Women’s Health: Improve muscle tone and a healthier glow with weight training

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Muscles are beautiful. No one should tell you otherwise. For all of our female Gafencu readership out there, we really don’t blame you for skirting the male-dominated dumbbell section at the gym – the huffing, puffing and sweating can be a quagmire of confusion. Intimidating and irritating in equal measure. But according to fitness experts, pumping iron (or any other form of strength training that tones the body through strength, agility and stability) is not only vital for acing your fitness goals but has some amazing all-round holistic health benefits to boot.

Each of us has a different body composition and fitness goal. If yours is to get lean and mean, but you don’t have a clue about where to begin, read on.

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Witness Your Fitness
To contend that weight training is reserved for those who want to seriously bulk or look like the Hulk is a very ’90s narrative which deserves to be crushed under a barbell. “It’s a myth and misconception, unless you intentionally want to look jacked, you won’t. The reason is that women have fewer muscle growth hormones (and also lower testosterone levels) in comparison to men and getting muscular is incredibly difficult to achieve by just intense lifting,” says fitness expert and Defin8 Fitness’ owner Trixie Velez.


The approach and goals of exercise are shifting. Courtesy of a broader acceptance of body diversity, fitness is no longer just about dropping the pounds and achieving a certain frame. That’s where weight training comes in – it offers significant physical, physiological, and mental benefits all while making you stronger. You’ll notice perks like better posture, improved stamina when lifting furniture around the house and greater ease in performing regular chores.

Muscle Is Your Friend

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It’s a given that weight training will add more lean muscle. More muscle tissue equals faster metabolism, which, in turn burns more fat, increases bone density, sculpts the body, improves limb health and enhances the circulation of happy hormones – such as endorphins. And why is all that important, especially for women?

For starters, sarcopenia, or muscle loss, (sarcopenia is to muscle, what osteoporosis is to bone) is much higher in women and the first signs of it typically begin around your 30th birthday. In the following decade, on average, physically inactive women lose about 8 percent of muscle mass every decade. By the age of 50, you’re staring at a one to two percent of lean muscle loss every year. The rate progresses as you age and might lead to the loss of bone mineral density, functional decline, increased risk of fractures, and loss of independence in senior adults. The important word here is “might” – no matter your age or shape, to a large extent it’s possible to restore the lost lean muscle mass, balance, stability and much of that former endurance with targeted strength training.

Weights vs Cardio

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If running, hiking, and swimming are no longer shifting the pounds it’s because your body has hit a plateau. While cardiovascular exercises are excellent for burning overall fat, improving heart as well as mental health, like Trixie Velez says, a muscular body is a more efficient body. “With age, lean muscle mass gets reduced. Body fat percentage increases but strength training counters all that,” she adds.

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Muscles take more energy to sustain, so every additional pound of muscle built by lifting weights burns 50 extra calories daily (even when vegetating!). Besides a revved-up metabolism, more muscle improves posture, balance, gives a better night’s rest and, most importantly, temporarily spikes the resting metabolic rate as well. This means your body keeps burning fat at a higher rate even in a resting state. To give an example, if you shed around 400 calories in the gym by weight training, you’ve really wiped out more than 475 calories courtesy of the pumping-iron-induced metabolic spike. Cardiovascular exercises, though intense, offer minimal after-burn, there is hardly any calorie loss once you walk out of the gym. If fat loss is your goal, weights are your friend.

Long-term Health

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If you needed any more inspiration to crush that leg day, it’s this – muscle gain might just be the fountain of youth we’ve been desperately searching for. A large-scale study carried out by the University of California in 2014 on more than 4000 healthy seniors for over a decade found that lifespan and longevity are directly proportional to muscle mass. Participants with the highest muscle mass index had the lowest mortality, those with the least amount of muscle in their frame, died prematurely.

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The findings add to the overall growing evidence that body composition and not body mass index (BMI) is a better indicator of optimum health. But are weight exercises the best way to good health? Our trusty fitness adviser Trixie suggests a healthy combination of core muscle group exercises and a cardio-boost for maximum results. “A little bit of everything goes a long way. Find out what workout you enjoy the most, switch up cardio, weight, and resistance training, and do it consistently. Most importantly, never let your body gets accustomed to a particular movement.”

This school of thought sounds like a sure-fire way to fitness and health.

(Text: Nikita Mishra)