It happens to most women sometime in their mid-thirties. The body loses muscle weight an average of a half a pound each year. However, there is a way to protect yourself. According to the American Medical Women’s Association, or AMWA, regular exercise that includes routines that have a conditioning effect on the body, otherwise known as weight training (lifting weights), can actually help preserve muscle. Why should you be concerned with muscle loss? Keeping the muscle you have and continuing to build on it is important for a variety of reasons. To start, weight training will help you achieve your weight loss goals. Because muscle is the most active tissue in the body, it burns calories constantly. Increasing the amount you have will increase your metabolic rate, or in other words — burn energy faster.
Building muscle will also improve your appearance. Aside from trimming down the fat, lifting weights will help to tone and reshape the body, giving more definition to problem areas. Most experts agree that doing so can actually prevent and even reverse some of the effects of aging.
As you continue to build muscle, you will also strengthen ligaments and tendons that are responsible for a lot of the body’s movement. By doing so you decrease the risk of injuries whether it be related to sports or just everyday life. Weight training can also help to improve posture and reduce arthritic pain. One of the most important reasons women should incorporate weight training into their normal workout is to prevent Osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a crippling disease that attacks the bones and muscles within the body. Associated mostly with aging, it causes bones to become weak and brittle which will eventually result in a loss of strength and overall independence.
So how should you get started? Here are some ways you can begin a weight training program safely and get the most out of it.
Learn the right way
If you have never lifted weights before, talk to your doctor about starting. Enlisting the help of a personal trainer at a gym can be helpful in learning specific exercises but not necessary. There are many books, videos and magazines available that can show you movements that will tone all areas of the body. A visit to the book store or library will get you on the right track to developing a routine.
Before beginning any of these exercises it is important that you know the correct way to do them. Lifting weights incorrectly can lead to injury and prevent you from getting the most out of your workout.
Rushing through your routine will only cheat your body in the end and can even cause injury. Just like you would before beginning to walk or jog, you should begin your strength training routine with a warm up.
Stretching out your arms and legs as well as your back and neck is a good way to prepare your muscles for activity. Remember to only stretch until tension is felt. The feeling should be tightness or mild burning, but never pain.
When you are ready to begin weight lifting, make sure that you take one to two seconds to contract the muscle and then lengthen the release to three or four seconds.
Vary your exercise
In order to reap all of the benefits listed above, it is important to select a variety of exercises that work all parts of the body. The AMWA recommends a workout consisting of about a dozen exercises — six for the upper body and six for the lower body. Since every muscle has an opposing muscle, the pair as a whole should be getting the same attention. For example if you are doing stomach crunches be sure to follow it up with movement that will also work your back.
Don’t overdo it
The AMWA recommends that you lift no more than two or three times a week because muscle fibers need 48 hours to recover. Also be sure to make sure that the weight you are using is not too heavy for you. Depending on your age and build you may want to start out with as little as a two or a five pound weight. Build intensity gradually over weeks and don’t try to overload your body all at once.
Three sets of 12 repetitions is often the norm, but if you feel that may be too much for your body, or if you’re just having trouble fitting the activity in around your busy schedule, you can reduce the amount of sets you are doing from three to one.
Once you decide to begin using weights, make sure you stick with your new routine. Don’t be discouraged when you don’t see instant results. Changes will take place over the course of several weeks.
Decide what’s right for you
Where is the best place to lift weights? A fitness center or gym can provide you with a good environment to workout in. You can use a bench to support your back during certain movements and will have access to a variety of different sized weights. If you do not belong to a workout facility, you can begin weight training in your home. You can use a mat or even sit in a chair while doing some of your routine. The important thing is that you get started.
Weight training has been proven to be safe and effective for all ages. However, as is the case with any activity program, you should consult your physician before getting started. For more information about the benefits of including weight training in your regular exercise routine, visit the American Medical Women’s Association web site www.amwa-doc.org.