Women and Weight Training: What You Need to Know

Your yoga class helps you remain relaxed and spiritually connected, but if you are an active female, you need a resistance training program. Heck, even if you are an inactive female or a dude, you still need strength training exercise. Here’s why.

Weight Control

Strength training increases your metabolic rate. Consider this, and be very afraid.  One-half pound of muscle loss occurs every year after the age of 25. This produces a one-half percent reduction in basal metabolic rate (BMR) each year. A reduced BMR implies that you are less efficient at using the food  you consume for energy.  More food thus becomes stored as body fat.  “Basal metabolic rate” refers to the minimum amount of energy used by our body at rest to maintain normal body functions.

Even when we are not engaging in non-athletic activities, we have high-energy requirements.  While sleeping, our muscles use more than 25 percent of our energy (calories). With a well- designed strength-training program, you will achieve an increase in lean muscle mass throughout your body while increasing your BMR. In other words, you will actually be burning more calories in a sedentary state, even in your sleep! Increasing muscle tissue causes an increase in metabolic rate, while decreasing muscle tissue causes a decrease in metabolic rate.

Aside from weight control, resistance training has a profound effect on the health of your bones.

Continuous Bone Renewal

Resistance training exercise inspires your muscles and bones to continually renew themselves.  Old, degenerated cells and tissue is swept out. New tissue that is stronger and healthier is rebuilt. When your muscles are no longer stimulated by the challenge of weight bearing exercises, they body lose their impetus for self-renewal. The muscle tissue grows old and frail and susceptible to injury and disease.

About Those Bones

One such disease is osteoporosis. The word osteoporosis is defined as “porous bone.” This condition develops when your bone is not replaced as quickly as it is removed.  Common among women, osteoporosis results from inactivity. Here’s how it works.

Just like your muscles, yours bones are a form of living tissue. They are primarily comprised of calcium and protein. The bone structure of healthy, active individuals is constantly in the remodeling process. As small amounts become absorbed in your body, small amounts are being replaced. When more bone calcium is absorbed than is replaced, your bone density, often called bone mass, is minimized. As such, your bones grow progressively weaker, which in turn increases their susceptibility to fracture.

What the Research Says

Researchers at the School of Physiotherapy at Curtin University, Perth, WA – have delved deeply into the topic of resistance training and osteoporosis. A paper by Karen Carmichael presents a detailed overview of the different studies on this topic. Carmichael sites a 1996 study that examines the effect of a one year resistance training program on the bone mass of 56 postmenopausal women.

Strength vs Endurance

The research team created two groups of subjects. One group performed a strength training program, which consisted of three to eight repetitions of the maximum weight the subjects could lift. The other group performed three to 20 repetitions using significantly lighter weights. The strength group showed greater increases in bone density than the endurance training group.

The Effects of Gravity

Carmichael sites a variety of other studies that examined the effects of gravity and weight bearing on bone density and osteoporosis. These studies suggest that bone mineral density is lost during prolonged bed rest, and when the skeleton is unloaded during space flights. This is interesting on many levels. While a person who is relegated to bed rest is obviously inactive, an astronaut, while defying gravity, is hardly sedentary. What does this mean?

Significance of the Studies

The research studies compiled at Curtin University – School of Physiotherapy point to some enlightening facts about exercise, bone mineral density and the prevention of osteoporosis. The studies seem to imply that the high-repetition, non-weight bearing exercises, allegedly designed for the fallacious concept of “spot reduction”, are relatively ineffective for preventing the loss of bone density. If you are confused about the role of resistance training in weight control and bone health, book an appointment for physiotherapy or personal training at Happy Physio.

Call us at 08 9272 7359 today!