To Lift or Not to Lift? That is the Question.
As a health and fitness professional, I cannot count the number of times that I have had a female say to me “I want to be toned, but I don’t want to lift weights, because I don’t want to get bulky.” Have you ever heard someone say something similar, or maybe perhaps that’s how you feel? Well today’s #fitnessfriday blog is going to give you the facts surrounding this hot topic and maybe even persuade you to give strength training a shot.
As we age, there are certainly physiological changes that take place, many not in our favor, with regards to weight, body composition, and bone health. However, these changes are in large part due to our decline in activity and a disuse of our muscles rather than aging alone. If we do not stay active, we will typically see an increase in our body fat % as well as a decline in our muscle mass and roughly a 5% decline each decade after the age of 35. Yikes! Plus, for women, our bone mass peaks, or is at its strongest by the age of 30 and after menopause we will see a decline of approximately 1-2% in our bone mass, putting us at a greater risk for osteoporosis. NOW FOR THE GOOD NEWS!
Basic strengthening exercises are NOT going to make you bulky. Without going into too much detail, men and women have basic physiological differences that prevent you from gaining as much muscle or “bulking” as quickly as men do. For example, on average, men innately have roughly 10% more muscle mass relative to their body size than women do. Plus, they have approximately 10 times the level of testosterone than females do, a key anabolic hormone that stimulates muscle protein synthesis and growth. There are, of course, exceptions depending on your goal and the type of training program you do (e.g. hypertrophy (increase in muscle size) training program).
Here’s a good (slightly disgusting) look at why it’s important to build muscle. Muscle is denser than fat and therefore the same amount at a given weight takes up less space.
For general health, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends that individuals aim for a MINIMUM of 2-3 days of resistance based exercises. Why? Below are a few key reasons:
- Increased resting metabolic rate (number of calories you burn, at rest, during a full 24-hour day)
- Maintained/improved bone mineral density, keeping your bones strong and osteoporosis away!
- Increased strength, allowing you to maintain your daily activities. Think of older individuals who need assistance getting out of bed or out of a chair. Often this is due to a lack of muscle strength to perform a task independently.
- Improved insulin/glucose (blood sugar) profile
- Maintained muscle (far better than a cardiovascular program alone). While you may be losing weight through diet and cardio, you are likely losing a percentage of your muscle mass along the way: not a favorable result.
- Improved balance and coordination
If you have more questions on this topic, feel free to email me or ask your health coach about talking to one of our personal trainers. If you find yourself wanting to give the weights a go at a nearby gym, but you aren’t sure where to start, look into their personal training programs and see if they offer package deals or even a one-time free session to get you oriented with the machines and layout of the space. Also, make sure to check their credentials and look for organizations like NSCA (national strength and conditioning association), ACSM, and ACE to name a few.
Best of luck with all of your wellness goals, and happy lifting ladies (and gents)!
– LAUREN ORMSBEE, CHC, CEP
Newman et al. Strength and muscle quality in a well-functioning cohort of older adults: the Health, Aging and Body Composition Study. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2003 Mar; 51(3): 323-30.
ACSM Guidelines for Testing and Prescription; 8th ed.
Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. NSCA; pp. 93-99, 404, 431-435