My friend Christine had been trying to lose those last 10 pounds for months, but to no avail. Despite my regular invitations for her to come to the gym with me, she always declined. One Saturday afternoon, she finally agreed to try it out, but on one condition: no weights.
''Why not?'' I asked, a bit confused. ''I love the way my arms look. Lifting weights is the best thing I've ever done for my body.''
It had initially taken me a while to get into lifting weights, but within a few weeks of regular strength training, I had watched my arms become more firm and toned than they had ever been. Thanks to strength training, I was so proud of my body, and I couldn't understand why someone wouldn't want to give it a shot.
Christine shook her head. ''I don't want to use weights. My arms are big enough already, and I don't want to look like a man.''
I was quick to tell Christine that her fear was unfounded. Weight training, even just twice a week for 20 minutes at a time, is an important part of a well-rounded fitness regime for both men and women. While some of the benefits of strength training are obvious (improved muscle tone and strength), working out with weights also helps in more subtle ways, such as fighting the aging process by maintaining lean muscle tissue. And women who regularly exercise with free weights and machines have higher self-esteem and an improved immune system, meaning they get sick less often. Weight training also reduces blood pressure, fights arthritis, strengthens bones, and helps the body process sugar more efficiently, thereby reducing the risk of diabetes.