How much weight should women lift to live longer?

With rising awareness about the importance of fitness, many still wonder how much exercise, specifically weight training, is optimal for health benefits, particularly for women. Is it possible that lifting weights can actually extend your lifespan?

Recent studies shed light on how women can harness the power of strength training not just for aesthetics, but for longevity. Let’s dive into why and how much strength training women should consider to potentially increase their lifespan.

The power of lifting: More than just muscle

Strength training goes beyond building muscle—it’s about enhancing your overall health and extending your life. 

Research indicates that women who engage in strength training two to three times a week have a significantly lower risk of death from all causes, including cardiovascular disease, compared to those who don’t lift weights [1].

But what’s the magic number? According to the latest findings, just a modest amount of regular muscle-strengthening can lead to a substantial decrease in mortality risks.

This doesn’t just mean lifting heavy weights at the gym; resistance training of any kind, whether using bands, body weight exercises like push-ups and squats, or traditional weight machines, counts towards building a stronger, healthier body [1].

How much should you lift?

While the specifics can vary based on individual health and fitness levels, the general recommendation for adults is to engage in muscle-strengthening activities at least two days per week. 

However, recent research suggests that women might reap substantial benefits even with less frequent exercise sessions. 

Remarkably, women experience a 24% reduction in the risk of premature death with just moderate intensity exercises like brisk walking five times a week [1], [2]​​​​.

How does gender influence exercise benefits?

Intriguingly, studies suggest that women gain more from less exercise compared to men. For example, while men need about 300 minutes per week of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity to maximize survival benefits, women can achieve similar benefits with just 140 minutes per week [2]​​​​​​.

This disparity may stem from physiological differences between genders, including how muscle and fat are distributed and utilized in the body. 

These findings could potentially reshape guidelines and recommendations specifically tailored for women to encourage more effective and efficient exercise routines​​ [2]​​​​.

What are the holistic benefits of strength training for women?

Beyond longevity, strength training for women has numerous other benefits, which include but are not limited to:

  1. Joint protection – Regular resistance training helps reinforce joint stability and can reduce pain and discomfort in areas like the knees and hips [1]​​.
  2. Metabolic health – Lifting weights can enhance metabolic rate, which aids in better blood sugar control and weight management [1]​​.
  3. Mental health – Engaging in strength training has been linked to reductions in anxiety and depression, fostering an overall better mood​​ [1].

If you’re new to weight lifting, the prospect might seem daunting. Begin with light weights and gradually increase the intensity of your workouts. 

Classes at local gyms, online tutorials, and even personal trainers can provide guidance and help tailor a program that fits your needs and goals.

The evidence is clear: strength training offers many benefits, particularly for women who want to live longer and enjoy a better quality of life. 

Incorporating some form of resistance training, like deadlifts, into your weekly routine can be a game changer, whether at the gym, at home, or even in the park. 

Remember, it’s not about lifting the heaviest weights, but about consistent and sustainable practice. Start lifting, start living longer!

[1] https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2024/03/11/1236791784/strength-resistance-weight-training-longevity-aging-heart-disease
[2] https://www.jacc.org/doi/10.1016/j.jacc.2023.12.019

Photograph: micens/Envato
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