I love the slogan, “Strong is the New Skinny,” so much I had T-shirts made as gifts for my female, strength-training Clients.
As modern gals, we do it all these days: career, family, AND we have lives of our own – interests and hobbies, social networks, higher personal development, etc. Today, as women, our focus need be on our health, not our “skinny.” Our functional ability and stamina, both today and tomorrow, depend on our strength: the more muscular strength we have, the more we can do, and the better we will age (and the more fun we will have doing it).
While we have been and continue to be, for a large part, a visually oriented society, we have admittedly worked out predominately for visual affect: to “lose weight.” Considering exercise, we have long figured that if we looked good, we’d feel good, and as a corollary, that we were fit and healthy. Wrong.
Our true “health” should be defined as living in the absence of disease and “fitness” in the absence of injury, such that we can live rich lives will beyond that of our Mothers and Grandmothers, with optimal movement, energy and stamina. Rather than exercising to lose weight, our focus should be to gain muscle and lose fat – two separate processes.
For women especially, muscle truly is the key to health and fitness. Many of the health problems we encounter as we get older, such as osteoporosis, diabetes, impaired cardiac function, weight gain due to decreasing metabolism and loss of glucose sensitivity, joint pain, loss of balance and injury, etc., can be traced back to the fact that we lose muscle as we age. So, it follows that one of the best things you can do to enhance your overall health and fitness is to make sure you don’t continue to lose muscle and that you try to build new muscle.
Benefits of increased Muscle Mass as We Age
- Improve Metabolic Rate. Because muscle is very active tissue, muscle gains are accompanied by an increase in our resting metabolism.
- Increase Bone Mineral Density. The effects of progressive resistance exercise are similar for muscle tissue and bone tissue.
- Improve Glucose Metabolism. Poor glucose metabolism is associated with adult onset diabetes.
- Increase Gastrointestinal Transit Time. Delayed gastrointestinal transit time is related to a higher risk of colon cancer.
- Reduce Resting Blood Pressure. Strength training alone has been shown to reduce resting blood pressure significantly.
- Improve Blood Lipid Levels.
- Reduce Low Back Pain. Years of research on strength training and back pain conducted have shown that strong low-back muscles are less likely to be injured than weaker low-back muscles.
- Reduce Arthritic Pain. Sensible strength training eases the pain of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Reduce Depression. Greater muscle strength is associated with greater self-confidence and a more positive outlook on life.
Diabetes and Osteoporosis
If you are pre- or destined to be a diabetic, there are many things you can do to stave off the disease. To burn fat, it’s essential to keep your blood sugar levels low. Proper strength training will deplete your muscles of stored sugar, aka, glycogen, and in essence increase your muscles appetite for sugar. In conjunction with a low-carbohydrate diet, and with your muscles sucking up any remaining sugar, insulin levels are suppressed – and that’s a good thing. It triggers your stress hormones, adrenaline, and epinephrine to activate a process to metabolize large amounts of fat (aka triacylglycerol) to be used for fuel. Too much blood sugar, however, derails this process. Your insulin will block fat metabolism and will instead direct that sugar to be stored as fat.
If you’re one of the millions of women suffering from osteoporosis (or at risk), you may worry that any strenuous physical activity could cause a fracture or other injury. The key to improving your bone density is strength training. Building muscle directly increases bone density by putting increased stress on the bones, making them stronger, healthier, and less prone to fractures and breaks. Not only does increased bone density slow the devastating bone loss associated with getting older, it also helps to counteract any future loss by building additional bone matter. Your new muscle mass will also serve to protect your bones, guarding them against injury and cushioning the blow in case of a fall.
What about “bulking up”?
For women strength trainers, bulking up is remote – we simply lack the genetic predisposition and hormonal profiles. BUT we will tone up for sure. Well-developed back and shoulder muscles will improve posture, toned arm and leg muscles direct the upper arms and thighs, calve muscles the appearance of the legs (and help prevent the formation of varicose veins), pectoral muscles enhance the lift of the bust, etc. If you are after a younger looking, more vibrant feminine body, you want more muscle.
So, what’s your answer – Lift Weights
Strength-training twice a week is the absolute safest, most efficient method of building this needed muscle. And, it’s no bother that added muscle improves our appearance with definition and helps to fight gravity, holding up our desirable body fat in the right places. Wink.
Building muscle is the best way to proactively combat the myriad problems associated with ageing, supercharge your metabolism and increase cardiovascular endurance. If your “get up and go” has gotten up and gone, then resistance training is the way to go. Remember that our skeletal muscles serve as the engine, chassis, and shock absorbers of our bodies. Consequently, strength training is an effective means for increasing our physical capacity, improving our athletic performance, reducing our injury risk, and improving our self-confidence.