Why Strength-Training is Crucial for Women (Video)

The average adult does not look forward to strength-training, which can promote bone health, muscle mass, improve body mechanics and help the body fight disease and chronic illness. In fact, about half of Americans perform the recommended amount of aerobic activity each week, but only 20 percent also do the muscle-strengthening required for broader health benefits.

Moreover, women are more likely than men to reject strength-training. And that could pose health issues, particularly for women facing or experiencing menopause.

There is a direct link between the lack of estrogen after menopause and the development of osteoporosis, which is also called the “silent disease” because bone loss can occur without symptoms. Women may not realize it until their bones become so weak that even a minor strain, bump, or fall can cause a fracture.

“Strength-training is important for all of us, but it particularly becomes crucial for women after menopause,” says Luis Rodriguez, M.D., sports medicine physician with Miami Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Institute. “When estrogen levels decrease after menopause, strength-training or resistance-training can help maintain a healthy bone mineral density and sometimes it can be part of the treatment for osteopenia and osteoporosis. So strength training for women is critical.”

(Video: The Baptist Health News Team hears from Luis Rodriguez, M.D., sports medicine physician with Miami Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Institute, about the benefits of strength-training for women. Video by Steve Pipho.)

After menopause, bone resorption (breakdown) overtakes the building of new bone. Early menopause (before age 45), and any long phases in which a woman has low hormone levels and no or infrequent menstrual periods, can cause loss of bone mass. Osteopenia refers to bone density that is lower than normal, but not low enough to be classified as osteoporosis.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms). Before starting any exercise program, consult your primary care physician. You may also wish to consult with a certified fitness professional to learn safe techniques before beginning a strength-training program. One set of eight to 12 repetitions, working the muscles to the point of fatigue, is usually sufficient for each muscle group, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

A well-rounded strength-training program provides the following benefits for both men and women, according to the AHA:

  • Increased strength of bones, muscles and connective tissues (tendons and ligaments);
  • Lower risk of injury;
  • Increased muscle mass, which makes it easier for your body to burn calories and maintain a healthy weight;
  • Better quality of life.

“If you think about how we use our muscles, we use them for everything,” says Dr. Rodriguez. “We use them in our daily lives, to go to the grocery store, to carry your kids, to play with them, and to do stuff around the house. The more we prepare and condition the muscles for these activities, the better off we will be and even help prevent injuries from those daily activities.”

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