Nutrition Action Healthletter
Jan/Feb 2000 — U.S. Edition 

Exploding Ten Exercise Myths

Try a Selection From Our Myth-O-Matic

Strength-training will make women too muscular.

“Many women are afraid that strength-training will make them bulky,” says Miriam Nelson of the Jean Mayer U.S. Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston. “They think strength-training is only for men.”
   In fact, strength-training has enormous benefits for women. In one of Nelson’s studies, postmenopausal women who were sedentary were randomly assigned to do strength-training exercises twice a week or to do no additional exercise. After a year, the strength-trainers had greater bone density, muscle mass, muscle strength, and balance than the sedentary women.1
   “Women naturally have less bone and muscle than men, so they need to take care of what they’ve got,” says Nelson. That’s why women are at greater risk of osteoporosis than men. And lost muscle puts women at greater risk of disability as they age.
   “Thirty percent of middle-aged women have trouble doing physical tasks like walking a mile or carrying a few grocery bags or climbing a few flights of stairs,” says Nelson. “It’s pretty staggering. They’re really out of shape.”
   And don’t worry about looking like a bodybuilder. “Women don’t have enough testosterone to create big, bulky muscles,” says Nelson. “To become a bodybuilder, women have to do a lot of weird things that most strength-training programs don’t do.”

1J. Amer. Med Assoc. 272: 1909, 1994

Illustrations: Loel Barr

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