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10 Subtle Body Changes that Happen When You Start Lifting Weights

Calling all cardio junkies! It's time to step away from the treadmill and pick up a set of weights. You don't have to give up cardio, but here are some reasons to include strength training in a well-rounded fitness routine.

fitness, sport, bodybuilding and weightlifting concept - close up of young woman and personal trainer with dumbbells flexing muscles in gymSyda Productions/Shutterstock

You’ll conquer your fears

“I work with many women who are truly apprehensive about stepping into the ‘men’s’ part of the gym,” says Cincinnati, Ohio-based certified personal trainer Julie Lohre, owner of FITBODY.com. “They have been on the outskirts of the cardio machines, or may have taken aerobic classes, but they have been afraid to check out the barbells and dumbbells. Once they do though, they’re surprised at how quickly they become comfortable with the weights and how fast they see results.”

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Your bones will get stronger

Pass on the milk and grab a set of hand weights instead. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends weight-bearing exercise to build strong bones and prevent falls in patients already suffering from bone disease. Find out the silent signs you may have osteoporosis and not know it.

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You will not bulk up

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: if you lift weights, you won’t bulk up. (Although there’s nothing wrong with that if that’s your fitness goal.) “Many women are concerned that training or lifting heavy weights will cause them to become masculine looking and to gain a significant amount of muscle and that is simply not the case,” says Lohre. “The unique chemical makeup of a woman’s body inherently offers her lower amounts of testosterone [the primary hormone that allows men to accumulate muscle more quickly].” If you vary your exercises and make sure you can safely handle your chosen weight, you’ll be strong and defined, not bulky, she adds. It can help to focus on lower weights and higher reps.

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You’ll fire up your metabolism

Pound for pound, muscle burns more calories than fat while your body is at rest, according to the American Council on Exercise. So while you may think of cardio as fat burning, putting on more muscle will actually help you burn more fat while you sleep or simply watch TV. If you’ve taken up a weight-training regime and still feel like your metabolism isn’t up to speed, check out these medical causes of a slow metabolism.

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You’ll age a little easier

Because of the long list of benefits, including stronger bones, faster metabolism, muscle-mass maintenance, and lowered stress levels, Lohre says that strength training for women in the aging population is critical. But remember to start slowly. “Listen to your body and when a movement doesn’t feel right, don’t hesitate to modify the exercise to make it work better for you,” she says. Find out the habits of people who look and act younger than their true age.

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You’ll improve in other areas of fitness

Of course you’d expect to get stronger from a new weight-training routine, but you can also expect to get faster and more flexible too. “After a 16-week program, I’ve seen women significantly boost their strength by doubling the number of push-ups they can do, improve their cardiovascular endurance in the one-mile run, and boost their flexibility in the ‘sit and reach’ test,” she reports.

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You’ll have more energy for everyday life

Our daily life mimics so many of the activities we do in the gym (or vice versa) so if you vary your exercise routine, you’ll be better prepared to enjoy activities outside of the gym. “The right strength training routine helps prepare your body for everyday life,” says Lohre. “Playing with your kids, lifting boxes onto shelves, hiking through the woods, and climbing stairs without getting out of breath are just a few of the things you’ll find easier to do.”

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Your confidence will sky rocket

“What I love best about strength training is the psychological impact it has on a woman’s mindset,” says Lohre. She reports that most women are pleasantly surprised at how much they can actually lift, are far stronger than they give themselves credit for, and also experience a sense of pride when they hit a new personal best. “Strength training helps us both look better and feel better,” she says, and that confidence boost can trickle into other aspects of your everyday life. Try these other proven confidence-boosters.

Smiling woman talking to doctor in office.istock/monkeybusinessimages

Your overall health will improve

While wanting to look good in a swimsuit or for a special event might initially draw us to exercise, in the end, it’s all about feeling healthy and improving our lives. “Long term, the changes associated with adding strength training are incredible,” says Lohre. “Yes, your body is going to become tighter and more defined. You will see huge increases in strength and endurance. But you can also expect to have more energy, to sleep better, have a better sex drive and to see a decrease in health concerns.” The benefits won’t appear over night but if you commit to a regular routine and stick with it, you’ll start seeing changes.

Sources
Medically reviewed by Brian Duscha, MS, on August 18, 2019