By Julie Alvira, MD., MBA
There comes a time when you have to put fear away, step out of your comfort zone, and challenge yourself. You might feel uncomfortable and awkward when you try something new, but sometimes the unknown will become your new normal. I am talking about women and lifting weights. There’s still a majority of women out there that think that heavy lifting will make them bulky, and if the lifting stops, then everything will turn to fat. Other women think that lifting weights will change how their body looks or that they will “look masculine and buff.” Some say that women over 40 who touch weights are out of their mind. All of these are misconceptions!! Let’s set the record straight.
First things first: Androgens
Androgens are sex steroid hormones that are made primarily in the male testes and rule male sexual development and the body… but wait… we women have androgens as well. They are made in the female ovaries and adrenal glands. Both bodies produce this hormone in different amounts. Androgens control male sex traits, development, muscle mass, aggressiveness, and sex drive among other functions. In women, they influence sexual behavior and are converted into the female hormones called estrogens. (Tulane University, 2014).
Testosterone is one of the most potent androgens in humans. It is present in higher levels in men than in women. Simply stated, women do not possess the level of testosterone to support a bulky physical appearance. We develop more levels of estrogen. Any woman that is out there that looks bulky muscular is probably supplementing with extra hormones. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has stated that women naturally develop less muscle mass than men because they have fewer muscle cells. To make things very clear, even if a woman trains very hard, she will achieve only a fraction of what a man can achieve because a male’s testicles produce testosterone in higher amounts than our ovaries. My fellow females, you will not look like a superhero just by performing exercises with weights!
Benefits: Physical and emotional
Somebody once said, “Fitness is 100% mental. Your body won’t go where your mind doesn’t push it.” Ladies, we understood the science, so let’s look at the benefits to get a clearer picture of why we should give weights a try.
It is fine to continue doing your cardio, yoga, and light 3-5 pound weight routines, but by incorporating more intense strength training into your workouts, a woman can achieve more fat loss. This is due to the fact that the metabolism is enhanced when lifting weights, because the premier calorie burning tissue in a woman’s body is muscle mass. According to studies, the more muscle mass a woman has, the more calories she will burn. After age 30, most people begin to lose half a pound of muscle mass and at age 50 that doubles; so, by increasing muscle mass through performing strength training at least twice a week, you will help fight muscle loss. The ACSM also states that weight training helps a woman’s body:
– Slow down the rate of bone density loss to help avoid osteoporosis.
– Improve hormonal balance by maintaining a healthy weight before and after menopause.
– Sleep better.
– Reduce risk of cardiovascular disease.
One weight lifting misconception is that if a woman stops working out, the muscle will turn into fat. Muscle and fat are separate tissues. If the workout stops, the muscle may atrophy but they will not convert to fat!
Another point to clear up is that a woman weighs more when she has more muscle. This is true, however, due to the fact that muscle is more dense than fat, you will lose inches everywhere without losing pounds.
A woman will feel and look better. A Harvard study found that strength training reduced clinical depression symptoms more successfully than standard counseling did. In addition, you feel more energetic, more confident and increase libido. Haven’t you heard that by lifting weights your “happy hormones” are increased? Indeed they are.
Remember to always consult a physician before you start an exercise plan to see that you are good to go!
Julie Alvira, MD holds an MBA in healthcare management. She Is the owner of AJBodysculpt and is a fully bilingual health and wellness writer and speaker. She is also available for fitness and nutrition coaching. View her fitness videos and podcasts on Broadcast radio through her website: www.ajbodysculpt.com.