I have a confession to make.
Unlike many of my fitness friends and colleagues who’ve been lifting weights forever, I didn’t start taking strength training seriously until I was in my 40’s.
Oh sure, I lifted weights during the step classes I participated in. But never managed to progress past the 5- and 8-pound, plastic coated dumbbells in the aerobics studio. Not surprisingly, I never got any stronger, nor did I manage to change the way my body looked (in or out of clothes 😉 ).
What changed? (1) I decided to become a certified fitness professional, (2) I met with another personal trainer to set up a strength training program of my own and (3) I hit 40 and discovered that my body no longer looked and behaved as if it were 20.
Now, in addition to hitting the gym three or four days a week for my own strength workouts, I’m passionate about sharing my recently-found love of weight training with my female clients (most of whom are in their 40’s and 50’s), and educating them about all the reasons they should continue to lift weights as they age.
10 reasons women over 40 should lift weights
- Increased muscle mass. Muscle mass naturally declines with age, starting in the late 30’s and continuing until we leave this life. We all need muscle to continue to enjoy the activities of daily living. Don’t want to have to call for help when it’s time to move the couch? Lifting weights is your answer.
- Enhanced metabolic rate. Unlike fat, muscle is metabolically active. Build more muscle, burn more calories; both while you’re working out and for the remainder of the day as well. Lifting weights can combat age-related weight gain.
- Slow down and reverse loss of bone density. Bone density naturally declines with age. Weak and brittle bones are not only more prone to fractures, they’ll also limit your mobility and negatively impact posture. And it’s never too late to start; even women who wait until their 60’s and 70’s to begin weight-bearing exercise show improvement in bone mass and bone density.
- Improved hormonal balance. In the years leading up to menopause, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone all decline. Alas, they don’t always do so proportionately, leaving many women in a state of hormonal imbalance. Strength training can help re-balance hormones by stimulating testosterone production and increasing the amount of progesterone available to offset the dominant effects of estrogen, via it’s stress-reducing effects.
- Better sleep. One of the most common complaints of the menopause and peri-menopause years is still disruption. Difficulty falling asleep. Difficulty staying asleep. Middle-of-the-night insomnia. Exercise of all types is known to improve sleep, but strength training is particularly beneficial for 40+ women, due to it’s hormone-balancing effects.
- Increased energy. It sounds counterintuitive, but lifting heavy weights can actually increase your energy levels and mood. Once again, due to the hormone-balancing effects of exercise, in general and strength training, in particular, after a week or two of regular workouts your mood will elevate and energy levels will rise. Sure, you’ll be tired by the end of each workout, but recoup that lost energy 10-fold, later in the day!
- Improved health markers. Study after study has demonstrated the importance of strength training for lowering triglycerides, blood pressure, resting heart rate and insulin sensitivity. Given that these markers are related to a woman’s risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes, all of which are serious (and expensive) conditions, why not take a preventative maintenance approach and add a day or two of resistance training to your exercise routine?
- Reduced cancer risk. While the evidence is less specific on the benefits of weight training on cancer risk, exercise in general is known to lower the risk of certain cancers via it’s effect on the immune system. For example, women that exercise for 30-60 minutes per day decrease their risk of breast cancer by 20-30 percent.
- Enhanced self-confidence and improved body image. Let’s be honest, the number one reason people lift weights is to look better. Leaner, stronger, more defined. As a by-product of these physical changes, self-confidence increases and (if we work hard at it), our inner critic quiets. It always amazes me how much more appreciative women are of their bodies once they switch their focus from ‘the number on the scale’ to ‘the number on the bar’.
- Increased libido. Many peri-menopausal women complain about being less interested in sex than they were in their 20’s and 30’s. We’ve already seen that strength training positively influences energy levels, sleep quality, body image, testosterone production and estrogen balance, each of which, in turn, can lead to an increased appreciation for bodily pleasures. (And that is all I have to say about this topic 😉 ).
And I just have to add one more; it feels pretty darn great when a 20-year old asks you for a spot on his bench press!
Pretty compelling reasons, don’t you think (especially number 10 😉 )?
If you’re new to strength training (or returning to it after a long hiatus) and excited to get started RIGHT NOW, grab a set of dumbbells and try your hand at this at-home-beginner-strength workout.
Drop me a line and let me know how YOU’VE benefited from strength training!