Friday, October 29, 2010

Myth: If I’m a woman and I don’t want to “bulk up,” I should lift lighter weights to get toned muscles.

Answer: Busted!

woman with hand weightMuscle tone is a quack term that is often used in exercise infomercials. It can’t be measured, so infomercials can promise increased muscle tone without risk. The appearance of strong muscles can only be accomplished through strength training (weight lifting) and a minimal layer of fat over the muscles. This is best accomplished through a healthy diet and increased physical activity. It is not possible for women to “bulk up” in the sense that men can. Men have high levels of the hormone testosterone, which enables them to build more muscle than women. Most women can begin strength training with a pair of two or three pound dumbbells and work up to higher weights over time.

Strength training does more than improve your looks. It will lead to stronger bones which reduces the risk of osteoporosis and fractures; improve blood cholesterol and blood sugar; improve posture; decrease back pain; improve arthritis pain; and even improve mood and self confidence.

If you’re interested in beginning an exercise routine, check your Physical Activity Readiness and look for a Stay Strong, Stay Healthy program in your area to learn the basics of strength training.

Contributor: Mary Wissmann, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, St. Louis County, University of Missouri Extension,

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