Now that it’s 2015 many women will be hitting the gym to start the journey of reaching their fitness and health related goals. How many of you are saying in your head the following:
- “I don’t want to get big and bulky.”
- “I just want toned muscles.”
- “I don’t want to lift ‘heavy’ weights.”
In a previous two part post series by Brent Hartman, he touched on three important reasons females should weight train and helped further expel the myth that when women lift weights they will become “big and bulky” like their male counterparts. If you would like to catch up on the conversation you can read Part 1 and Part 2.
In this third edition of “Women and Resistance Training“, I would like to add another viewpoint to this discussion – from the viewpoint of rehabilitation.
Women and Resistance Training: Part 3
Having worked in both outpatient and long-term care rehab centers, I have seen firsthand the results of what a lack of weight bearing exercises can do to the female body.
What are you at a higher risk of?
Females, (especially those who are post-menopausal) are at a high risk for developing Osteoporosis – a disease that weakens bones over time as a result of progressive loss of bone density (Think of an osteoporotic bone looking like Swiss cheese versus a healthy bone which looks like American cheese). This weakening of bones increases the susceptibility of fractures and decrements in posture.
Common injuries include:
- Stress fractures
- Compression fractures
- Hip fractures
- Wrist fractures
Why should you care about Osteoporosis?
You SHOULD care because fractures in the fifth, sixth, seventh decade and later in life can have a significant negative impact on quality of life.
One understated but hugely important benefit of resistance training for females is an increase in bone mineral density (BMD) and reduced risk for a life-altering fracture.
How does this happen?
When a muscle moves against resistance, particularly in a weight-bearing fashion, it causes stress on the tendon which stresses the bone that tendon is attached to. Bones respond to mechanical loading (resistance) and stress from tendons (muscle contraction) by increasing their calcium content and density or by slowing the rate at which they are being broken down. In other words, your bones get stronger too!
How much is enough?
Ideally, a resistance program should be performed 3-4 times per week for about 30 to upwards of 60 minutes.
What kinds of exercises are best?
Earlier I mentioned “weight-bearing” exercise – this is any type of exercise where your weight is being borne through your extremities, think squatting, lunging, pushing up, lifting overhead, etc. Additionally, working the major muscle groups of the body using a variety of resistances (weights, bands, body weight, etc.) will prove beneficial.
What intensity or what amount of resistance is best?
This is where I’ll refer you to the experts. An exercise physiologist, certified personal trainer or physical therapist can help you best formulate a resistance program that is both appropriate in kinds of exercises and using an optimal amount of resistance to provide increases in strength but without being too burdensome that exercise technique would be compromised. Especially for those that have been diagnosed with Osteopenia or Osteoporosis, meeting with a certified or licensed health/exercise professional will ensure that you’re doing the right program to get the desired results in a safe, effective manner.
Now, all of you ladies have yet another reason to lift weights. Exercise does not take the place of prescribed treatments, however it is the most cost effective form of osteoporosis prevention, when done safely under medical supervision. Remember that the most effective exercise program is one that combines resistance training with cardiovascular training.
Pescatello, Linda S. ACSM’s guidelines for exercise testing and prescription. 9th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins Health, 2014. Print.
“Exercising for Bone Health.” American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. (2008): www.sportsmed.org. Web. 19 Oct. 2014.