Strength Training Helps Women Against PCOS, Osteoporosis & Menopause & For Overall Health
There’s no reason why everybody shouldn’t strength train! The American College of Sports Medicine doesn’t differentiate between sexes in their strength training recommendation. ACSM and CDC recommendations state that: “Every adult should perform activities that maintain or increase muscular strength and endurance for a minimum of two days per week.”
The following is an excerpt from TIME’s special edition, “The Science of Exercise”:
“Dr. Dena Oaklander, a psychiatry resident—who also happens to be my sister—is the last person you’d ever expect to become a bodybuilder. She’s naturally scrawny and a little bit shy, not the type of person to beast out at the gym—or so I once thought. In medical school, she’d counsel patients on the importance of exercise and feel like a hypocrite, she says, since she did little but shuttle from home to the hospital, spending her rare free time catching up on sleep. “My body didn’t feel good, and my mind didn’t feel very good either,” she says. But once she started taking her own advice, as a resident at Loyola University Medical Center, Dena quickly became a hard-core strength-training fanatic. Within a month of learning how to lift weights, she noticed she had more energy without needing as much sleep, she felt far less stressed out, and she saw her body tone up fast.”
Women, and anyone of course, get so many benefits from regular strength training sessions. The benefits include but are not limited to a better functioning body, increased bone health, decreased risk of heart diseases, reduced anxiety and improved self-esteem.
A study funded by The Norwegian Fund for Research in Sports Medicine assessed the effects of high intensity interval training and strength training on metabolic, cardiovascular, and hormonal outcomes in women with polycystic ovary syndrome.
The study found that high intensity interval training for ten weeks improved insulin resistance, without weight loss, in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Body composition improved significantly after both strength training and high intensity interval training. This pilot study indicates that exercise training can improve the cardiometabolic profile in polycystic ovary syndrome in the absence of weight loss.
How does strength training help with PCOS?
By reducing insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a key feature of both obese and lean PCOS. It occurs in 70-95% of people with obese PCOS and 30-75% of people with lean PCOS. High insulin is not just a symptom of PCOS—it is also a major driver of the condition.
Strength training doesn’t eliminate the need for insulin, but it provides a way for the body to burn glucose for fuel without additional insulin either produced by the pancreas or via injection or pump. When you’re performing resistance training, you’re tearing muscle fibers and those muscle fibers have to be rebuilt in order to get stronger. This muscle rebuilding process requires energy and which further burns glucose and calories after you exercise.
By reducing belly fat. Fat storage in PCOS primarily affects the abdomen, especially the lower abdomen. Excess belly fat increases risk for PCOS complications like high cholesterol and metabolic syndrome. Strength training burns glucose and calories and which also aids in reducing belly fat.
Osteoporosis is a concern for all. An estimated eight million women and two million men in the United States alone have osteoporosis. It is now responsible for more than two million fractures each year.
Strength training helps protect bones and prevent osteoporosis-related fractures. By stressing your bones, strength training can increase bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Studies show that strength training over a period of time can help prevent bone loss and may even help build new bone.
Bones and muscles are closely interconnected by anatomy, metabolic profile, and chemical components. Of the several exercise training programs, strength training is known to be highly beneficial for the preservation of bone and muscle mass. Strength training can help to offset the decline of bone mineral density and prevent osteoporosis.
Developing muscle mass and strength through strength training has been shown to play a major role in ameliorating the problems associated with menopause and andropause. Strength training can also help to rev up the decreasing metabolism and help in burning body fat, even while resting, to avoid the dreaded menopausal weight gain.
The North American Menopause Society recommends “A prescription for pumping iron two to three times per week may be just what your healthcare provider ordered. Around age 30, you begin losing roughly 1% of your muscle mass each year. Because muscle burns fat, this actually leads to fat-based weight gain. You can reverse this process and fight osteoporosis by weight training. You’ll need to work your major muscle groups (including legs, arms, core, and butt) with some basic moves.”
After women reach the age of 30, decreases in muscle density and increases in intramuscular fat are found in cross-sectional areas of the thighs (ACSM 1998c). This trend continues as lean body mass decreases by approximately 15 percent between the ages of 30 and 80 (Cohn et al. 1980). In general, there is almost a 30 percent decrease in overall strength between the age of 50 and 70 years, with dramatic losses after age 70 (ACSM 1998c). To emphasize this point, research from the Framingham Study shows that 40 percent of women 55 to 64 years old, 45 percent of women in the 65 to 74 age category, and 65 percent of women between the ages of 75 and 84 could not lift 10 pounds (Jette and Branch 1981). Over the years, the result is less functional ability and a higher percentage of body fat, which contribute to a declining metabolic rate.
The good news is that following a well-planned resistance training program increases muscle fiber size in older women (Fleck and Kraemer 1997). Increasing the size of muscle fibers helps combat the age-related sarcopenia that normally occurs in women. Therefore, your strength training program helps slow this process.
We all sit and stand in the same position that we have become habitual of. Be it how we cross our legs when sitting behind a desk or how we fold our arms and hunch our back while we’re standing in a line. Many of these positions are not ideal for proper posture. This results in one thing: slouching.
When body is in a slouching position for long periods of time, certain muscles can become weaker. “With forward head posture comes excessive internal rotation of the shoulders,” says Jaclyn Fulop, physical therapist and founder of Exchange Physical Therapy Group. (FWIW, excessive internal rotation of the shoulders is also known as rounded shoulders.) “Over time, this can lead to muscle imbalances as the body tries to adapt and find ways to hold the head up.”
Posture aligns entire body— muscles, bones, ligaments, and tendons. This ensures that they all operate correctly and in symmetry. When these body parts work in symmetry there is fluidity in movement and one is relieved of tension.
Strength training improves posture. It relieves pressure on the back. It helps to build up the bones, muscles, and all other supporting tissues of the body, including the low back. This helps shape the body giving it a fit look. Also, when there is improvement in posture there is reduction in or prevention of chronic back pain!
OVERALL PHYSICAL HEALTH
Strength exercise can help reduce resting blood pressure, improve blood lipid profiles, prevent or improve type 2 diabetes, decrease physical discomfort, reduce anxiety, improve sleep, boost energy and mood, and reduce the risk of some types of cancer, among other amazing benefits.
In its new Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommends strength training for all ages. For children/adolescents 6 to 17 years old, HHS recommends strength training be incorporated into their recommendation for 60 minutes of physical activity daily, at least 3 days/week. In adults, moderate-to-intense strength training that targets all muscle groups is recommended 2 days/week. Note that it doesn’t differentiate between sexes in their strength training recommendation.
Above we have shared many great reasons why women should strength train. To get the best results while avoiding injuries, you’re welcome to contact us to find a suitable male or female personal trainer in our team which is headed by the award-winning personal trainer of UAE Abhinav Malhotra based in Dubai.
We at AbhiFit wish you a happy and healthy Women’s Day!
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Abhinav Malhotra is an award-winning personal trainer, coach and sports nutritionist in Dubai, UAE. He also offers online services to clients around the world. A personal trainer par excellence, Abhi has worked with the world’s leading fitness chains, supplement brands and founded his own fitness academy in India. He has achieved successes for many clients from all backgrounds and has trained the Indian Army Rugby Team. He is the first International Kettlebell Sport athlete from India.