Women Should Lift Weights, Too. Here’s Why.

Photo: Travis Isaacs/Flickr

Are you afraid of weightlifting? You’re not alone. Thanks to misinformed girlfriends and bad gym teachers, many women have the impression that lifting weights will make them look “bulky,” or “manly,” or even “just push the fat out further.” None of these things are true. In fact, weightlifting is especially healthy for women. Here’s why.

First of all, weightlifting can make a huge difference in getting fitter faster. Why? Because it builds muscle tissue, and muscle burns more calories at rest than other tissues. Strength training also boosts your “basal metabolic rate,” or BMR, so that your metabolism works faster and more efficiently, so you can make the most of the calories you consume.

Second, weightlifting helps improve bone density. This is especially important for women, who are more likely to suffer from osteoporosis than men. Better bone density means better bone health, which can help you later in life when ordinary falls and accidents are more likely to cause bones to break.

Weightlifting has a large number of overall benefits, too:

“Lifting weights is excellent for improving bone density, joint mobility and body composition, and relieving anxiety and depression,” says Alexander Koch, PhD, associate professor of exercise science at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, N.C. “And there is good data available now that shows being strong and having adequate muscle mass and strong bones are key health traits to help women live longer, fuller lives.”

And don’t worry about lifting weights that are “too heavy.” Heavier weights mean faster gains. Start slow, but don’t get stuck in the trap of tiny weights or, worse yet, “women’s weights.” Your weights do not have to be pink to work. If you want to really ramp up your health, you’ll have to steadily increase the amount of weight you’re lifting, and make sure to do at least two weightlifting sessions per week. (And if they’re your only two that week, they should both be upper body workouts.)

So if you’ve ever thought “I could never lift that,” give it a try. You might just surprise yourself, and feel stronger, healthier, and happier in the bargain.