Walk into any gym and you’ll notice a great divide, with women hitting the treadmills and elliptical machines, while the men lay claim to the weight machines. It’s a divide that seems to only get greater with age.
Yet, according to a new study, if you’re a woman over 50, skipping the weights in favor of just cardio could be a big mistake. Women have as much reason, and more in some cases, to pick up the weights…
Similar gains across the sexes
Researchers set out to delve into the benefits weight training can deliver and — the pressing question — whether or not those benefits vary based on your sex.
“Historically, people tended to believe that men adapted to a greater degree from resistance training compared to women,” said Dr. Amanda Hagstrom, exercise science lecturer at UNSW Medicine & Health and senior author of the study.
In other words, we tend to think men get more out of it — more muscle, more definition and a better shape — than women.
The team consolidated the results of 30 different resistance training studies involving over 1400 participants, specifically comparing the results of men and women over the age of 50.
While men are likely to gain more absolute muscle size, the gains relative to body size are on par with women’s.
And guess what…
The team found no, and I mean zero, difference in the benefits of weight training between men and women over 50.
In fact, the results showed that by participating in resistance training, women can achieve similar relative muscle size gains and increased upper body strength as men. In other words, women get the same benefits, it’s just that those benefits are based on their body size.
So, while a large man may end up with large muscles from weight lifting, a small woman can get the same level of gain, with muscles that appear smaller.
So why lift weights beyond the muscles?
Well, according to the Mayo Clinic, resistance training has a handful of other health benefits. Some of these may jump out as being especially appealing to women:
- Better manage your weight
- Boost bone strength
- Reduce symptoms of chronic conditions like arthritis, diabetes and heart disease
- Improve your mood
- Sharpen your thinking and learning skills
Tips to improve your resistance workout
The researchers say that older men tend to benefit from higher intensity programs. This works to enhance their absolute upper and lower body strength.
Women on the other hand should shoot for higher overall exercise volumes — basically, more weekly repetitions should improve both their relative and absolute lower body strength.
And whether you’re a man or a woman, training longer could help, with men seeing increases in relative and absolute muscle size and women achieving increased upper body strength.
So, no matter your sex or your age, start grabbing the muscle-boosting and health-promoting benefits of resistance training today and hit those weights.
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Strength training: Get stronger, leaner, healthier — Mayo Clinic