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Health Information Strength Training for Women, Summer 2008

Strength Training: A Smart Move for Women

Real women do lift weights.

Sure, some people still pigeonhole weight lifting as something only serious body builders do, but that simply isn’t so.

Weight lifting — also known as strength training — benefits most adults, especially women in their 40s and beyond. Here are just a few reasons why:

  • After menopause, women can lose 1 to 2 percent of their bone mass annually, increasing their risk of broken bones. Weight lifting strengthens bones, reducing the risk of a fracture.
  • Some women gain weight after menopause, and some even have weight problems for the first time in their lives. Strength training keeps pounds from piling on by helping rev up metabolism, which slows with age.
  • Working out with weights can help you fall asleep more quickly, sleep more deeply and awaken less often — and thus avoid the difficulty sleeping that can accompany the transition to menopause.
  • Weight training can ease depression, which women are more prone to than men.


Get Started

Before lifting weights for the first time, get the go-ahead from your doctor if you have a chronic condition such as diabetes or heart disease, a hip repair or replacement, or concerns about your health.

Once you’ve received the green light, keep the following tips in mind: Do

  • Exercise all of your major muscle groups at least two times every week.
  • Use a minimum amount of weight initially, and gradually add weight.
  • Aim for a set of eight to 15 repetitions. If you can’t lift a weight eight times in a row, it’s too heavy for you.
  • Take three seconds to lift a weight into place. Hold the position for one second more. Then take three seconds to lower the weight.
  • Increase the amount of weight by 5 to 10 percent once you’re able to manage 12 repetitions.
  • Breathe regularly, breathing out as you lift and in as you relax. Holding your breath while straining can affect your blood pressure, especially if you have heart disease.
  • Consider consulting a fitness professional before beginning a strength-training program for instruction on proper form.
  • Try working out with both weight machines and free weights to vary your routine and stay motivated.


  • Exercise the same muscle group two days in a row.
  • Jerk or thrust weights into position. Instead, use smooth, steady movements to avoid an injury.
  • Lock the joints in your arms and legs in a tight, straightened position.
  • Exercise to the point of pain. If it hurts as you move your arms and legs, you’re overdoing it.

Finally, keep in mind that lifting weights is only one — though an important — part of a well-balanced exercise program. You also need regular aerobic exercise (such as walking, running or swimming) to keep your heart healthy and flexibility exercises (such as stretching) to reduce the risk of injury and muscle soreness.


Women’s Health Services at
Rush University Medical Center in Chicago

Rush University Medical Center offers comprehensive health care services for women of all ages.

At Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, medical science blends with a sincere commitment to provide women with the absolute finest, most compassionate care. Specialists and subspecialists work together to address the special needs of women, from common to complex to the everyday needs of women and their families.

We offer direct access to the latest innovations and options — from prenatal care for high risk pregnancies, to diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of abdominal and pelvic disorders, to leading-edge research.

For more information about health services and medical care for women at Rush visit the Women’s Health Services home page.

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Visit Discover Rush’s Web Resource page to find articles on health topics and recent health news from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois. You will also find many helpful links to other areas of our site.

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Just phone (888) 352-RUSH or (888) 352-7874 for help finding the doctor at Rush who’s right for you.


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