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Though it shouldn’t need saying, it does – women should be as engaged with resistance training as men. They gain the exact same benefits, have pretty much the same proclivity for it, and can develop and progress in much the same way.
However, they don’t always. It’s changing, of course. More women lift than ever have done before. Weights rooms the world over are becoming more gender diverse. Classes dedicated to teaching women how to lift – specifically aimed at engaging women – are popping up in many major cities. Elite female lifters like Stefi Cohen have taken the world by storm and shown people what is possible by ignoring arbitrary gender divides. It’s quite common to see plenty of female personal trainers on-site and a good mix of men and women on the gym floor.
However, on an individual level, it can be hard for women to hit the weights room.
It is an intimidating place, made worse by the chauvinism or apparent chauvinism often associated with it, in which women may often feel uncomfortable. It is a traditional ‘man’s place’, from which women are implicitly prohibited.
As above, change is coming. Many spaces are becoming more equitable as progress progresses. However, in the meantime, there is a good case for setting up and maintaining ladies-only gyms – or, at least, the kinds of ladies-only spaces in larger gyms that organisations such as Pure Gym, GymNation and Fitness Time have been recently spearheading.
Such initiatives offer safe spaces for women to get into the weights room and engage in pursuits more traditionally seen as the preserve of men. It opens the scope up from more traditionally ‘female’ training pursuits such as yoga or body pump (which, whilst useful in their own rights, do not amount to anything like the same thing as regular heavy lifting).
Gender is not a barrier to lifting weights at all. Ladies only spaces help to realise this fact.
Benefits of weight training
Bringing in ladies-only gym spaces will allow more women to feel comfortable getting into weight training, away from macho bravado and the male gaze that so often pollutes the atmosphere of any public gym. In turn, they are beginning to reap the rewards of resistance training programs.
These benefits include (but are far from limited to):
Improvements to strength and athleticism
If you want to become a fit, strong athlete, you have to train like one. This means improving total strength and power output and engendering respectable levels of hypertrophy (muscle gain). This, in turn, means lifting weight and engaging in hard resistance exercises.
Whether you join an exercise studio offering Calisthenics classes, or simply go to your local gym and start deadlifting, you will be growing stronger, larger muscles. This, in turn, will aid your body’s power output, build greater bone density, whilst teaching it movement patterns that will ultimately lead to greater athleticism.
Ladies-only gyms and training areas are a great place to go to practice these kinds of movements, under load, with experts on hand to guide you should you need it.
Improvements to quality of life and longevity
A sedentary lifestyle will ruin your body. A lack of physical activity will be literally crippling. This is scarcely hyperbole.
Not putting your muscles under regular strain – and thus eliciting adaptation and maintaining healthy amounts of mass – will lead to an increased risk of developing certain types of cancer, suffering from numerous chronic diseases, and suffering from mental health issues like depression, anxiety and insomnia. Or, at least, putting your muscles under regular strain will decrease these risks.
Most forms of physical activity will achieve similar results. However, resistance training has proven itself time and time again to be amongst the most efficient ways of reducing these risk factors. It provides numerous physical health benefits and decreases the chances of developing many chronic diseases.
Staying active will also help you to maintain a healthy weight, reduce your risk of suffering with type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and will reduce your risk of developing many types of cancer.
It has further been linked with benefits to mood and mental health, including lessening symptoms of depression and anxiety and improving sleep quality and help reduce obesity!
Done correctly, in conjunction with the kind of cardiovascular work that can be performed concurrently at a ladies-only gym, it improves respiratory, cardiovascular health, and overall health.
Regular resistance training and the maintenance of an active lifestyle don’t just make your life better. They can make it longer. It has been linked to an increased life expectancy and a reduction in the risk of premature mortality. Evidence suggests that more active people tend to live longer.
A reduced risk from injury
An active lifestyle, which a ladies-only gym will quite obviously facilitate, will help you to increase muscle strength and bone density, as above. It will also help you to develop your flexibility, stability and proprioception (balance).
All of these facets of healthy physicality are key in the maintenance of good physical health and the prevention of suffering injury. In simple terms, the stronger and more able you are, with greater balance and stability, the less likely you are to be injured.
This will matter more as you age. Improved bone density will make accidental slips and falls far less damaging, whilst improved balance will make you far less prone to falling in the first place. Improved musculature will literally keep your body together, whilst improved cardiovascular, respiratory function and blood flow will keep you conscious, engaged and mentally alert.
For these reasons, and many more, it is vital that everybody who can engages in regular exercise. A large part of this should come from resistance training of one form or another. In a bid to make this easier for many women, ladies-only gyms are flourishing. They work and they are to be celebrated – they open up all of these benefits to a great many people who might otherwise be too intimidated and, often likely justifiably, nervous to train in a more male-dominated space.