When it comes to our health, we are bombarded with so much conflicting information, particularly when it comes to strength training. Strength training has been a way of life for me since I was in my late 20s (I am now 50). Other than some aging skin and a few more laugh lines, I look the same as I did 30 years ago—muscular and toned. I have given birth to four boys so my body has been “stretched,” but I am stronger today than I was at 30. In addition to presenting some of the scientific evidence, I want to share with you some of the wonderful benefits that I have experienced from strength training regularly most of my life.
1. Bone Density
One of the most talked-about reasons for strength training in women is the prevention of osteoporosis. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, bone loss usually speeds up for both men and women during midlife. For most women, bone loss increases after menopause when estrogen levels drop sharply. In fact, in the five to seven years after menopause, women lose up to 20 percent or more of their bone density. Women ages 65 to 70 who experience a fracture around the hip joint are five times more likely to die within a year than women of the same age that don’t experience a fracture around the hip joint.
“We lose so much muscle as we age that by the time we’re 70, we only have about 50 to 55 percent of our muscle mass left,” says Beatrice Edwards, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of medicine and director of the Bone Health and Osteoporosis Center at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “That explains why we feel weak and tired as we age, and we can prevent some of that with weight training.” Studies have shown that weight lifting can prevent bone loss and may even help build new bone. In one study, postmenopausal women who participated in a strength-training program for a year saw significant increases in their bone density of the spine and hip, two areas affected most by osteoporosis in older women. Developing a strength and balance/stability program, especially targeting the hips and core, can help prevent falls with these women. Wouldn’t it be great to watch these statistics crumble as we see more and more women building strength by incorporating weight training and offsetting the risk and onset of this disease?
Another benefit is aesthetics. Generally, we gain about 10 pounds of body weight every decade during midlife years. Most women try to counter this change through dieting. We all know that changing your diet without incorporating exercise doesn’t have a high success rate. About 25 percent of weight lost during calorie-restricted diets is actually muscle tissue, which is already
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