Strength Training – Critical for Women’s Overall Health
We all know exercise does a body good, but why does aerobic exercise get all the glory? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for including any aerobic activity that can help you get the recommended 150 minutes of cardio each week. Keep it fun and interesting – from swimming, running, volleyball, fast walking, aerobic classes or Zumba – anything to make you sweat, speed up your blood flow and increase your breathing.
But, don’t stop there. For whatever reason, most women neglect to do strength training. While about half of Americans meet the goals for aerobic exercise, only 20 percent do the recommended muscle strengthening activities that work the major muscle groups. But neglect strength training and you’ll be sorry. This type of training significantly lowers the risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in women according to a new study published in the journal of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
Scientists (and anyone else who has ever pumped iron) have long known that strength training makes muscles bigger and stronger. Some women tend to shy away from this because they don’t want to be bulky or manly. However, women’s bodies are built differently than men. Strength Training alone will not cause the manly shape women fear. Training in this way is also crucial as It protects bones by increasing bone density – an important benefit for aging women. Even more recent evidence shows it reduces BMI and improves how the body uses insulin. A bigger muscle allows glucose to move around the body more efficiently.
By using data from the Women’s Health Study which followed nearly 36,000 older women ranging in age from 47-98, women filled out questionnaires asking about their health and exercises regimens. Researchers tracked which of the women got cardiovascular disease, had heart attacks, strokes and acquired type 2 diabetes. Whether a woman did muscle strengthening exercises or not predicted a lot about her current state of health. Women who reported participating in any strength training were more likely to have a lower BMI (body mass index or fat level), were more likely to engage in healthy dietary patterns, and were less likely to be a current smoker compared to women who avoided strength training exercises.
Still not convinced? Strength training was also linked to a 30 percent lower risk for type 2 diabetes and a 17 percent decreased risk for cardiovascular disease, even after the researchers controlled for other variables like age, vegetable and fruit intake, in addition to physical activity. Not surprisingly, adding aerobic exercise helped drive both those risks down even further. The women who did at least 120 minutes a week of aerobic exercise in addition to strength training had a type 2 diabetes risk 65 percent lower than women who did not do either.
Per usual, more research is needed to determine the optimum amount of strength training for women and men to reduce their risks. But the study suggests that both kinds of exercise impart unique benefits.
When you schedule an appointment with Franklin Rehabilitation at one of our three convenient locations in Franklin and Milwaukee, we will show you different exercises you can do to increase your strength. Plus, when you are a current patient, you will have access to our health club partner Innovative Health & Fitness in Franklin, WI. It’s never too late to start, but the sooner you get on track to a healthier lifestyle, the sooner you will reap the benefits.
If you would like more information about exercises you can do to start getting stronger, contact us at (414) 425-9700.