In a lot of ways, the male and female bodies work completely differently – especially where hormone production is concerned. This means that, physically, men and women can be equals, but the effect of our workouts can differ.
Sadly, there has been misinformation regarding women’s fitness that has spread for generations, with many of the myths being believed to be factual due to their repetition. These myths need to be torn down in order for your journey to greater health and wellbeing to be effective and successful.
So, we have picked three of the most common misconceptions about women’s fitness based on our recent conversations with our members and friends, and looked at the science that disproves them.
Myth 1: Strength Training Will Bulk You Up
We can be forgiven for seeing images of female body builders and assume that this is an inevitability for women who strength train, and leads to many women avoiding lifting weights. However, female body builders are a result of around ten years of intense training, rigorous schedules, strict diets and extreme dedication.
This is because of hormones, which factor heavily in determining our individual size. Medline Plus tells us that men produce 14 to 20 times more testosterone as women, which means women won’t increase muscle mass at nearly the same rate unless they supplement with steroids or other performance enhancing drugs.
On average, women have 30% less muscle fibre to develop than men, which means it would be much more difficult for a woman to get bulky than it would be for a man.
According to a 2004 study by Dr. Andrew Fry, “In general, females do not exhibit as great an absolute hypertrophic response when compared with males, although relative gains may be similar”.
Myth 2: Cardio Alone Can Help You Lose Weight
Because women can be put off from strength training (as discussed above) your exercise regime can start to feel limited. Perhaps this has what has led to this myth; that you can lose weight with cardio alone.
While there is no question cardiovascular exercise can help you lose fat, it would be wrong to ignore strength training. Without this, you will likely lose muscle, which in turn will slow down your metabolism.
According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association, “Chronic, high-volume running creates a catabolic response that can lead to muscle degradation and reduction in power.” This is not a good thing.
An ideal workout regimen should include two days of steady-state cardio, two days of weight training and two days of either yoga or Pilates.
Myth 3: Women Shouldn’t Train During Their Period
Exercising while on your period might seem like a counterintuitive thing to do, but it can help alleviate menstrual symptoms. But, of course, there are limitations.
Gynaecologist Sonali Gaur says it is a myth that women shouldn’t work out during their menstrual cycle; “In no way does it affect your blood loss,” she says. “If one does feel faint or weak during a workout, the best thing to do is to lie with your head down and put your feet up. Take it easy. What you can do is to follow a routine that your body is used to, don’t make drastic changes.”
According to Equal, But Not the Same: Considerations for Training Females, when the internal organs get inflamed, due to cramps and bloating, it shuts down the TVA and pelvic floor. This may lead to potential injury in the low back.
Therefore it is best to do a lighter workout, as well as avoid activities such as abdominal crunches that could cause more cramping. If the gym proves too much during your period, lighter activities such as yoga or running can be just as effective.