Awesome Benefits of Weight Training for Women Over 40
Think weight training is only for men or young female bodybuilders? Think again! In addition to the obvious physical benefits, weight training has many mood-boosting benefits as well. Weight training can also actually slow the aging process and decrease your chances of developing age-related health problems, like arthritis, heart disease, and brittle bones. If those facts alone don’t convince you to start, below are some more awesome benefits of weight training for women over 40.
Helps Prevent Osteoporosis
As women age, the decline in estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone can all contribute to bone loss. Weight training is great for rebuilding strong joints and bones! Simply put, when you use moderately heavy weights, you actually create tiny micro-fractures in the bones. The body will respond by “patching” up the fractures by adding extra bone mass.
Increased muscle also provides more cushioning and stability for the bones. So don’t be afraid to go heavy! Sorry, ankle weights or 3 lb dumbbells during walking aren’t going to cut it. You’ve got to put some strain on those muscles!
Improved Balance and Coordination
Another one of the awesome benefits of strength-training for women over 40 is improved balance and coordination. One of my biggest fears about aging is falling and breaking bones, or falling when no one is around for hours. Scary, right? I want to do everything possible to prevent that scenario!
When you lift weights, especially free weights, you engage muscles that normally don’t get much use on a daily basis. The stabilizer muscles engage to help you control form and balance. Weight-training also helps even out any imbalance in compound joints that are prone to injury. like shoulders, hips, and knees.
Fights Menopausal Weight Gain
One of the other FANTASTIC (sarcasm) effects of aging is the sudden weight gain, amirite?? I don’t know about you, but this hit me hard this year in particular (that coupled with my on again-off again relationship with ice cream and wine!). The good news about lifting weights is that as you build muscle, you are actually increasing the amount of calories you burn at rest.
By the way, don’t be alarmed when you first start lifting if you actually GAIN a few pounds. It’s pretty common to gain muscle mass before you see the scale start trending down. That is why you should worry more about your body composition numbers and less about the number on the scale. Plus, 1lb of body-fat takes up much more space than 1 lb of muscle. Focus on how your clothes fit. If you’ve gained a couple pounds, but your clothes fit better, chances are you’re losing the body-fat.
I go over body composition in more detail in this post. You can also learn how to get your body comp numbers.
Increases Sex Drive
As we age, our sex drive can take a nose-dive. Exercise of any form will help increase your libido. If you exercise regularly, you’ll feel and look better, which helps have a more positive body image. In addition, exercise improves blood flow to your lady parts, which helps them… ehhem…. “function” better, if you know what I mean 😉
Weights are especially beneficial for women over 40 because it encourages the body to produce more testosterone. Yes, women have testosterone, too. Just not a much as men. Testosterone is the “horny hormone” that is believed to be responsible for libido, among other things.
Decreased Depression and Anxiety
Studies have shown that weight training can have a positive impact to those suffering from depression and anxiety. Women who are nearing menopause are more likely to suffer from one or both of these disorders. Why? You guessed it… .good ol’ hormones again!
Weightlifting helps keep depression and anxiety at bay by increasing endorphins (those feel-good brain chemicals). It also provides a release for cortisol (the stress hormone) build up caused by stress.
Cortisol was helpful in the cave-woman days in physically responding to danger.When the danger passed, the body’s hormones returned to normal.
The response to today’s mental stress still evokes that fight or flight response. The problem with that is that mental stress is ALWAYS present. If you are in a constant state of stress, the constant presence of cortisol will wreak havoc on your body.
Let’s face it, when you look better, you feel better (and younger!). Toned muscles are tighter, smoother and take up less space so you can rock those shorts this summer. The stronger your are physically, the stronger you are mentally.
Your confidence naturally increases when you push your body and mind past what you believe your limits are. Something about being physically stronger makes you feel like you can take on any challenge life throws at you!
Increased Focus & Cognition
One of the biggest changes I’ve noticed after being in my 40s for a while is not being able to focus on ANYTHING. It’s almost like trying to start an old car…. it will crank, but sometimes it takes awhile for the ol’ brain to actually fire up! Increasing brain function is another less-obvious benefit of weight training for women over 40. Actually, it’s beneficial to both men and women of any age!
Brain fog is especially common as we approach menopause. Fortunately, another one of the amazing benefits weight training is training your mind to focus. Performing the exercises, especially using free weights, requires intense focus to ensure proper form. Therefore, your movements have to be slow and controlled to prevent injury. You must also focus on your breathing. So it’s definitely good for maintaining focus.
Weight training and exercise in general also increases oxygen and blood flow to the brain, thereby increasing your brain power.
Common Myths About Women and Weight Training
There are many misconceptions out there about women lifting weights. Below are just a few of the reasons many women shy away from weight training.
“Lifting weights will make me too bulky.” Not so. Women do not naturally have the testosterone levels needed to build massive muscles. It also takes years of training 5 days a week, supplements and eating a lot more than the average woman to really bulk up. So scratch this worry off your list.
“Cardio is the best way to burn fat.” Not necessarily. Cardio is great for building endurance, but it actually takes much longer to get into the “fat-burning” zone. Your body will burn whatever sugars that are in your bloodstream first before it starts converting fat to energy. This could take up to 15 minutes or more. I won’t go into all the scientific explanation, but in short, the fat burning effect last hours longer after a sweat session with the iron than a 30 minute cardio session.
“Light weights and high reps are the best way to tone up”. Nope. Your muscles require a greater amount of stress on them to trigger growth. Obviously if you’ve never lifted any type of weight before, you will see an initial benefit. But as your muscles get stronger, you need to keep challenging them with more load in order to stimulate the repair and growth. That’s what gives you the nice firm shape to your body.
Now that I’ve shared some of the benefits of weight training for women over 40, you’re considering giving it a try. Aren’t quite sure how to get started?
Well, I can help with that! In a previous life, I was a fitness trainer and competitor. Which means I have a ton of knowledge to share! So keep checking the blog each week, as I am planning on adding more health and fitness-related content. After all, fitness is a key factor in beating burnout.
Stay happy and healthy!!
P.S. Keeping a journal of your food and water is a great way to stay on track with your weight loss goals. Get it here! Click Here to Get Your Free Food Journal