The Benefits of Weightlifting for Women Beyond Physical Strength

by | Jul 4, 2023 | Wellness

Currently, in her mid-fifties, Saamia was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder approximately five years ago. In particular, her physician in Canada informed her that the aches and pain she was experiencing were down to fibromyalgia. “At that time,” she says, “I was told that I had to get physiotherapy done and that I had to get massages, and I had to do weight-training.” In Canada, it was easy for her to find a facility that offered a combination of all three requirements. And soon, she was experiencing the benefits. Having moved back to Pakistan, she continues to lift weights.

She reminisces that when she was younger, living in Pakistan, she was often discouraged from lifting weights. Sharing that, “there was a myth that if you do weight training you’ll develop ‘manly muscles’…” Many years later, her doctor in Canada told them that these were all “fallacies” and that she “had to do weight training” because of her health issues.

Weightlifting is the internet’s latest health and fitness craze. Not too long ago, Pakistani weightlifter Rabia Shahzad became the talk of the town when she won silver at the World Powerlifting Event[1]. Yet despite this, it wouldn’t be a stretch to claim that a lot of biases against weightlifting continue to persist in Pakistan. Particularly when it comes to women.

Sapna Baloch, a strength and conditioning coach with seven years of experience affirms. “Women are sadly burdened by age-old definitions of femininity and how a feminine woman needs to be frail and delicate,” she says, adding that “the impact of this has caused a lot of damage on the psyche of women who are always trying to lose weight and become as tiny as possible”. Sapna notes the biases that exist regarding weightlifting where “women in Pakistan only think about becoming and looking like a bodybuilder whenever you talk to them about weight training”.

However, a positive change may be in the air. Fatima Zara Mallick, CEO at FZM Boutique Fitness, a celebrity trainer, body transformation specialist, rehab coach and nutritionist certainly thinks so.  She says that “perceptions of Pakistani women towards weightlifting have changed dramatically over the past few years,” noting that a lot of them now understand how beneficial it can be.

If you need some convincing, here are five ways women can benefit from weightlifting apart from increased physical strength.

Weightlifting Improves Bone Health

Knee problem bone

Weightlifting is often credited with building muscle mass. But, research consistently shows that it can have really beneficial impacts on bones as well. According to Harvard Health, studies have shown that regular weightlifting can slow down the rate at which age leads to bone density loss[2].

There is also some research that indicates that it can help build bones as well. This can be particularly helpful for Pakistani women, because 2019 research published in the Pakistani Journal of Medical Sciences stated that pre and post-menopausal women showed signs of low bone mass density[3].

“Women need to understand,” says Sapna, “that we need resistance and weight training more than men as we naturally have less muscle mass. And we are more susceptible to osteoporosis as we age due to factors such as menopause which further aggravate our conditions of weak bones and joints. As our bodies stop producing estrogen which is one hormone that helps to keep our bones strong.”

Weightlifting Can Help Burn Fat More Efficiently

Woman with dumbbells

People typically associate cardio with fat loss. And it is true that cardio typically burns more calories than weightlifting[4]. However, there is a little something called ‘excess post-exercise oxygen consumption’ (or EPOC for short)[5] that is often ignored. As Sapna explains it, “any high-intensity exercise has an impact on our EPOC… During hard training, especially those where our heart rates are very high our bodies operate with an oxygen deficit to create energy. Once at rest our bodies then work extra to restore that deficit.” Research indicates that EPOC is higher for weightlifting, which means that your body continues to burn calories even after you’re done training!

What’s more, because muscle mass increases the number of calories you burn at rest, and weightlifting builds muscle, it also allows you to burn more calories when you’re not exercising. Studies have shown that weightlifting allows women to burn 4% more calories at rest[6].

Additionally, Fatima notes that “just cardio is not going to do the job”. She says that while she and her team offer a range of cardio workouts, including Zumba and bungee fitness, just limiting workouts to cardio can be a bad idea because the body “adapts very quickly”. She reveals that she has often observed people who have been going for runs or walks for months experiencing a weight loss plateau. Thus she believes that people should switch up their workouts for the best positive results.

Weightlifting Improves Heart Health

Weightlifting is good for heart health for a number of reasons. Firstly, it helps you reduce body fat, which is good for the heart as people with higher body fat percentages are at greater risk of heart disease[7]. Secondly, research conducted in Copenhagen suggests that weightlifting in particular has been linked to the reduction of a specific type of heart fat called pericardial adipose tissue[8].

Weightlifting Improves Mobility

When people start getting into weightlifting, they may be concerned about muscle tightness and reduced mobility. Interestingly though, weightlifting can help with your mobility and flexibility. By increasing your body’s range of motion, or ROM, weightlifting can improve its mobility[9]. Simultaneously, because it increases muscle strength, and stronger muscles are linked to improved mobility, weightlifting can further help you in the long run as well[10].  As Sapna explains it, the benefit of weightlifting that allows it to stand out is that while “all kinds of movement are beneficial for the human body, but resistance/weight training is crucial for functional independence in old age”.

Women lifting heavy weights

Weightlifting Boosts Confidence

Finally, the impact of weightlifting on your mental health cannot be overlooked. Lifting weights consistently will translate into physical results which will lead to the satisfaction of making progress. There is an increasing amount of scientific evidence that supports these claims. One study found that weightlifting helps improve perceived body image and self-esteem[11]. Simultaneously there is also some research that indicates that even among older people, weightlifting can improve brain function[12].

Ultimately, increased physical strength may be the most popular reason for taking up weightlifting, but it isn’t the only benefit that it offers. Women should incorporate weightlifting into their fitness regimes for the physical and mental benefits that it offers.

Woman working out













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