Why women should start picking up weights in the gym

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SANDY — Bench pressing or lifting heavy weights in the gym can be intimidating and overwhelming, but health experts agree there are benefits, especially for women, to picking up a set of dumbbells.

Lindsey Mathews loves empowering women in the gym. She's been a personal trainer for 15 years.

“Strength training can make you feel strong and confident in the gym,” Mathews said. “But it can also make you feel strong and confident in your role as a mother, a friend, (and) whatever it is you do for your career — just all aspects of your life.”

Her client Summer Anderson wanted to get in shape after having kids. She said she had a “fluffy mom bod” after having her third baby.

Anderson started by focusing on cardio workouts in the gym. She said she ran a 10K every day.

“I was running because that's what we've been told for years and years, that you eat less and just run like crazy," she explained.

However, Anderson didn't see results until she also started incorporating strength training workouts into her weekly routine.

“My body completely started to change, and I never seen muscle or definition like that before in my life," she said.

Although lifting weights can sometimes be overwhelming or intimidating, Intermountain Healthcare’s Julie Roberts, a nurse practitioner at the Salt Lake LiVe Well Center, said the health benefits are worth it.

Roberts said building muscle burns fat. “Muscles actually burn calories at rest, and if you have a lower muscle mass then your metabolism is just going to be on a lower level," she explained.

She said women shouldn’t worry about getting too bulky because they naturally produce lower testosterone levels, making it difficult to get very big without additional supplementation.

Initially, Anderson said she was nervous to start lifting weights, but her perspective quickly changed. She realized, "I could be strong, but I could still be feminine."

Roberts said building muscle can help prevent osteoporosis and prevent injury as women age. “Strength training really minimizes our risk for fragility, for falling, (and) it helps to keep us limber," she said.

“One of the biggest benefits of strength training is that we increase our joint flexibility and maintain a muscle mass,” Roberts added.

She recommends women strength training twice a week, targeting each major body group.

Roberts said women don’t have to lift a lot of weight to have an effective workout. She said 8-10 pounds weights are enough.

“Just (do) enough repetitions that your muscle feels fatigued in 12 to 15 minutes," she said.

Shay Bowthorpe also strength trains regularly. She said working out daily has improved her depression and mental health.

“Gives me the strength and the confidence to push through any other trials that come through, because mentally I’m stronger by coming here every day,” she said.

For Mathews, success starts with a plan. “You go in, you know what to do, you have a workout (or) to-do list, you get it done, and you feel amazing about yourself,” she said.

She also said it’s important to find a group of friends to go with or hold you accountable. “It's really, really hard to do something hard if you don't have the support, right?" Mathews said.

After putting in the effort and sticking to the plan, Mathews said it could change your life. She’s seen it in her own life and the lives of her clients.

“Go in and lift heavy and lift hard; and don't be afraid to be the only woman in the gym, because it's awesome," Anderson said.

If you don't have access to weights, Roberts said you can you use your body weight for resistance training through yoga or planks.

If you need more workout ideas follow Trainer Lindsey on Instagram or head to the LiVe Well Center.


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