Kelly Thorell ‘21, Opinion Editor
Cardio, salads, and fad-diets are oftentimes a woman’s go-tos in order to stay fit, or perhaps in other words, to stay skinny. This can be observed in any gym because most of the women tend to stick with the treadmills as men “pump iron.” This is possibly because the media consistently advertises “fat-burning” pills for women, while men are pressured to consume ultra muscle-gaining supplements; to break it down: women are to be skinny, men are to be muscular.
Lots of cardio and low-calorie diets are not bad for women to be doing because of the many benefits that it provides. However, weight-training often goes neglected. The myth that introducing weightlifting into their exercise routine will turn them into Arnold Schwarzenegger overnight consumes the minds of women who want to improve their health or physique. This prevents many women from gaining the benefits of weightlifting, which are rarely discussed.
No, cardio isn’t the only thing that causes a drop in body fat: Cardio has always been considered the holy grail for weight loss. Interestingly, constant cardio actually lowers one’s metabolism because the body will expect intense exercise to come, so it releases a stress hormone called cortisol. Cortisol causes muscle loss and fat retention to prepare for another lengthy walk on the treadmill. Only doing cardio can give the body the appearance of “skinny fat” or “untoned” because the less lean muscle a body has, the higher percent of body fat it will have. Weightlifting, on the other hand, burns fat and grows lean muscle. A study by Wayne Westcott, Ph.D., from the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, Massachusetts, discovered that after several weeks of weight training, women on average will gain two pounds of muscle and lose three to five pounds of body fat. After losing body fat, there may be an increase on the scale due to an increase in muscle mass, and it should be noted that muscle is more dense than fat.
More food!: While doing any form of exercise, your body will need to consume more food to make up for the calories lost. This still stands true with weightlifting, though additionally, while trying to gain lean muscle, even more calories are required. This means more calorie-rich foods are needed in order to gain muscle mass because the growth of any body part, such as muscle, requires food. Oftentimes when people complain that they do not see improvements in their muscle physique, it is actually because they aren’t eating enough. Once lean muscle is acquired, a higher calorie diet is needed in order to maintain the muscle. This is because your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), which controls the amount of calories you burn in a resting state, increases with muscle.
Weight training will reduce your risk of injury: After a workout, your muscles undergo muscle hypertrophy, which is where your muscles are literally broken down and damaged. However, your muscles will soon grow back and repair themselves stronger and (over time) larger. Similarly, this happens with connective tissue and improves joint stability. This allows your tissue to not tear when under stress during an accident.
Lifting weights will, of course, make you physically stronger: With added strength, tasks unrelated to exercise will be easier. From moving furniture around the house to holding luggage, you will be able to do more with less effort. You will also become less dependent on others for help, thus improving confidence. Sophomore Alyssa Seiter said, “I like to lift because I think it is a good way to relieve stress and I like to be strong. Lifting especially helps me in other sports.” Seiter is a varsity cross country runner for South Lyon, and lifting weights aids her in cross country during fast sprints because her legs are able to propel her at a greater speed.
You will have a lower risk of osteoporosis in the future: Osteoporosis affects around 200 million women worldwide. It is caused when bones are not able to rebuild as fast as old bone is replaced, thus causing weak and brittle bones. This is especially prevalent in older women, making weight training all the more important because weight training does not only strengthen your muscles, it also strengthens your bones. Bone growth is similar to muscle growth in the sense that the cells essentially break down old tissue then repairs it stronger, with a greater mass. This means that the breakdown of bones due to osteoporosis (or other bone-deterioration diseases) will be less likely.
Lower the risk of heart disease: As with cardiovascular exercise, weight training also lowers LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and increases HDL (good cholesterol). This LDL cholesterol is important to rid your body of because it sticks to the walls of arteries, which increases chances of heart issues. This harmful cholesterol lowers blood pressure over time as well. As studies show, there is also a strong correlation between stress levels and heart disease, and many people find that they can “hit the gym” to reduce their stress as they take out their anger on the dumbbells.
Higher Self-Esteem: While beauty is subjective and should not be the only reason to lift weights as a female, it can certainly be a perk. We often imagine people with the “dream body” living and breathing cardio, which might be true sometimes, though most people with the “perfect body” could also be hitting the weight room instead. This is because strength training allows for people to get the “toned” look.
If you are sad, maybe go to the gym? Mental health resources and professional help should never be undermined, though working out is often a forgotten remedy that helps to fight depression. After a workout, neurotransmitters in the body are released such as dopamine, endorphins, norepinephrine, and serotonin which give you a “feel good” moment. Science aside, in general after a workout you will feel more accomplished and productive. Senior Linnea Paulsen said, “I like working out because it not only helps with playing soccer and strength overall, but it puts me in a better mood. I feel more motivated throughout my day and always end up getting more done.” Over time as you reach new gym goals and set a new lifting max, you will have a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in your personal ability, increasing your self-esteem. Additionally, going to the gym may feel to be a chore at first, but it can quickly become a passion. This means that rest days will be almost more intolerable than gym-days. This will give you something to look forward to and somewhere to go daily, thus helping battle the winter blues, but even more serious mental health issues like depression, stress, and anxiety.
You can join a community: Weightlifting as a female can give you a sense of community and being a part of something greater than yourself. The female weightlifting groups, in particular, are very welcoming groups of women who share a passion for fitness; it is open to all and any. This community will cheer for you when you reach a goal and will pick you back up with every setback. Even though there is not a set organization for females, social media allows for many women to share this passion with one another, making it even easier to be held accountable for going to the gym as well.
“But I don’t want to be bulky!”, she exclaimed as she lifted a five pound weight. There is a common misconception among many women that lifting weights will turn them into a bodybuilder. This, however, is not true. The large and bulky men that we may see in the gym achieve their physique through hours daily of very heavy lifting in the gym, extremely high protein and macronutrient diet, and sometimes added supplements and drugs to become their size.
Lifting weights provides many physical and mental health benefits that are often overlooked by women because they believe that “weightlifting is for men” and that they will look like one if they dare lift a dumbbell. Whether it be in a high-cost luxury gym or in an at-home basement gym, the benefits of weightlifting are waiting for any woman (or person) to take advantage of.