Ask an Expert: I Don’t Want to Get ‘Big’ So Should I Skip the Weights?

We asked a trainer if women should really lift weights.

It looks harder than it is. Woman weightlifting photo via Shutterstock.

It looks harder than it is. Woman weightlifting photo via Shutterstock.

In the February issue of Boston, Lisa Liberty Becker wrote about the stigma of women lifting at the gym. She lifted weights and the pounds dropped. Can this be true for everyone? We asked a personal trainer, should women lift weights? 

Our answer comes from Ali Arnow, a personal trainer at Equinox on Franklin St. Ali’s been training for 13 years and holds multiple certifications.

Q: Why should women lift weights?

A: When women skip the weight room they lose out on the ultimate flab melter. Gaining muscle can pay off in a long term boost to your metabolism and can keep a woman’s body lean and sculpted. Although doing cardio burns calories, pumping iron can slash more in the long term. A cardio session burns calories during the sweaty time you’re on the treadmill, but a strength training session can slash more calories in the 24 hours after the workout. There is another benefit to lifting weights; muscle is metabolically active tissue. Muscle chews up calories even when you aren’t in the gym!

But torching calories isn’t the only benefit from lifting weights. You can actually stop and reverse bone loss using strength training. Weight-bearing exercise increases bone mass. Weight training can also decrease your risk of injury in sports and everyday activities. Women have a higher incidence of knee injuries, such as ACL tears and women can decrease their risk of these injuries by lifting weights.

Training with weights can boost you stamina and the way you function in your everyday activities. More muscle will make daily chores easier. Everything from lifting your 3-year-old daughter (gasp!) to shoveling snow will seem easier. You will have more energy to do the laundry, go grocery shopping, or dance all night.

You can turn back the clock with weight training. As we age we start losing eight to 10 percent of our strength. The fast twitch muscle fibers that keep you moving like a young person are the first to go. These are the muscles that help you catch your balance when you start to fall. Women who work their muscles retain significantly more strength as they get older.

Last but not least, strength training increases self-esteem and confidence. When you feel strong you feel empowered and this affects all areas of our lives from careers to relationships.