our insulin sensitivity [2]. This improvement helps you to cultivate and retain more energy from the food you consume, increasing satiety and appetite regulation, as well as enhancing mood.

But, most importantly; with increased insulin sensitivity, you won’t need to constantly snack as an energy source! You start to shift towards burning fat as fuel as well.

3. Increased energy use.

So, strength training impacts the quality of your metabolism positively, but strength training also has a positive impact upon the quantity of your metabolism.

Your total energy expenditure is composed of the following 4 areas:

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR): Your metabolic rate during sleep or deep rest. It is the minimum metabolic rate needed to keep your lungs breathing, heart pumping, brain ticking, and body warm.

Thermic Effect of Food (TEF): The number of calories burned while your body is digesting and processing food. TEF usually represents about 10% of your total energy expenditure.

Thermic Effect of Exercise (TEE): The increase in calories burned during exercise.

Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT): The number of calories required for activities other than exercise. This includes fidgeting, changing posture, standing, and walking around.

As you gain muscle via strength training, your body produces more heat and as you gain muscle, your BMR, TEE and NEAT all increase. Therefore, in every single minute of every day, you will be using more energy and if your metabolic flexibility has also enhanced, more of those calories will be coming from your stored fat.

4. Increase function.

Taking a long-term approach to strength training has multiple benefits upon your function. Whilst ‘Functional Training’ is a buzz word around fitness, what it actually means is often missed: functional training should bring about an increase in your own function. For example, as we’re all at different stages of physical development, an increase of function could be the ability to stand from a chair, and for someone else, better pelvic floor control. Function can be recognised from every aspect of life and more often than not, increasing strength is a defining factor in developing new levels of function.

Balanced strength training will strengthen your back, shoulders, core, hips and legs, helping to correct bad posture. You can stand taller, with feet connected, hips through, shoulders back and spine long.

There is also a great impact of strength training upon connective tissue and joints. Strong joints, ligaments, and tendons are important to prevent injury and can relieve pain from osteoarthritis. Strengthening muscles and connective tissue will make injury from daily tasks and routine exercise less likely, which can even improve sports performance.

5. Increase bone density.

Strength training not only strengthens muscle and connective tissue, it also stimulates new bone growth. The resulting increase in bone density, reduces the risk of fractures and broken bones. 

Worldwide, 1 in 3 women over the age of 50 will experience osteoporotic fractures. Therefore, it’s very important to keep up with strength training throughout all stages of your life and it’s never too late to start! Studies have shown that there are multiple benefits for people starting strength training over 65 years old, such as being able to walk further and lowering the risk of falls.[4]

6. Enhance Mood and Reduce Stress.

Our 6th Strength Training Benefits for Females includes enhanced mood and reduced stress.

You’re probably familiar with the term ‘runners high’, the euphoric feeling sometimes achieved through exercising. This feeling is down to a rush of endorphins, that can be released when lifting weights also.

Endorphins are neurotransmitters that prevent pain, improve mood, and fight depression, naturally reducing stress and anxiety. They also stimulate the mind, improving alertness and boosting energy.

A study done by the University of Sydney, found that regularly lifting weights significantly reduces symptoms of depression, with meaningful improvement from 60% of clinically diagnosed patients: a similar response rate from antidepressants without the side effects!

So, start with either no equipment, using your body weight as resistance, or with low weights. You’re aiming for 8-10 reps, that by the end, you’re just about able to complete. Focus on form, then increase weight as you grow stronger.

Get ready to meet your stronger self!

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Strength Training Benefits for Females References:

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/oct/06/women-weight-training-heavy-duty

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1752232/

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15086643?dopt=Abstract