…by Mary Pearsall

Times have really changed. Could you imagine our mothers picking up a dumbbell or doing a set of pushups? It just didn\’t happen back then. A lot of baby boomer women are supplementing their exercise programs with some kind of muscle conditioning – and for good reason. Time and again research has shown that women who maintain a regular moderate strength training program enjoy many and varied health benefits. However many women fear that lifting weights will bulk them up like Arnold, so they avoid this aspect of fitness. The truth is, strength training is one of the most effective anti-aging strategies we can employ. Got your attention? Read on to find out why women, especially boomers, need to get serious about building healthy strong bodies.

1. You will lose more fat as you gain more muscle. I have trained a wide variety of women and never have I had one complain about bulking up. Studies have shown that the average woman who strength trains two to three times a week for eight weeks gains 1.75 pounds of muscle and loses 3.5 pounds of fat. Except in rare cases, women simply do not have enough of the hormone, testosterone, that causes bulking up, so they need not worry.

2. Muscle helps fight obesity. Since the muscles are where metabolism takes place, the more muscle you have the higher your metabolism at rest and during your exercise sessions. For each pound of muscle you gain, you will burn 35 to 50 more calories daily. So, if you gain 4 pounds of muscle, and burn 35 calories for each pound, you will burn 140 more calories per day, or 4200 calories per month. Now that\’s a lot of canoli!

3. You will be a stronger woman. Extra strength makes it easier to go about your every day activities such as lifting the grandkids, the groceries and those cumbersome laundry baskets. You will love the feeling of being able to lift and push and carry without having to ask your honey to do it for you. Men appear to be stronger in most cases, but that is due to a difference in body size and fat mass. Pound for pound, women can develop strength at the same rate as men and can do an equivalent work load – if we so choose. (Some things are better left to the men).

4. You will have better bone health. It is an amazing fact that it does not matter what kind of diet you eat, what kind of supplements you take, or even what kind of hormones you are on – weight bearing exercises – strength training in particular – plays an integral role in creating and maintaining healthy bones. Just like the muscle, when you stress the bones by doing weight bearing exercises and weight training, you actually build bone. So, even if bone loss has occurred, you can actually reverse the process. That is really good news!

5. Your risk of diabetes is reduced. Adult onset diabetes is a growing problem for boomer women and men alike. Research has shown that weight training can increase glucose utilization in the body by 23 percent in 4 months. When glucose is able to get to the cells, and not stored as fat, the body can begin to shed those extra pounds, and of course have more energy and stamina.

6. You will fight heart disease. Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States. Strength training, along with cardiovascular (aerobic) conditioning will improve your cholesterol profile and blood pressure – contributing factors to heart attacks and strokes.

7. You will fight arthritis and back pain. How many of us haven\’t experienced back pain? And – osteo arthritis is the inevitable result of living 50+ years. Strengthening the low back muscles, as well as the abdominals (they are all connected you know) can alleviate or eliminate low back pain. And strengthening the joints relieves the pain of arthritis and helps us move through the day with greater ease.

8. Your athletic performance will improve. What golfer hasn\’t wanted to knock a few strokes off their game, or tennis player improve the strength of their serve? Whatever your sport of choice, strength training may not only improve your power, speed and accuracy, it may also reduce your risk of injury.

9. It will work no matter how old you are. Your muscles will respond to strength training no matter how old you are. The stronger you are as you age, the longer you will be independent because you can perform your daily activities with much more ease and less help from your kids. You both will appreciate that.

10. You will strengthen your mental health. A study conducted by Harvard found that after 10 weeks of strength training, the symptoms of clinical depression were reduced – a result that was more successful than counseling. Women who strength train commonly report feeling more confident, capable and accomplished as a result of their program.

Yes, strength training has many benefits and will indeed give you that better boomer body we all want. If you want to be a vibrant, strong and vital woman, adding strength training to your exercise regimen will go a long way toward accomplishing just that. No, you won\’t look like Arnold, but you will become strong and very able to take on physical challenges – like keeping up with the grandkids – with greater ease and enjoyment.