Last week, my friend, Jill, and I were in the middle of a pretty challenging squat routine and the subject came up (as it often does) regarding the need for strength training.
Both Jill and I come from a background where cardio used to be the main exercise we did. What’s interesting though is that it didn’t matter how much cardio I did, my body didn’t change. In fact, while thin, my body fat went up the longer I engaged in lots of long duration cardio. And I see the same thing in so many people who diligently attend spin and other cardio classes, week after week, year after year.
Luckily, after my epiphany in 2009, I learned about all of the benefits of strength training first-hand. For the first time in my life, my body morphed into something I had been wanting for years, but couldn’t obtain.
So, if you think you don’t need to strength train, consider the following 5 reasons why I think you should. Keep in mind I am not dissing cardio. I still love it, and still do it…just for shorter durations now, and mixed in with a healthy dose of weights.
1. Strength training keeps us young
It helps to strengthen joints, bones, tendons, balance and ligaments. I think it’s safe to say than none of us wants to be a poster child for the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercials later in life, right? Strength training helps us avoid those nasty falls and broken bones we may have seen our parents and grandparents experience. It truly is the fountain of youth, in my opinion. Lifting weights will keep you strong and supple, period.
2. Skinny Fat is not healthy (or sexy)
We have all seen people who look good in clothes, but then you catch a glimpse of them in a swimsuit or shorts, and you’re like “how is that possible? She looks so good in street clothes!”. Doing excessive cardio, or cardio only with no strength training, leads to muscle loss. Less muscle = more body fat. And this is not strictly a cosmetic issue, especially as we get older and fat tends to accumulate around the midsection. This type of fat, called visceral, is the really bad stuff that surrounds your major organs. No bueno. So, would you rather look good in clothes, or look good naked, or both?
3. Strength training is the only thing that will change the shape of your body
This one takes little explanation. But if a tight, toned body with some feminine definition is what you’re after, cardio alone won’t get you there. You need to lift, and you need to lift heavy (for you).
4. Strength training boosts self-esteem
Ahhhh…of COURSE there is a mental element to this! There is just something about a good lift that makes one feel accomplished and well, a little badass! Also, when those muscles start to pop and your strength increases (40lb bags of dog food don’t have anything on you!), you feel better in your body – not just from an aesthetic standpoint, but also from knowing that you’re doing great things for your longevity. As everything gets stronger, you’ll also notice less aches and pains that can occur when you’re only doing cardio.
5. Strength training causes you to be a fat-burning machine
Looking for a way to boost your metabolism? Lift weights. The more lean muscle you have, the more fat you’ll burn EVEN WHEN YOU’RE SITTING ON THE COUCH. I don’t know about you, but burning fat at rest is pretty cool stuff! All too often, as women begin to notice negative changes as they age, they think the solution is to add more cardio, as well as reduce calories. This just leads to further frustration when it doesn’t work.
Still not convinced that you should strength train? Take a look at this pic. The first pic was 2004, when I was running all the time. I was in my early 30’s but my bone density was actually that of an osteoporatic 60 year-old woman. No joke. The pic on the right is now…in my mid to late 😉 40’s. My bones and joints are healthier than they’ve ever been.
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