Strength training is an important part of staying fit and healthy, especially for women.  Here is why lifting weights is not just for body builders, but for all ages and fitness levels.

1. Strong bones
As women age they become increasingly susceptible to bone loss and osteoporosis.  Although men can also suffer from this as they get older, women are especially at risk due to their lighter skeletons.

Until the age of 30 to 35 we continue to build up our bones, but after this the density tends to decline with increasing years, leaving many women prone to fractures and falls in their later life and the potential to cause a great deal of pain.

Strength training and weight baring exercise has been shown to help increase bone density and slow the process of bone loss over time.  For younger women, strength training can help to build strong bones that are therefore more resistant to bone loss in later life and for older women this type of training can help to slow the process of bones becoming brittle.

2. Weight management
It is thought that adding a strength training regime to a cardio workout can help with weight management.  Strength training help to build muscle, which is more metabolically active than fat tissue, meaning you may burn more calories even when at rest if you boost your muscle mass.

Strength training should be used in combination with cardio for best results, but should not replace cardio training, which research suggests is more effective for weight loss and provides greater benefit for fitness levels.

It is important to remember however, that muscle is also heavier than fat, so if your training is effective the results may not show on the scale.  Look for a different measurement such as waist circumference or skin fold tests to monitor fat loss.

3. Reducing injury risk
Aside from the benefits of resistance training on bone strength, which can help reduce risk of fractures and bone related injury, strength training may also help to reduce risk of other injuries.

As functional ability is maintained or improved through this type of training, risk of injury significantly decreases.  It can also help to correct muscle imbalances when done correctly, thus reducing the risk of muscular-skeletal injuries.  There is also some evidence that increased strength due to resistance training may help decrease the risk of lower back injuries.

4. Tone up
Whilst cardio training tends to burn more calories and decrease fat, resistance training can improve the appearance of the body by toning and firming muscles.  These effects may not make a difference to your bodyweight, but can still result in a drop of dress size and overall increased body confidence.

Remember though, even if you do enough strength training to give you abs of steel, they won’t be visible unless you follow a healthy calorie controlled diet and do some cardio exercise to burn fat.

5. Manage chronic conditions
Strength training is thought to help in the management of chronic conditions such as back pain, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, obesity, osteoporosis and even depression.  Consult a doctor as to how a strength training program may help you as it is important to carry out the correct type of program to benefit your condition.

6. Perform better
If you are training in a particular sport, increased strength in muscles due to resistance training can improve your performance dramatically.  All professional athletes spend time in gyms and for good reason; building strength can give you an edge on your opponent.

Even if you only workout to stay healthy or for fun, increased strength can make your exercise routine easier and more enjoyable.

7. Feel stronger
Feeling strong and healthy goes a long way in effecting our mental wellbeing and how we feel about ourselves.  People who feel good about their bodies are more confident and generally feel happier in their day to day lives and strength training can help with this.

Being physically strong can also give you the freedom to do many different activities, jobs or simply give you the energy and strength to run around after active children daily.

8. Improved balance
Better muscle tone and increased strength due to strength training has also been suggested to improve balance.  This is important in older women, who may be more at risk of falls and injury due to weak muscle tone, but also in younger women.

Many sports benefit from good balance, such as surfing, skiing, dancing and gymnastics, so strength training, particularly in the core areas can be important in people doing these activities.

9. Better blood glucose control
Strength training has been linked with improved blood glucose control in a number of studies.  It is thought that people with type 2 diabetes can improve blood glucose levels with the addition of strength training.

Evidence has also suggested that resistance and strength training can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in later life due to increased insulin sensitivity.

10. A healthier heart
Evidence suggests that strength training can have a positive effect on cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as decreased levels of LDL “bad’ cholesterol, and increased HDL “good’ cholesterol in the blood.

It has also been suggested that resistance training may help to reduce blood pressure, although people with high blood pressure should not commence strength training without a doctor’s approval.

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