Strength Training for Women
Strength training refers to exercise that requires your muscles to exert a force against some form of resistance. The increase in muscle strength and endurance allows a person to perform everyday tasks with less effort and for longer periods of time. Simply forcing the muscles to work on a regular basis significantly improves their capacity to do work and will improve circulation, coordination, balance, bone and ligament strength.
Use it or lose it
Muscle mass naturally diminishes with age. "If you don't do anything to replace the lean muscle you lose, you'll increase the percentage of fat in your body," says Edward Laskowski, M.D., a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., and co-director of the Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center. "But strength training can help you preserve and enhance your muscle mass — at any age."
Strength training also helps you:
- Develop strong bones. By stressing your bones, strength training increases bone density and reduces the risk of osteoporosis.
- Control your weight. As you gain muscle, your body gains a bigger "engine" to burn calories more efficiently — which can result in weight loss. The more toned your muscles, the easier it is to control your weight.
- Reduce your risk of injury. Building muscle helps protect your joints from injury. It also contributes to better balance, which can help you maintain independence as you age.
- Boost your stamina. As you get stronger, you won't fatigue as easily.
- Manage chronic conditions. Strength training can reduce the signs and symptoms of many chronic conditions, including arthritis, back pain, depression, diabetes, obesity and osteoporosis.
- Sharpen your focus. Some research suggests that regular strength training helps improve attention for older adults.
Consider the options
Strength training can be performed in a few different ways:
- Body weight. You can do many exercises with little or no equipment. Try push-ups, pull-ups, abdominal crunches and leg squats.
- Resistance tubing. Resistance tubing provides resistance when stretched.
- Free weights. Barbells and dumbbells are classic strength training tools.
- Weight machines. Here is a great way to work each individual muscle group in the least amount of time.
Strength training needs to be performed 2 – 3 times a week and it is best to give your muscles a day in between to rest and recover. When you can easily do more than 15 repetitions of a certain exercise, gradually increase the weight or resistance. Remember to stop if you feel pain. Although mild muscle soreness is normal, sharp pain and sore or swollen joints are signs that you've overdone it.
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