When you decide you want to lose weight or tone up a bit, it's hard to know where to start. Joining a gym is a good first step, but beyond taking a spin class or hopping on the elliptical, it's tough to get a good routine going. It's important to include weight training in your fitness routine, but many women find the circuit intimidating. Don't sweat over this – save it for your workout.
"Resistance training, or lifting weights, is an activity that everyone can benefit from," says Uche Odiatu, a personal trainer from Toronto. "We were meant to move, lift, pull and push things. With our sedentary lifestyle, we are all susceptible to degenerative diseases and a chronic lack of energy."
Odiatu notes the importance of weight training, and women who are concerned about growing bulkier muscles need not worry.
"Women have 10 to 30 times less testosterone than men," Odiatu says. Regular weight lifting will not cause women's muscles to excessively grow.
If you're just starting a fitness routine, Odiatu suggests enlisting the help of a personal trainer to design a program you feel comfortable with, especially if you are not normally very physically active. Group exercise classes are also helpful. Using your own body weight by doing pushups, walking lunges and plank holds are great starters. To avoid gaining excess bulk, stick to low-calorie meals and avoid lifting heavy weights for low repetitions.
"Muscles respond to resistance of any kind, so whether a woman uses bands, dumbbells, tubing or bodyweight, the muscles still have to adapt and grow stronger," Odiatu says.
He recommends weight training once a week to maintain your strength, twice a week if you're looking for a little more growth, and three times a week to maximize muscle growth. It is important, however, to incorporate both strength training and cardio exercise into your fitness routine.
"Resistance and cardio training work great together, and they each have specific benefits. One done without the other creates a void in your routine," he says.
Once you get into a routine, you'll likely enjoy the results. Besides losing weight and gaining strength, you will enjoy other benefits from weight training, such as increasing bone density, improved posture and appearance, and even independence (you won't need to call for help when you have to lift something heavy).
At any age, weight training is a road to the fountain of youth, Odiatu says. "Muscles do not know how old you are. If a woman has developed muscle in her body, whether she is 30, 40, 50, 60 or 70, her body muscles enjoy being toned and useful."
Since graduating from McMaster University and Sheridan College, Stefanie has ventured into the world of community newspapers, web projects and trade publications. Her favourite topics include food, lifestyle, entertainment and environmental issues, and she loves learning about different ways to improve her health and wellness. Her work has appeared in Canadian Pizza, Canadian Biomass and on Agrobiomass.com. Besides reading, writing and copyediting, Stefanie loves to travel, cook and spend time with her friends and family.