Women must weight train their whole life to support their muscles and bones. Bad news for us ladies, a recent study showed that body mass index (BMI) underestimates obesity in 48 percent of women. The study, which was released this week, determined that when body fat was measured by duel-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA), almost half of the women who were not considered obese using BMI measurements actually were (25 percent of men were misclassified as non-obese). This study highlights the problems that women face as they age in losing a greater amount of muscle and bone mass than men.
Being considered the weaker sex for thousands of years, women were discouraged from engaging in physical activity, exercise and sports as recently as the mid-twentieth century. Consequently, even women considered engaging in physical activity as unfeminine. Many of us were sedentary for most of our lives and dieted to stay thin when we were younger. We know that muscle loss accompanies dieting. As we approached forty, fifty, sixty and beyond, we accumulated more fat at the expense of muscle and bone (you have to use it or you lose it).
Weight Training at Any Age
Promotes Muscle and Bone Health
Both men and women need to engage in weight training, but women need it more. More attention should be placed on getting women of all ages to pump some iron to prevent the loss of muscle and bone that occurs with age. Today, young women seem to embrace this idea, but older women should too (even 90 year olds). Weight training at any age promotes an increase in muscle and bone mass. In turn, stronger muscles and bones improve overall health. Exercising your muscles is one way to decrease insulin resistance and increase coordination to prevent falls.
So ladies, don’t lament the bum hand that we’ve been dealt in having more body fat then men. Get to the gym now and start cutting up lose body fat and gain muscle. You will need to watch your diet as well to get rid of extra body fat, but no more dieting at the expense of your muscles. If you want to do it right, consult a personal trainer and a dietitian to get you on track. A personal trainer will teach you the correct form for lifting weights and a dietitian will tailor your diet to maximize fat loss and minimize muscle loss.
Carol Plotkin, MS, RD, CDN, ACSM is a Registered Dietitian as well as a health- and fitness instructor. She is the owner of On Nutrition, a nutrition practice in upstate New York. As a speaker and writer she feels passionate about communicating the facts of healthy nutrition. She contributes to various blogs and other publications.
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