Oh way back in the early 80’s I joined a gym. I don’t even remember the name of it. Those were the days where you wore dance wear to work out in. Think Jane Fonda. (Seriously, I think I have a tape in the basement.) There were weight machines where you went through a circuit and you performed class led exercises. It was a fantastic way to break the stress at the time while you pranced around in tights and a leotard. What I liked the most were the weight machines. I liked the way they made me feel when I was done – toned and strong.
Fast forward to 1997. Sixteen years ago, for some reason, I picked up the book Strong Women Stay Young. Why, I’ll never know. But what I did read changed the way I view strength training. Dr. Miriam E. Nelson did a study on 40 post-menopausal sedentary women who were at risk of muscle and bone loss. They could not diet but only perform strength training exercise. Half the women exercised, the other half did not. “After a year of strength training twice per week the participants in the study had less fat and more muscle; bone loss was prevented or reversed; their strength and energy increased dramatically; and they showed surprising gains in balance and flexibility.”
The book came with data and photos of bone scans that showed the before and after pictures of the participants. It was stunning, because they started out with just 2 pound weights and at the highest, maybe 10 pounds. The book is written with an at home program.
While that study was going on, they began a pilot study to see if strength training could prevent muscle and bone loss in another group – women losing weight. They were shocked to learn that this is an at-risk group when they do not exercise. When women diet without exercising, at least 25 to 30 percent of the weight they shed isn’t fat, but water, muscle, bone and other lean tissue. Sort of the antithesis of why we want to shed the weight, isn’t it?
This was also a controlled study where half of the volunteers dieted and strength trained while the other only dieted. The diet-only volunteers lost an average 13 pounds AND lost an average 2.8 pounds of LEAN TISSUE. The women who strength trained lost about the same amount 13.2 pounds but gained 1.4 pounds of lean tissue. MEANING – every pound they lost was actually FAT. My favorite analogy, 13 boxes of butter.
The reason I’m writing this is to help those that believe strength training is about building muscle. Oh contraire my little cabbages. It’s helping you to sculpt your shape, build bone density, and preserve muscle while you lose weight.
I do use weights. I really like them. They REALLY help to tone and make you feel much stronger. Not Popeye stronger, but the ability to keep my balance, the capacity to get up and down off the floor with upper body strength because my legs are very weak from double knee replacement (we are working on that in the gym). The work I do with weights helps my core to be firmer helping to support my back.
So if you want to do your research because you’re uncomfortable using weights, get the book Strong Women Stay Young. The program in the book is a stay at home program that you perform 2 days a week. But, if you like a gym environment make sure there are trainers there that can help you with your goals.
PS Dr. Miriam Nelson has a site that is associated with Tufts University. This book will change the way you think.