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Weight training is a healthy exercise for women

Rebecca Nowalski
The NJ First Aid and CPR, LLC provided training sessions on CPR and external defibrillators to community members at the Manalapan Community Center on June 4.

By Ayotunde Adeyeri, M.D., FASMBS

I write about weight loss frequently. In my blogs and seminars, I look at the weight loss issue from a holistic perspective. The issue is timely as we celebrate Go Red, American Heart Month and raise awareness for heart disease in women. Yes, weight loss surgery has been clinically proven to be very helpful in the fight against heart disease, a common side effect of obesity. But it’s hard to ignore the body of evidence supporting eating well and exercising as contributing not only to weight loss, but also a healthier lifestyle and longer life. Exercise is yet another key to keeping the weight off and caring for your heart; studies laud its emotional and psychological benefits as well. There is one form of exercise that I would like to discuss in detail which women of every age and health status can utilize: weight training.

Misconceptions about weight training, often based on unproven fears of becoming “too muscular,” can prevent women from pushing their fitness levels. This is unfortunate because weight training provides several important health benefits for women. Here are some common misconceptions about weight training and the reality behind the practice.

Muscle size
Misconception: Women who lift weights develop huge muscles.
Reality: This is not true. For women who follow a sensible weight-training program, the result will be a trim, healthy look, not bulging muscles. This is because women naturally develop less muscle mass than men, according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). Women have fewer muscle cells, particularly in their arms and shoulders. And whenever anyone works out, regardless of gender, their muscle cells grow larger but don’t multiply.

Making time
Misconception: Weight training takes a lot of time.
Reality: You can take as much or as little time as you like. The ACSM recommends doing 8 to 12 repetitions per exercise, at least twice per week. With warm-up and stretching, each session should take only 30 to 45 minutes.

Once you’ve passed the beginner stage, you’ll get stronger by lifting heavier weights and doing more repetitions. When you’ve achieved the desired muscle tone, maintain your fitness level by continuing to lift the same amount of weight.

Fat vs. muscle
Misconception: The scale doesn’t lie.
Reality: The scale does lie. Muscle is more dense than fat. When combined with a good diet and aerobic exercise, a good weight training program will help you lose inches from your waist, thighs, and other trouble spots without losing any pounds. You may even gain a few pounds.

Stopping weight training
Misconception: If a woman stops working out, the muscle will turn into fat.
Reality: Muscle and fat are two separate tissues. If you stop working out, your muscle may waste away. Meanwhile, more fat may be stored in already existing fat cells. But one isn’t changed into the other. Even if you stop working out, you will build muscle again whenever you restart weight training.

Most importantly, weight training can help women maintain a healthy weight before, during and after menopause, when weight gain is common. It also can help them avoid osteoporosis and prevent back problems. If you’ve never lifted weights, consider working with a trainer for your first few sessions. Chances are the results you get will make you stick with it and improve your health.

Dr. Adeyeri is a board-certified and fellowship-trained laparoscopic, bariatric and general surgeon and medical director of the Institute for Weight Loss at Raritan Bay Medical Center, a member of the Hackensack Meridian Health family. The Institute is accredited by the MBSAQIP as a Comprehensive Bariatric Center and provides individualized medical and surgical solutions and support for individuals seeking weight loss, including nutrition and lifestyle counseling. For more information or to attend a free bariatric surgery seminar, call 855-TIME4ME.

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