Note from Sarah: Here’s another spectacular post by Jason Seib. Be sure to head on over and like Jason’s Facebook page where he’s always sharing a wealth of information. Thank you Jason!
If you have never heard me extol the virtues of lifting heavy weights, we have only just met. For health and fat loss goals, heavy lifting and a solid paleo diet are unparalleled. Unfortunately, women and heavy lifting is the hardest sell out of everything we preach around here. Some of you who frequent this site and our Facebook pages are doing everything else perfectly, but you are not lifting weights and you are not getting the results you want. If you are worried that you will get too muscular and masculine, we covered that with Katie and the Women and Muscle post. If you are intimidated by the meat heads in the gym, we covered that in this post. If you just don’t know what to do or where to start and don’t know any good trainers, we created Everyday Paleo Lifestyle and Fitness for you and we have had amazing success interactively teaching proper form to our members over the internet. So if, you’re still not sure about the benefits of lifting heavy weights, maybe I can win you over with some science!
Bone density and osteoporosis have been hot topics for women in the last couple of decades, but the only answer most women have been given is to supplement with more calcium. Interestingly, nobody is talking about the potential causes of all this bone demineralization women are suffering and the fact that maybe neolithic foods like vegetable oils are a problem, but today we are pretending that all of you already eat the way your genome expects you to eat. In my opinion supplements always need to be looked at with some serious scrutiny because we did not need them to be healthy for the last 2 million years, and a great many supplements that were sure to save us from ourselves and the terrible way we treat our bodies have resulted in more problems. Calcium is no exception. While many studies have shown that calcium supplementation provides a bit of protection against bone loss, calcium supplementation has also been implicated in an increased risk of heart attack.
What’s left? Heavy weights! Here comes some science.
From this Italian study: “These results suggest that even a short-term weight training program can either maintain or improve the BMD of the femoral neck and lumbar vertebrae in premenopausal women.” So according to this study, lifting weights has a quick return on investment when it comes to the health of your bones.
From the abstract of this review paper: “High-intensity resistance training, in contrast to traditional pharmacological and nutritional approaches for improving bone health in older adults, has the added benefit of influencing multiple risk factors for osteoporosis including improved strength and balance and increased muscle mass.” In other words, lifting heavy weights (high-intensity resistance training), not to be confused with those cardio classes with tiny dumbbells at the big box gyms, is better than drugs and supplements because it addresses more of the risk factors for osteoporosis.
For those of you that may be trying to ignore the word “heavy” every time you read it here, check out this study of postmenopausal women, the group at the highest risk of bone mineral loss. Researchers had this to say: “Postmenopausal bone mass can be significantly increased by a strength regimen that uses high-load low repetitions but not by an endurance regimen that uses low-load high repetitions. We conclude that the peak load is more important than the number of loading cycles in increasing bone mass in early postmenopausal women.” This means your 5 lb dumbbells and a lot of reps won’t do it. You need to lift some big weights.
This meta analysis looked at 6 studies to see if aerobic (cardio) exercise had a positive effect on bone density in postmenopausal women and came to this conclusion: “The overall results of this study suggest that site-specific aerobic exercise has a moderately positive effect on bone density at the hip in postmenopausal women. However, a need exists for additional, well-designed studies before a final recommendation can be made regarding the efficacy of aerobic exercise as a nonpharmacologic intervention for optimizing bone density at the hip in postmenopausal women.” In other words, aerobic exercise might offer a little help, but we need better data. Hmm, it seems to me that the researchers in the resistance training studies were more confident in their results.
Currently, about 70% of the women in my gym deadlift 200 lbs or more and not one of them looks like a man or could even be described as carrying too much muscle. If I have done my job here today, you’ll at this point be running to the gym to lift something heavy! The one temporarily valid excuse is lack of knowledge, and we get that. We don’t want you to hurt yourself, but there are great trainers out there if you know where to look, or you can come to EPLifeFit and we will be happy to help you ourselves. So what do you want? Limitations or results?
If you are a woman who already lifts weights, please share your experience in the comments.
Go forth and be awesome.