SUMMARY: Increased metabolic rate, feel good vibes and decreased disease risk. What more could you wish for?
Most women, when asked about their fitness routine, will normally respond with details about their fitbit accomplishments or their cardio regimes. Which is all great, but it really isn’t the most effective way to lose fat. Weight training is. And not just for fat loss, it has a whole host of other benefits too.
Fat loss: To begin with, the most obvious. Many people still believe that cardio is the most effective way to lose body fat, which quite frankly is nothing more than a myth. A 1988 study concluded that combining weight training with caloric restriction was an effective way to lose fat, whilst also maintaining lean body mass (muscle/booty gains). 1 By increasing your strength you can feel better, live better, perform better, and open those pesky jam jars without a problem. Not only this but gaining muscle will burn more calories whilst you are at rest, and performing typical daily activities, increasing your net calorie expenditure and aiding fat loss. Basically, it increases your basal metabolic rate.
Insulin Sensitivity: Alongside the weight loss related benefits, this type of training can also help change your insulin sensitivity, something of particular relevance to Diabetics. Dynamic Strength Training improves the insulin sensitivity of overweight men who have insulin resistance (a characteristic of type 2 diabetes), meaning that it may not just help relieve the symptoms but also be an effective preventative tool for Type 2 Diabetes 2,3.
Mental Health: Weight lifting can also go a long way to fight depression. In 1987, a study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology showed that weight-training (along with aerobic exercise) could help reduce feelings of stress and low-mood, commonly linked with depression. 4 This can be attributed to the release of endorphins, or ‘feel-good’ hormones, which are released during and after an intense workout. It could also be down to the feelings of accomplishment and pride associated with repetitive lifting. So if you’re having a bad day, going to the gym and smashing out a great workout may make the world of difference.
Alongside these, a simple google search will show you that weight training has also been linked with lower blood pressure, decreased osteoporosis risk and increased general flexibility. It may well feel intimidating at first, but trust me, it’s worth the effort. Many people find it easier to start off with a trainer, who can give you a personalised workout and ease you into the world of lifting. Or if you’re brave, you can jump in yourself. There are plenty of articles and videos online which will show you correct lifting form and give you good plans to work with.
A final point to make is something which comes up all too often: ‘But won’t lifting weights make me bulky?’
It’s important to understand that serious weight lifting requires a lot of hard work and dedication. With a much lower testosterone level, it’s much harder for women to gain mass, and it would require you to follow a very strict and specific plan to ever become ‘bulky’. Basic lifting will give you a more toned appearance and more defined muscles, but isn’t going to make you look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. So give it a go.
- Am J Clin Nutr,January 1988, 47 no. 1 19-25
- ‘Effect of dynamic strength training on insulin sensitivity in men with insulin resistance’, Cas Lek Cesk.2004;143(11):762-5
- ‘Effects of nonlinear resistance and aerobic interval training on cytokines and insulin resistance in sedentary men who are obese’, J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Sep;28(9):2560-8
- Doyne, E. J., Ossip-Klein, D. J., Bowman, E. D., Osborn, K. M., McDougall-Wilson, I. B., & Neimeyer, R. A. (1987). Running versus weight lifting in the treatment of depression. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 55(5), 748-754.