Strength training isn’t just for muscle bros – it has a wide range of health benefits, particularly for older women.
Strengthening exercises like weights have great health benefits for anyone, but it’s particularly important for women, especially as they get older. From boosting your metabolism, to improving your stability, here’s why weight training is important.
Protect your bones
Muscle strengthening exercises play an important role in keeping our bones strong. This is vital for women who have gone through menopause. The female sex hormone oestrogen protects and maintains bone strength, so after menopause when oestrogen levels drop, so too does a woman’s bone density. On average, women lose up to 10% of bone mass in the first five years after menopause, which puts them at a greater risk of developing osteoporosis. What’s osteoporosis? It occurs when bones lose minerals (like calcium) more quickly than the body can replace them, this causes the bones to lose density. To help retain bone density, it’s a good idea to do muscle strengthening (more specifically resistance training) once or twice a week, in consultation with your doctor. Weight training helps to build muscle, placing more load on your bones, and in turn, strengthening them. Resistance training involves using dumbbells, ankle or wrist weights to create resistance. Combining strength training with weight bearing exercise – like running, tennis, walking, tai chi and dance – is the best way to keep your bones strong.
Speed up metabolism
The higher your muscle mass, the faster your resting metabolism. By doing regular muscle strengthening exercises the body burns more calories even when it’s resting. That’s weights of weight!
Prevent muscle deterioration
With ageing comes muscle loss. From the age of 50 adults drop 1-2% of muscle mass each year, increasing to 3% for those over 60 . This means over time it’s common to lose strength and stability, and gain weight. Doing regular exercises with weights not only stops muscle mass from decreasing, it also helps rebuild it. Fact: One third of people over 65 fall each year with a common cause being poor muscle strength.
Feeling steady isn’t something many of us think about but it’s important to be aware of, especially as we get older. Strengthening your muscles earlier in life and incorporating balance and mobility exercises into your exercise routine can help prevent debilitating falls later down the track.
Where to start?
If you’re new to weight training, it’s best to start with slow, simple activities. For strength and stability, getting in and out of a chair repeatedly or lifting small hand weights are a good place to begin. The most important thing is to stay active regularly and to continually feel challenged as your strength and fitness progress.