The Importance of Strength Training for Weight Management in Women

Monday August 19, 2013

Written by: Neva Avery, Personal Trainer

After age 30, inactive adults can see as much as a 3-5% decline in muscle mass per decade of life. In addition, as we age our ability to gain muscle mass decreases as well. If we don’t engage in activities that overload the muscles we will not be able to halt the muscle mass loss that occurs with age.  Why is this so important? Muscle mass is our metabolic engine. A loss of muscle leads to a decrease in metabolic rate which in turn makes it more challenging to maintain a healthy weight and body composition over time. This becomes a bigger issue in a woman’s 40’s and 50’s because of the hormonal changes that occur during menopause influence the storage of fat in the abdominal area. This is what causes the dreaded “pooch”!

So what’s a girl to do? Here are some commonly asked questions:

  • How often should I strength train?
    2-3 times per week (non-consecutive days if working total body each session)
  • I don’t want to bulk up so I should stick with lighter weights, right?
    It’s difficult for women to gain significant amounts of muscle mass and bulk due to lower testosterone levels. Sticking with very light weights won’t create the overload necessary for muscle maintenance and/or growth. The last few repetitions of a set should feel challenging. If not, increase the resistance as long as you can still maintain proper form and technique.
  • How many exercises should I do?
    There are an endless number of protocols for strength training. If you’re just getting started, 8-12 exercises is the minimum goal. Strive to complete at least one exercise for each of the major muscle groups (legs, chest, upper back, biceps, triceps, shoulders, abs, lower back). You want to aim to complete 2-3 sets and 8-15 reps of each exercise.
  • I have no clue what to do. Help!
    At the Wellness Center there are several ways you can learn more. Consider attending one of the following FREE Fitness Clinics (CORE Training, Free Motion, Free Weights, Functional Training, Women with Weights, Resistance Bands 101, Kettlebell Training). Group fitness classes are also a great way to get in a total body strength workout with an instructor leading the way. Check out our Group Fitness schedule online http://uncwellness.com/northwestcary/group-fitness-classes/ .  If you would like more one-on-one guidance, sign up for personal training to help you develop a routine that is specifically suited for your goals and abilities.

 

Other reasons strength training is important:

  • Reduced risk of hypertension, diabetes and heart disease
  • Reduced injury risk
  • Reduced back and arthritis pain
  • May reduce depression symptoms
  • Gain strength without bulk
  • Improved appearance/body image which in turn improves self-esteem and confidence
  • Improved balance
  • Improved athletic performance (running, swimming, tennis, cycling, soccer, etc.)