Lifting Weights: What Every Woman Should Do

March 11, 2014 12:10 AM

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By Tracy Hampton, PhD, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Correspondent

Exercise variety is important for both men and women, but many women tend to shy away from lifting weights.

Photo: iStockphoto

Photo: iStockphoto

First, there’s the common fear of bulking up and getting big, but women actually don’t have enough testosterone to allow that to happen. In fact, female bodybuilders require supplements and a full-time lifting schedule to gain any significant muscle mass.

“Then there is the intimidation factor,” says Bridget Quinn, MD, a primary care sports medicine and emergency medicine physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

“First is the how: how do I lift that weight so I don’t look like a fool? Then there is the who: as a woman, walking into a room full of men lifting is scary. The only way to change this is to get more women in the weight room.”

According to the latest statistics, only 17.5% of American women meet the aerobic and strength training recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC’s guidelines call for adults to do two or more muscle-strengthening workouts each week that are done to the point where it’s hard for you to do another repetition without help.

Strength and weight training is essential to target and tone specific muscle groups, and it can be important for preventing conditions such as osteoporosis and arthritis. Maintaining strong muscles also helps you to keep up your balance and coordination, and it boosts your metabolism and allows you to burn more calories after working out.

Lifting weights requires good form, technique, and programming, though. And often you need a partner. A personal trainer or other trained staff at the gym can provide guidance to get you started.

Dr. Quinn used to run almost daily and finish off with sit-ups, push-ups, and sometimes a few weights. “I considered myself fit, but I was riddled with overuse injuries and struggled to carry heavy groceries up the stairs,” she says.

“I now do CrossFit and can juggle my 13-month-old son, groceries, and dog at the same time. I am strong, and I walk with more confidence in life.”

Dr. Quinn says she now likes to use the term “moving weight” rather than “lifting weight” because it reflects what she does in real life. “And that’s really what this is about. I think it’s awesome when a woman feels strong and can put her own luggage in the bin above the seat. It’s great for confidence, and it enhances bone health.”

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Posted March 2014

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