Want to get into weight training? Five expert trainers explain why lifting weights can be one of the best things you could do for your health – both mentally and physically.
In 2011, just 0.9% of women were weight training. A quick look at Instagram, a conversation in the office or even a once over of the gym floor shows how times have changed in eight years: women are taking over the weights room.
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And the benefits of picking up strength training as a fitness routine go way beyond aesthetics. In fact, it’s proven to be one of the best things you can do for your health – but don’t just take our word for it.
Experts explain some of the most asked questions from women who want to get into lifting.
What are the benefits of weight training?
“Weight training helps to increase bone density - that’s really important for women as our oestrogen levels dip and bone density decreases once we hit around 30.
“It also releases endorphins, so it’s all about helping that positive mind-set. One thing that’s really big at the moment is loneliness, and any exercise is going to help that by bringing you into contact with other people.
“And you can win arm wrestles – an important party trick. So, the benefits are pretty huge. Especially the arm wrestling one.”
“What people don’t realise, during weight training you’re also working your cardio-vascular system. You increase your heart rate when you weight train which is crucial for your heart [health] so it’s multi-faceted.
“When you do weight training it translates into your everyday life as well because you get stronger. Functional training, like doing squats or picking up a weight, helps whether we’re moving house or carrying shopping home.”
“I think the mental health benefits are huge. When women realise they can get results but they don’t feel like they’re punishing themselves and they’re enjoying it, it’s a break through.
“Gyms can be intimidating because they’re full of men grunting, but as soon as you’re confident in the gym you’re more confident in your real life. My clients start wearing red lipstick or clothes they wouldn’t wear before and it’s not because of how they look but because of how they feel. Women are deemed as the weaker sex, but strength training eliminates that.”
How does weight training benefit mental health?
“Weight training helps mental fitness. It’s added confidence. I see people who are just starting on their journey and then when I see them a few months later even the way they walk into the studio is [different]. Their posture’s up, they’re more self-assured.
“Weight training’s not just about how you look or about getting stronger, but also you’ll carry yourself [differently] as well.
“Whether it’s office work or you’re freelance, we spend a lot of time sitting down and we get in our heads and doing work. So when you are by yourself, going to the gym, doing some weights, doing fitness training, you’re going to get out of your mind and into your body. And your body is going to release all those endorphins post-exercise, you’ll appreciate your body, like, ‘I did that. I did that!’ And you feel great.”
How does weight training improve other areas of fitness?
“One of the main benefits of strength training is that it helps increase your metabolic rate because you’ll have more muscle on you – that means a bigger appetite, so you’ll get more nutrients in you.
“Weight training can be seen as ‘interval training’ – when your heart rate is going up and down - because there are points where your heart rate is elevated and there are periods where it is lowered. So, you are improving your cardio-vascular fitness at the same time.
“And also with strength training, you tend to have one or two feet planted on the ground at all times so you’re more stable.
“It’s a more controlled environment and in turn you’re creating strength and stability around the joints. That’s especially important for women as we have more mobility than stability, so you need to work on strengthening rather than flexibility.”
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Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).