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Women, Weight Loss, and Exercise:  Separating Fact from Fiction

Women, Weight Loss, and Exercise: Separating Fact from Fiction


Forget political controversy and celebrity scandals. When I want to dive into a real debate, I Google™ the phrase, “exercise for weight loss.” The number of tips on how to lose weight quickly and achieve ripped abs and a skinny physique through exercise is mind blowing. Should I lift weights? Should I jog three miles a day? Or maybe ten? Should I do crunches or sit-ups? I just want to look decent in a bikini; will all this exercise make me look like a man? I think it’s time to clear the air about some common exercise myths for women.

Myth #1: Strength training will make women bulk up.

Many women are hesitant to lift weights because they are afraid it will make them look bulky. Fortunately, this is a misconception; women can retain their feminine physiques and obtain all the benefits of strength training. This is because women do not have the testosterone necessary to create bulky muscles.

Myth #2: You can spot-target trouble areas.

According to a report by exercise physiologists at the University of Maryland (UMD), the notion that that one can tone a particular area by focusing exercise on that region (spot-reducing) is a common misconception. Building muscle mass is not enough to improve a flabby area. Rather, overall weight-loss (through consistent diet and cardiovascular and strength-training exercise) is essential, since it eliminates fat to reveal the underlying muscle tone.

Myth #3: Weight gain is an inevitable part of growing older.

“Eat what you want now while you’re young – ‘cause once you hit 40, it’s all downhill.” If I had a nickel for every middle-aged woman who’s given me this advice, I’d be filthy rich. I’ve always hoped these women were wrong, and, according to a UMD report, it looks like I’m in luck. Although men and women begin losing 6 to 8 percent of their muscle mass in middle age, it is possible to recover a decade of muscle loss after only two months of strength training (three days a week for 40 minutes a day). By increasing physical activity and building muscle mass, a person can raise his or her metabolic rate to facilitate weight loss.

Myth #4: Weight training increases your bust size.

According to bodybuilding expert Hugo Rivera, it is impossible to increase one’s breast size through weight training. In fact, the opposite is true: a woman can actually decrease her breast size by losing too much body fat, since fat in the breasts decreases along with the rest of the body fat.

The Bottom Line

If you’re considering starting an exercise routine, consult a physician and then dive on in. The bottom line? Having muscle mass is healthy; increasing bone strength is beneficial; cardiovascular health is essential; and physical health is priceless.

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