The Health Benefits of Strength Training for Women


Women are always looking for the magic workout in a bottle that’s best for their bodies — from yoga to CrossFit to Pilates to aerobics —  but now a study says that strength training is the one that’s best overall for women’s health. The workout has been proven to lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in females.

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The study was published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise and analyzed questionnaires from 36,000 older women between the ages of 47 and 98. Yearly reports were gathered from the years 2000 through 2014, where the health and exercise levels of participants were examined. Questions were asked regarding how much weight lifting/strength training was done per week in the past year. Women who acquired Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease that also included heart attack and stroke were also chronicled and tracked.

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Research showed that strength training reduced the risk of heart attack and stroke by 30 percent and a declined risk of cardiovascular disease by 17 percent. And women who engaged in strength training with cardio, with at least 120 minutes a week of aerobic exercise, experienced 65 percent lower risk of Type 2 diabetes compared to women who didn’t participate in either form of exercise.

The authors of the study said, “Women who reported participating in any amount of strength training were more likely to have a lower BMI, more likely to engage in healthy dietary patterns, and less likely to be a current smoker,” compared with women who avoided it.

Best Muscle Mass Is Built During Menstruation

In a separate study, researchers say the best time for women to build muscle mass is during the first two weeks of their menstrual cycle.

Scientists at Umeå University in Sweden have found that women who trained harder during the first half of their monthly cycle, if they don’t suffer some of the side effects of pain, dizziness and other symptoms, actually have enhanced and improved physical performance.

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“We demonstrated that strength training during the first two weeks of the menstrual cycle — the follicular phase —  is beneficial,”  said Dr. Lisbeth Wikström-Frisén, a lecturer at the university’s Sports Medicine Unit who conducted the research. “Better knowledge of the menstrual cycle could lead to more effective training.”

The study examined the after effects that training had on 59 women, who were all in various stages of their menstrual cycle. The ladies all took part in high frequency training for four months and were separated into three groups. The first group trained harder in the first two weeks of their menstrual cycle when women first get their periods. The second group trained harder in the second half of their menstrual cycle. The final group trained at the same frequency level regardless of the stage of their periods.

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Researchers found that the women who trained earlier in their menstrual cycle were able to jump higher in physical tests than the other groups of women. Dr Wikström-Frisén indicated that there’s most likely a muscle growth spurt that occurs because of hormone production during the first half of a woman’s menstrual cycle.

“It is probably due to the potentially anabolic effect of estrogen,” added Wikström-Frisén. She also hopes to conduct more research to find out how all women can use their menstrual cycles to maximize their training and workouts.

“We need to study different groups of women with different kinds of training goals — elite athletes, during rehabilitation and recreational exercise,” she said.