After age 30, even if we are healthy, gradual muscle loss begins to occur - about half a pound per year, increasing to six-fold at the time of menopause. This loss of muscle mass, called sarcopenia, if left unchecked can lead to decreased strength and increased risk of falls and injury resulting in loss of independence. Another result of muscle loss is an undesirable change in body shape.
The only way to slow down and sometimes even reverse this natural process of aging is to challenge the muscles beyond their normal work load. Weight training is the best way to increase muscle strength and size and elevate your basal metabolic rate - the rate at which you burn calories.
The more muscle mass you have the more efficient you become at burning calories - even while you sleep. The less muscle mass you have the slower your metabolism becomes and the more easily you store fat!
For years women have been running on treadmills, climbing on steppers and riding bikes to get in shape. While aerobic exercise is critical, a woman's body needs strength training. Unfortunately, the fear of "getting big" or "bulking up" that has resulted from many unnatural stereotypes leaves women at a distinct disadvantage for optimal muscle and bone health. Research has shown that the problem for most women isn't adding too much muscle but not enough. Studies conducted by William Kraemer at the University of Connecticut show that "using heavy weights at least once a week pays a dramatic dividend in gaining muscle tone and improving bone health".
So let's get started ladies - don't be afraid to pump some iron and flex those muscles! Muscles keep you strong, muscles improve your bone health and muscles give you shape and help you lose inches - muscles are indeed your best friend!
Dianne Cumberland is a Certified Personal Trainer and Lifestyle and Weight Management Consultant. Over the past 25 years she has worked with individuals helping them make positive changes to their well-being through exercise and nutrition. She owns Personal Training Team, Inc (www.personaltrainingteam.com), Custom Fitness Systems (http://www.customfitnesssystems.com), and Team Balance NW Inc (www.teambalancenw.com). She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Dianne's motto is, "It's never too late to get in shape!"