Should Men and Women Be Exercising the Same Way?

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: exercise is good for everyone. That’s one thing we can agree on, but we might not all agree on the best way to do that exercising. But we’re not talking about a cardio versus weights debate, we’re talking about if everyone should be exercising the same way. Should men and women’s workouts look different? picture of a man and woman standing side by side each holding a weight

What Men and Women Both Need

Go to the gym and you might find a little bit of a 7th-grade dance situation going on sometimes (ie, men on one side, women on the other). Men hit the weight machines, women hit the pilates studio and the cardio machine. Or maybe that’s just what you think you’ll find: maybe that’s just a stereotype. More and more, we’re all recognizing the benefits of all types of exercise, for everyone, especially weight training. Cardio is great for, well, cardiovascular health, but it’s weight training that really does the heavy lifting (no pun intended) of fat-burning and strength-building.


Workouts for men and women should include weight training.  We’ve got to just come out and say it, and not pretend that women have to include weights in different ways than men do. For example, take a look at workouts aimed at men, and at ones aimed at women. They can often be more similar than you’d think, it’s just that the terminology used to describe them is different. Workouts for men claim they’ll get you “ripped,” “strong,” and “powerful,”. Whereas similar workouts for women claim they’ll get you “tight” and “toned,” and will “shape you.”


Shying away from talking to women about strength training in the same way that we would talk to men just furthers that erroneous belief that doing intense and/or heavy lifting sessions will get you “bulky.” So gyms and stores put out those little pink weights for women, when in reality, women can and will benefit just as much from the same, heavier workouts that men are doing. 


After all, when you talk about “toning” or “shaping” certain areas of your body, what you’re really talking about is changing your muscle makeup. Muscles are what shape your body, and it stands to reason that more muscle equals more muscle tone. Wanna build something perkier on your body? Well, you’re gonna need muscle to do it.


That means, according to Dr. Cassandra Forsythe, co-author of “The New Rules of Lifting for Women,” many women would actually benefit from lower reps and more weight to hit muscle fibers that are only stimulated with those types of lifts.”


And as an added bonus, building more muscle means boosting your metabolism, and burning more fat!


What Women Should Do More/Less Of illustration of a woman working out in a gym

With all of the above being said, there are a lot of things women tend to do in their workouts that could be tweaked to make things more effective. For example:


  • Focus less on the quads, and more on the back of the legs/glutes – Women are actually more quad-dominant than men, so they can skip the endless leg presses. Instead, they should do some compound exercises like squats and lunges. And then work their hamstrings to balance out their quad strength. Try exercises like hamstring curls, good mornings, and deadlifts.
  • Work the upper body more – Yes, women have great legs, and they tend to work them – a lot. But they shouldn’t skip upper body day – just think how great it feels to be able to do full pushups and pullups. Not to mention the improved posture, better muscular balance, and the sexy look that comes from a strong upper body.
  • Rest less – Yes, you heard us. We’ve been told that women are just, well, not as strong as men. So that often translates to they can’t do as much and need to rest. But that simply isn’t true. In fact, according to Dr. Forsythe, “Women do tend to be less powerful than men due to several factors, such as lower muscle mass, lower lung capacity, and smaller hearts. However, their ability to recover after high-intensity exercise is often greater than men’s. This means that women will often need less rest time after an exercise bout or set. And they can get back under the bar or back in the circuit sooner. So, exercise programs that prescribe significant rest periods may make a woman feel bored.”. That doesn’t mean women should be doing endless reps. But they should be challenging themselves with circuit workouts that include a variety of exercises. 
  • Re-evaluate why they do yoga/pilates – Being a dedicated yogi is great in some ways, but in some cases, women do it because they’ve been told they’ll get “longer, leaner” muscles. But there’s no such thing: muscles can’t get longer, because they’re attached to your bones. And they can’t get leaner because they don’t contain any fat, and can’t “turn” to fat. Again, yoga can be great in a lot of ways. But it also doesn’t allow you to progressively overload your muscles as weightlifting does. So don’t skip one in favor of the other.

What Men Should Do More/Less of illustration of a man on a work out bench lifting weights above his head

So now we’re looking at you, guys. And you probably know what we’re going to say, since a lot of it will be the opposite end of the spectrum to women’s issues with workouts. Guys should think about:


  • Working their upper body more effectively – We don’t want to keep perpetuating stereotypes, but it seems like a lot of men like to focus on those upper body muscles that get noticed first: biceps/triceps and chest. But they shouldn’t ignore their mid/upper back. Since those muscles will give them better muscular balance, healthier shoulders, and better posture – and make their upper body look even more awesome, we promise.
  • Resting a little more – Just as women will probably get more out of their workout if they vary it more, and keep moving through lots of circuits/exercises, men will probably have a more effective and enjoyable workout if they do longer, slower workouts that involve putting all their effort into a single move, and then rest before moving on.
  • Adding in a little yoga – Guys could really benefit from varying their workouts, including adding in something like yoga, which would help them with their range of motion, not to mention help their muscles recover from those intense lifting sessions.

Bonus: Does When Men and Women Exercise Matter?

When it comes to all of the above, the bottom line is that yes, there are a few things that men and women could be doing differently to get the most out of their precious workout time. But in the end, there are no exercises “for men” or “for women.”. Ah, but when it comes to that precious “time” part, there might be a difference.


In fact, a study from this past summer found that men and women might actually have different optimal times of day for exercising, especially when it comes to the mood-boosting effects of working out. Just check this out: according to Dr. Asad R. Siddiqi, assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Weill Cornell Medicine in NYC, “The men studied had greater improvement in perceived mood state than women. Exercise seemed to decrease tension, depression, and anger substantially in men regardless of the time of day, whereas improvements in tension and depression were only seen in women who exercised at night.”


a clock drawn on a chalkboardBut there were other pretty fascinating differences, as well. For example: 

  • Women who exercised in the morning reduced more total fat and abdominal fat, lowered their blood pressure to a greater degree, and increased lower body muscle power.
  • Women who exercised in the evening saw more improvement in their upper body muscle strength, mood, and satiety.
  • Men who exercised at either time of day improved their physical performance.
  • Men who exercised in the evening saw benefits in heart and metabolic health, as well as lower fatigue.


The purpose of the study was not actually to make comparisons between the sexes. And it’s not completely clear why men and women differ in these ways. Or why men and women got different results at different times of the day. But the findings could certainly be worth testing in your own life! 


We’d love to hear from both women and men out there on your exercise habits. If the time of day is important to you, and if you feel like you need to work out differently from the opposite sex. Until then, remember, whoever you are. Getting fitter and stronger is always a great goal, however you choose to do it! 

Co-written by Joanna Bowling

What’s the REAL Secret to Getting Stronger?

We’ve written a few pieces lately (check them out here and here) about how cardio alone just doesn’t cut it when it comes to getting in shape. Sure, it’s great for your cardiovascular health (hence the name) and can help you maintain a healthy weight, among other benefits, but if you’re looking to get lean, build muscle, burn fat, and get strong you really have to add strength training into your exercise routine (along with sticking to a healthy diet, of course). 

So if you’ve already been pumping some iron, whether at the gym or at home, great! After all, research shows that only 6% of adults do the recommended minimum amount of at least two muscle-strengthening workouts each week. If you’re doing at least that, you’re taking the right step toward getting lean and strong. But you also might be wondering why you’re not getting as lean and strong as you wanted to or expected to. You’re lifting weights two, three, or more times a week and you’re just not seeing results – why? You might be making one major mistake.

How Do We Build Muscle and Why Is It Important?

man lifting weight
Getting in shape increases your lean body mass (LBM) which can increase your quality of life.

Before we get to the root of the problem, and deal with how you can break through your plateaus and get leaner and stronger, let’s talk about how our bodies actually build muscle, and why it’s important to be working on your fitness through weight training. 

First the why: muscles aren’t just for show, they’re important for our health, longevity, and metabolism. Increasing your lean body mass (LBM) can increase your quality of life now and especially while you age, and is critical to keeping you healthy. If you get sick or injured, your body needs extra protein to survive and heal, and it gets that protein from muscle tissue. In fact, studies show that people with more LBM to use while healing have better outcomes.

Having lean muscle mass is also beneficial to your metabolism as a whole. Think about it like this: muscle is the only organ that you can increase to boost your metabolic rate. You can’t add another lung or kidney, right? But muscle can help you to slightly boost your resting metabolic rate, and can help you burn fat when combined with a healthy diet.

Gaining muscle now will also help you to fight off muscle loss (sarcopenia) as you age, which can lead to your bones becoming brittle, or osteopenia. According to Brad Schoenfeld, an assistant professor of exercise science and director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Lehman College in New York,  “Resistance training is the closest thing to the fountain of youth that we have.” In fact, one study found that, after following 4,000 healthy adults over the age of 55 for more than a decade, muscle mass is tightly linked to our lifespan.

So how do our bodies make more of this magical muscle? Well, it’s not magic – it’s science, and the pretty complicated science at that. But we’re not going to get into all of the proteins and reactions and that jazz: basically, what you need to know is that, in order to get your muscles to grow, you first have to create muscle breakdown. When you’re strength training, you’re actually creating microtears in your muscles – your body then needs rest time to repair those microtears, so it can build back stronger. Pretty crazy, right? Normally we think of putting stress on our bodies as a bad thing, but you actually have to stress your muscles to build your muscles. So now we get to the heart of the matter: are you stressing your muscles enough?

The Big Mistake

You’re probably going to see your most impressive strength gains, and the biggest changes to your body, when you first start doing resistance training. But over time, you’ll stop making strength gains and seeing changes, even if you’re still on the workout wagon. Why? Your body adapts – and, frankly, you might be letting it get too comfortable with your workouts.

What we mean by that is you’re not pushing your muscles hard enough to really make a difference. According to Jake Harcoff, CSCS, owner and strength coach at AIM Athletic in Vancouver, “In my experience, left unchecked, some people will use the same weight over and over again just because it’s ‘safe,’ and then they’ll never get stronger. At the end of the day, if you are not progressively overloading your muscle, the benefit of your work falls off.”

dumbbells on a rack
Your body adapts to the weight you are lifting after a while. which is why you have to increase it as time goes on.

Just check out this study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in February 2021, which proves that even people who are experienced at strength training often don’t get it right. Researchers asked 160 people who strength train regularly how much weight they would normally use to do 10 reps on the bench press with good form. But when asked to actually do the reps, they found that the lifters could perform an average of 16 reps with their self-reported “maximum weight” for 10 reps – and nearly 15% of the study participants performed more than 20 reps with their 10-rep load! 

What those weight lifters thought was the right weight for them, was actually just a comfortable weight for them, and as we’ve pointed out, staying in your comfort zone is not going to help much when it comes to working out. So then, you know what’s coming: making change is all about getting out of your comfort zone. Let’s take a look at how you should do that.

The Key to Getting Stronger

Complacency is a results killer when you’re working out, and you have to up the ante whenever you can. Just to prove our point a little further, consider this study in the journal The Physician and Sports Medicine. For 8 years, researchers put 1,644 men and women through 10-week strength-training programs, during which they increased resistance by about 5% every time participants could complete 12 repetitions of a lift. The results? On average, the participants not only increased their lean muscle mass by 3.1 pounds, but they also decreased fat weight by 3.7 pounds, and lowered their blood pressure.

Ok, that’s all pretty impressive, but if you’re just one person doing resistance training without a team of researchers behind you, or even a personal trainer, how do you know if you’re safely and effectively challenging yourself? Well, there are two ways. The first is pushing yourself into the “near-muscle-failure zone.” To do this, you start with the heaviest weight you can lift for just one rep while still maintaining good form (your “1-rep max.”) Then, calculate 70 to 80% of that weight, which is the amount of weight you should be using during your 8- to 12-repetition sets.

If you’re looking for a slightly easier way to do things, try the other method, called “reps in reserve”, or “2-3 RIR.” This method tells you to use enough resistance during each exercise so that the last two to three reps of your last two sets feel very challenging, but not so hard that you can’t complete them with proper form. This will get you pretty close to that near-failure muscle stress level that will get you results, but it won’t give the extreme discomfort of total failure. Just be sure to listen to your body, and don’t increase your load too quickly, or you could be headed for injury, instead of strength gains.

To break down this method, check out Harcoff’s advice: “I suggest choosing a weight that you think you can do for the prescribed number of reps… like, say 10-reps. If you can do 12 reps in two consecutive sets with good form, it’s time to increase the weight you’re using. Once you find you can go beyond those last two tough reps, it’s time to progress again.”

Other Ways to Progress

So now you know. The way to get stronger and make the most of your resistance training is to not just feel like you’re challenging yourself, but to know that you actually are, and that means constantly pushing yourself out of your comfort zone with your weights. But in addition to upping your weights, there are other ways you can make progress when it comes to working out. Try the following:caucasian woman laying down on a mat doing crunches

  • Add more sets or reps to your workout
  • Set aside time for some longer workouts
  • Exercise a few more times a week
  • Introduce new exercises into your regime to keep your body guessing
  • Change the tempo of your lifts – for example, slow down the “eccentric” (or lowering) part of your lift, or add in static, isometric holds

Hey, you’ve only got one body, and if you’re already working out, especially with resistance training, you’re doing right by it. But if you’re putting in all that time and effort to improve your health, you might as well be getting everything out of it that you can. So don’t sell yourself short: challenge yourself with the right resistance for you, and watch yourself get fitter, stronger, leaner, and healthier!

Can’t Cope with Cardio? Science Has Good News for You!

It’s cold out there. And running on the treadmill sucks. And, wait: you also just remembered that you actually hate running. But if you’re trying to lose fat, and you’re not willing to spend endless time running and jumping, you’re out of luck, right? Maybe not…there’s a new study out there that seems to suggest that you don’t actually need to do a ton of cardio to burn fat. Sounds good, right? Now, we’re not saying you don’t have to exercise at all to burn fat, but the old conventional wisdom that to gain muscles, you strength train, and to lose fat, you do cardio might not be all that wise, after all. Cardio haters rejoice: a recent study is busting myths, offering compelling scientific proof that cardio isn’t the only way to get leaner. 

The Debate That We Just Can’t Seem to Settle

teal asics sneaker next to a pile of little dumbbells
There has been an ongoing debate whether cardio is better for you or strength training, but science has now settled it.

Cardio or weight training? Which is better? Might as well ask whether the chicken or the egg came first, because we actually just don’t know. But a common thing you hear in the exercise world is that cardio (like running, cycling, or swimming) is the best thing for losing weight or improving heart health, and resistance training (like weightlifting) is the best thing for building muscle (though without any cardiovascular benefits). But is that really the case? 

Up until now, there really haven’t been any conclusive studies on the best type of exercise for getting rid of some of that pesky body fat. Why? Well, to be honest, there’s not much money in researching exercise – actually, it’s pretty expensive to conduct sports science studies. Getting people to follow an exercise plan requires quite a bit of money, especially when you’re also doing some complex analyses, so many studies in the field have too few participants to make a solid conclusion. 

It’s also just really difficult to run the studies and get trustworthy results. If you recruit people who are already fit, your findings will be less impressive and the conclusions less generalizable. But if you recruit untrained people, you might end up with no result because the subjects didn’t understand how to do the exercises well enough. 

So have we learned anything before this year about the benefits of cardio versus resistance training? Well, there have been a few notable studies. For example:

  • One study from 2017, which followed over 100 obese people who were randomly assigned to do cardio, weight training, both, or nothing, found that people who did some cardio saw a bit more improvement in heart health than people who did only resistance, and the people who did any resistance training improved more in terms of lean muscle mass and bone density. But nothing much could be determined by this small study: the change in lean muscle mass between the cardio and resistance groups differed by less than 1%. So really all that was learned was that if you start from nothing, making any change will result in some sort of improvement – not exactly groundbreaking.
  • Even when researchers do try to gather data comparing resistance training and cardio, there’s not all that much to look at: for example, researchers conducted one review in 2018 of more than a dozen studies showing that cardio improved health, but only a handful compared cardio and resistance, and those lacked enough evidence to draw any conclusions at all.
  • But one meta-review looking at multiple studies in 2011 did find some mentions of how exercise can affect visceral fat, or the fat that builds up in your torso and is thought to be the primary driver of obesity-related disease. The review found that cardio provided benefits in this area, but when compared to resistance training, the data, unfortunately, was inconclusive.

Hm. Not exactly helpful, right? If you’re trying to lose fat, it’s kind of like you’re either stuck doing the same old cardio routine, or you’re hoping for the best – or you’re so anti-cardio that you’re just not doing anything at all. But enter a new study that could give you some hope.

Lift Weights, Lose Fat?

A study published in Sports Medicine in September this year might finally be providing some answers – and busting some myths – about exercise and fat-burning. According to senior author of the study Dr. Mandy Hagstrom, exercise physiologist and senior lecturer at University of New South Wales (UNSW) Medicine & Health in Australia, “A lot of people think that if you want to lose weight, you need to go out and run. But our findings show that even when strength training is done on its own, it still causes a favorable loss of body fat without having to consciously diet or go running.”woman wearing workout clothing with a dumbbell over her head

Wow, really? Yup – and it looks like this study blows other ones out of the water for accuracy and reliability. Dr Hagstrom and her team pulled together the findings from 58 research papers that used highly accurate forms of body fat measurement (like body scans, which can differentiate fat mass from lean mass) to measure the outcomes from strength training programs. Altogether, the studies included 3000 participants, none of whom had any previous weight training experience, and most of whom worked out for roughly 45-60 minutes each session for an average of 2.7 times per week for about five months.

And what did they find? The research team found that the participants lost, on average, around 1.4% of their body fat, or a little more than a pound of fat, through these strength training only programs, which is similar to how much you might lose through cardio or aerobics. As Dr. Hagstrom points out, “Resistance training does so many fantastic things to the body that other forms of exercise don’t, like improving bone mineral density, lean mass, and muscle quality. Now, we know it also gives you a benefit we previously thought only came from aerobics.”

That’s very good news for the cardio haters out there. And while Dr. Hagstrom still encourages people who are looking to lose fat to eat right, and do a combination of cardio and resistance training, she also acknowledges that these findings might be just what some running-resistant people might need. “If you want to exercise to change your body composition, you’ve got options,” she says.”Do what exercise you want to do and what you’re most likely to stick to.” 

Change Your Relationship with Your Scale

But there’s something else that Dr. Hagstrom encourages: changing how you see the numbers on your scale, and how you look at weight loss. Why is it that many of us don’t see strength training as a way to get rid of fat? Probably because we’re too focused on “losing weight,” or seeing the numbers on the scale go down. 

But that’s not really the right way to approach things: it should be more about getting lean, and changing your body. Stepping on the scale only tells part of the story: you might change the numbers more by doing tons of running or cycling, because you’re burning fat, but when you lift weights you’re burning fat and gaining muscle. That means that the numbers on the scale might not be changing all that much, but your body is!

woman's torso wrapping measuring tape around her waist
Instead of focusing on the scale, focus on how lean you’re becoming based on how your clothes fit and the muscles gained.

According to Dr. Hagstrom, “More often than not, we don’t gain any muscle mass when we do aerobic training. We improve our cardiorespiratory fitness, gain other health and functional benefits, and can lose body fat. But when we strength train, we gain muscle mass and lose body fat, so the number on the scales won’t look as low as it would after aerobics training, especially as muscle weighs more than fat.”

“If you’re strength training and want to change how your body looks, then you don’t want to focus on the number on the scale too much, because it won’t show you all your results. Instead, think about your whole body composition, like how your clothes fit and how your body will start to feel, and move, differently.”

This study might not show us everything we need or want to know. For example, it didn’t look at whether variables like exercise duration, frequency, or intensity impacted fat loss percentage, but the research team does hope to next investigate whether how we strength train can change the amount of fat loss. But even just the information it has provided us with is pretty groundbreaking, and a great first step toward learning so much more about how strength training can change our bodies.

And it might be very welcome news to you that cardio isn’t the end-all-be-all of health and fat loss – just remember, as with everything, it’s all about balance. Get moving, get lifting, get cooking healthy, whole foods, and you’ll be heading in the right direction!

Can You Avoid Medications with Lifestyle Changes?

Now that you’re getting older, do you have one of those days of the week pill holders that keeps your multitude of prescription drugs sorted? Or are you dreading having to get one as your health changes? There’s no doubt that aging affects your health, and you might have more trips to the doctor, more monitoring of things like your cholesterol and blood pressure, and yes, more drugs that are prescribed to you to keep everything in working order. But, while you should absolutely be keeping on top of your health and following your doctor’s advice, is it always necessary to be taking a mountain of prescription drugs, or is there a way to avoid some medications with lifestyle changes?

Too Many Medications?hundreds of colorful pills falling on top of each other

If you’re watching your prescriptions pile up, you’re certainly not alone: people over 65 make up less than 14% of the U.S. population, but use approximately 40% of the prescription drugs, filling an average of 14 prescriptions a year (or 18 if they’re over 80)! When broken down even further, research shows that the average older adult takes four or more prescription medications each day, with 39% taking 5 or more every day. Each one is meant to treat or manage a condition, and is important, but each also comes with risks and side effects, which can begin to add up. 

So, while you shouldn’t stop taking anything prescribed by your doctor unless you discuss it with them first, you should also be aware that the more medications you take, the greater your chances of side effects and adverse reactions. You definitely want to talk to your doctor about the number of medications you’re taking if you start to experience:

  • Tiredness, sleepiness or decreased alertness
  • Constipation, diarrhea, or incontinence
  • Loss of appetite
  • Confusion
  • Falls and other mobility issues
  • Depression or general lack of interest
  • Weakness
  • Tremors
  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety or excitability
  • Dizziness
  • Changes in sexual behavior
  • Skin rashes

The Psychological Power of Prescriptions

Adverse reactions are not the only issues with taking medications, though. A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association had some very interesting findings about how older adults react to being put on medication – and no, it wasn’t that they were unhappy with having to take more pills. In fact, being prescribed medications for things like high cholesterol and high blood pressure often meant that those taking the drugs felt like they could let their healthy habits slide because they were on those medications. For example, the people in the study who were prescribed medications for their conditions:

  • tended to gain more weight. In fact, they were 82% more likely to become obese.
  • exercised less. They were 8% more likely to be physically inactive.

Perhaps some of those people were already lax in their lifestyles, but it’s very likely that some of them felt like they could slack off a bit because they were on medications meant to regulate their health. But the truth is, even if you are prescribed medication, a healthy lifestyle is still extremely important to keeping you fighting fit for as long as possible. But could making some positive changes to your lifestyle actually mean needing fewer medications?

Could These Lifestyle Changes Help?

So if you’re trying to cut down on the meds in your life, what do experts say about whether lifestyle changes can eliminate, or at least reduce the need for prescription drugs? The answer is “sometimes,” and it will definitely take a lot of effort on your part, but your doctor might give you 3 months to “clean up your” act if you’re interested in avoiding certain medications for certain conditions. For example: 

Dealing with high cholesterol

greek salad in a bowl
Changing your diet to healthier options can result in lower cholesterol levels.

High LDL, or “bad” cholesterol is a common (and worrying) problem for older adults, and you might be prescribed a statin to lower your number. But some doctors have seen some very encouraging successes in patients who make lifestyle changes. For example, speaking to a dietician can help you look at how your eating patterns might be contributing to your condition, and reducing your intake of red meat and butter, plus adding in more fruits and veggies can make a big difference. Checking out the Mediterranean diet is a great start!

The other key to avoiding medication for high cholesterol? Exercise! Get into the habit of fitting in 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days a week, or 75 minutes of high intensity exercise 3 or 4 days of the week, and you could find yourself ditching the pills at some point in the future.

Lowering your blood sugar

If you’re not diabetic, but your blood sugar is on the high end of normal, you might be able to avoid blood-glucose-lowering drugs with some fairly simple lifestyle changes. Cardio workouts can help lower blood sugar, and you’ll really need to focus on your diet, especially the carbohydrates that you’re consuming. Cut down on bread (try to limit yourself to 2 slices a day), chips, and processed foods, and get your carbs from whole grains, brown rice or whole wheat bread and pasta. Focus more on fruits and veggies and other whole foods, drink plenty of water, and try to balance out the carbs you eat with protein – for example, add peanut butter (with no sugar) to your bread. 

Doing some bone-building

If you’ve got osteopenia, or preosteoporosis (bone density at the low end of normal), there are steps you can take to slow down bone loss, and even build bone. First, make sure you’re getting enough calcium and Vitamin D in your diet, and then get started with some strength training! Traditionally, experts have steered older adults towards low-impact strength and weight training to be on the safe side, but studies are now showing that HiRit (high-intensity resistance and impact training), which involves short bursts of intense activity, is actually better than low-impact training in improving bone mineral density in the spine and hip area in older women. Just be sure to get your doctor’s approval before you start any exercise plan, as well as seek out supervision for anything high intensity. 

Easing your back and joint pain

man swimming in a pool
Instead of depending on medicine for joint and back pain, try swimming instead.

Chronic pain stinks, but turning to long-term use of painkillers can cause some serious issues. For example, high doses or long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories like Advil can cause bleeding in the intestines, kidney failure, heart attack, ulcers, and stroke. And if you’ve been given a prescription for something even stronger, like opioids, you could experience drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, constipation, addiction, and overdose.

What to try first? Consider yoga, stretching, swimming, tai chi, massage, physical therapy, acupuncture, or heat. 

Soothing chronic heartburn

If you’re constantly feeling the burn, you might be on a regiment of proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs), and this might be totally fine in the short-term to heal your esophagus if you’re suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease. But taking these medications long-term can cause reduced stomach acid, which impairs the body’s ability to absorb certain nutrients and medication, and increases the risk of gastrointestinal and other infections. They could even increase the risk of fractures, dementia, heart attack, and kidney disease.

To try to deal with heartburn, and avoid reflux, try eating smaller meals, not lying down right after eating, losing excess weight, avoiding trigger foods (like very acidic or greasy foods), and popping a Tums or some Maalox for occasional discomfort.

Remember, talk to your doctor before you make any changes to your lifestyle or your medications. Remember also that everyone is different, and dramatic changes to your lifestyle could make a huge difference in your health and your need for medications – or you might find that you still need all of your prescriptions. But even if you don’t get to the goal of cutting down on your daily pills, making these changes will still be beneficial – and who knows? You might end up needing fewer medications further down the road. Be well!

Hey Ladies! Get Strong With Strength Training!

It’s that time of year again, when many people’s thoughts turn from all the Christmas cookies they packed away in December to getting fit in January. That’s a great goal, but you need a way to stick with it. What do we suggest? Incorporating strength training into your life! It’s fun, has measurable results and gains that will keep you motivated, and has multiple health benefits. While strength training is perfect for almost anybody (and any body), right now we’re specifically talking to all you women out there. There’s long been a misconception that women should be doing tons of cardio or using very light weights to get fit. Those are great if that’s what you enjoy, but it might be time to ditch the treadmill and the tiny pink dumbbells and get strong!  

What Is Strength Training?black and white picture of the back of a woman with a weight bar on her shoulder

Strength training can actually be done in multiple ways. It doesn’t have to be hoisting a massive barbell above your head. You can personalize it to work for your body, your goals, and the equipment that you have or are willing to obtain. Strength training of any kind is pretty much defined by two things:

  • Movement of any weight (including your body weight!) – if you do any kind of exercise that pushes your muscles out of their comfort zone, then you’re forcing them to rebuild and get stronger. 
  • Progressive overload – if you exert slightly more effort each time you train, then your muscles will have to adapt and get stronger.

Basically, strength training starts when you move your body weight in a way that causes you to exert your muscles, or when you pick up a weight that is beyond what your body is normally used to. For example, you can start strength training right now by doing 10 squats and 10 pushups from your knees! Then when you master that, you would move on to doing squats holding dumbbells and pushups from your toes. 

The most important thing about strength training is pushing your muscles out of their comfort zone. This is so that they will break down and actually tear slightly as you work out. Sounds weird, but if you break down your muscles, over the next 24 – 48 hours they will actually begin to rebuild themselves – and this time they’ll be stronger than the day before! 

The Benefits of Strength Training

Why should you strength train? Well, you’ll get stronger! Who doesn’t want to be able to bring in all of their groceries in one trip, carry an air conditioner up the stairs without help, hoist a sleepy child out of the car with ease, push their car out of the snow without any problems, and so on and so on? But the benefits of strength training don’t end there. 

class with people doing puships with a woman smiling and happy
There are long-term benefits to strength training, like better mood, correct high blood pressure, and increase bone density.
  • Long-term benefits:
      • Prevents disease and degenerative conditions like heart disease, which many people are surprised to know is the number one killer of women in the United States. Strength training helps correct issues relating to cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and inactivity – all factors for heart disease. 
      • Helps combat age-related muscle loss so you can stay independent longer.
      • Increases bone density, which is especially important for women as they age.
  • Benefits you’ll see right away:
    • Improved balance and coordination.
    • Improved mood, and helps combat stress and anxiety.
    • Weight loss. Study after study has found that strength training plus healthier eating habits is the perfect combination for weight management, even if you’re not doing cardio. And if you’re taking up exercise for aesthetic reasons (and it’s ok if that’s not your goal!), you can change the shape of your body with strength training. How many times have you heard you can’t spot reduce fat? Well, it’s true, but you can build up muscle in certain areas and change the shape of your body that way. 
    • Increased metabolism. Strength training speeds up your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR), because it takes more calories to maintain muscles than it does to maintain fat. In addition, because your body needs to do so much work to recover after a strength-based workout, your metabolism can be boosted even more for up to 38 hours after you finish your workout. 
    • Measurable results! Part of the fun of strength training is seeing your progress, both in your physical appearance (if that’s your thing!) and in the amount you can lift or the number of reps you can do. 

At this point, you might be itching to get started! But first, let’s answer something once and for all. 

Do Women Need to Strength Train Differently?

caucasian woman looking at herself in the mirror while grabbing dumbbells

Strength training is one of the best things you can do for your health, but it’s estimated that only 20% of women do it! Maybe it’s because women are told that it’s not for their bodies, or they don’t need to do it, or they can’t lift the same way men can. But there’s actually a pretty easy answer to whether women need to approach strength training differently than men do. NO! In fact, the American College of Sports Medicine doesn’t differentiate between the sexes when it comes to their strength training recommendations. 

Let’s also address a question many women have about strength training: will it make me look “bulky.” The answer to that is also a firm “no,” unless you make a very, very specific effort to make yourself build the amount of muscle that a bodybuilder has. Believe us, that doesn’t happen by accident! So don’t worry about that, and get started!

How to Start

If you’re totally new to strength training, the best way to start is with your own body. That’s right, bodyweight exercises are great for you – you’re doing exactly what your body was designed to do, plus you’ll never be without your equipment! For example, try doing this “circuit” of 6 exercises, 3 times through:

caucasian woman doing a plank
Start slow with doing simple tasks such as a plank for 15 seconds.
  • 20 bodyweight squats
  • 10 push-ups – you can even progress with pushups as you get stronger. Start by doing them on your knees, then move to doing them from your toes, then try them with your legs elevated, and so on.
  • 10 walking lunges per leg
  • 15 seconds of plank
  • 30 jumping jacks

And there you have it! Your first strength-based workout. Once you get comfortable with bodyweight work, and are ready to move on, you should get yourself some dumbbells (or go to a gym and use theirs) and add in exercises like goblet squats (holding one heavy weight at your chest), weighted lunges, dumbbell rows, shoulder presses, bicep curls, and tricep kickbacks. And when you get really strong? If you have access to one, try working with a barbell. This will allow you to pick up heavy weights and do movements that recruit every muscle in your body. Before you know it, you’ll be deadlifting and doing cleans and presses – and you’ll be super strong. 

Everybody has their own reasons for wanting to incorporate exercise into their lives. Maybe you want to feel great, look great, get strong – or all of the above! If so, strength training is the way to go. There’s absolutely no restrictions on who can do it (just ask your doctor first!), and no limits to how much progress you can make, no matter your gender, as long as you put some effort into it!