Walk into most gyms and you’ll immediately notice a distinct separation of males and females — the guys will be lifting free weights and using machines while the girls will congregate on the ellipticals, treadmills and bicycles.
While there is no fault in doing cardiovascular exercise, studies have shown that weight lifting, or resistance training, actually has greater health benefits for women, including higher metabolic rates, greater muscle tone, better bone health and increased functionality. So why don’t more women lift weights if it is actually better for their bodies?
There are still deep-seated misconceptions attached to the idea of women practicing resistance training, like the fear of “bulking up” or gaining weight and losing their feminine bodies. Many women desire to be thin because of the belief that thin equals healthy; being too thin can lead to heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis (bone loss), infertility and anemia.
Long-time personal trainer Robert Farqua stated, “Muscle weighs more than fat, so when you start working out, you will gain a few pounds, but you’ll have a smaller, tighter body even though you may weigh a little more.”
However, many women avoid hitting the weight rack because of the fear of bulking up and becoming a female body builder. According to Dr. Riggs Klika, physiologist, exercise specialist and visiting professor at Pepperdine University, the only way a woman can bulk up to that extent is if she eats an excessive amount of calories after a workout, plus additional supplements.
Why is building muscle difficult for women? One of the main components in building muscle mass is the hormone testosterone, of which men have a great amount testosterone allows men to build muscle, recover and metabolize faster. However, women do not have as much testosterone in their bodies, resulting in slower processes and less muscle gain. But weight lifting certainly does increase metabolism, and creates added muscle definition, or tone, to the body.
Junior Jaclyn Sanchez started weight lifting this summer, and believes she’ll never go back: “It’s nice to feel stronger. Seeing changes in my body has become the new goal, not counting calories and watching the scale. Having tone is great — it’s not bulky.”
Initially intimidating and mysterious, it can be an uncomfortable moment when a woman crosses over that threshold — into the “man’s world” of free weights and machines — but this transition should occur for the sake of true health.
Once women take this step, they feel healthier and better able to complete everyday tasks. This method of exercise can be much more satisfying and beneficial in the long and short run, so go on and venture into the other side of the gym — your body will thank you for it.
Follow Connor Shewmake on Twitter: @connorshewmake
As published in the Sept. 12 issue of the Pepperdine Graphic.