Healthy Tahoe: What is the best ‘stand alone’ form of exercise for women?

I just saw a headline for an article about fitness for women. It read, “Yoga is the Best and Only Form of Exercise a Woman’s Body Needs.”

This statement gave me pause.

Many of you who are already familiar with me, know that I’m a local sports chiropractor and strength coach and that I practically live in the gym.

In addition to multiple forms of strength and conditioning, I also teach a form of yoga called “Stick Yoga” and I couldn’t disagree with that article more.

My professional background requires me to be more objective in my approach towards exercise recommendations. I’m not trying to sell or represent a specific form of exercise.

My purpose is to help each of my patients determine the best exercise options for themselves.

These determinations are influenced by body type, age, gender, health history, individual goals, personal preferences, physical strengths and limitations, availability, convenience, time constraints and affordability. Is yoga a great form of exercise for women? Absolutely. Is it the only form of exercise appropriate for women?

Absolutely not.

Research supports that if you could only choose one form of exercise, resistance-based strength training is the overall winner.

Here are the reasons why.

1. You will burn more calories and lose body fat.

Although cardio and certain forms of yoga may burn more calories during the actual workout, it all boils down to muscle building.

By adding muscle mass, your body becomes more efficient at burning calories.

Think of yourself as a V8 engine vs. a V6. As a V8, you will burn more fuel going the same speed at the same distance.

By increasing your overall muscle mass you also increase your resting metabolism.

In other words, your body will continue to burn more calories for many hours after you’ve completed your workout.

Research also shows that women who do strength training two-three times per week will gain an average of 2 pounds of muscle and drop about 3.5 pounds of fat.

For each pound of muscle you gain your body will burn 35-50 additional calories per day. Yoga may achieve this result initially, but without increasing your resistance you will simply plateau.

2. In many cases you will lower your risk of osteoporosis and may reverse the effects of this bone weakening condition.

Our skeletons are designed for support, protection, movement, storage of minerals, endocrine system regulation and the production of red blood cells.

Our bones are dynamic as they respond to environmental stress. If our muscles are not continuously challenged, then our bones won’t store as many minerals. In other words, if you’re not providing enough physical stress by working the muscles, our bones weaken.

If you participate in regular strength training your bones will respond accordingly and become more mineral dense, thereby increasing your bone mass density.

Weight training easily allows you to progressively increase the resistance against your muscles.

In almost any form of bodyweight conditioning (such as yoga) you’re limited to guess what?

Your bodyweight.

3. You will improve brain function and reverse the aging process of your brain.

Strength training will improve your brain health in a number of ways. Many strength training exercises involve gripping. Gripping increases blood flow to the brain. That’s good.

Strength training also creates an anaerobic effect which causes the formation of molecules that help to build the infrastructure within our brains. This creates more places to form synapses.

To put it simply, no matter what age you are, you’ll become a better student and your memory will improve.

Many modern strength training techniques involve complex movements.

Complex movements stimulate a part of your brain that improves critical thinking skills.

Yoga shines in this aspect because complex movements are a big part of yoga conditioning.

4. You will become stronger without bulking up.

Women have 30% less testosterone compared to men. You need to lift an incredible amount of weight with high frequency to get big arms and thunder thighs.

Don’t worry, be happy and lift some weights. A regular strength training routine will give you a 30-50% increase in strength. Lifting the kids, opening jars and any chore that requires some heavy lifting will suddenly become effortless. This will reduce your chance of injury, but most importantly, you will increase your self-confidence and independence. To be completely fair, yoga is a highly effective approach to strength training, but you need enough knowledge regarding the practice of yoga to know how to focus on specific muscle groups. This requires some experience.

Also, many yoga positions require wrist and shoulder strength that many women haven’t developed. Weight training offers many options to begin more gradually.

5. You will reduce your risk of heart disease. One in four women will die from heart disease. Weight training will decrease your LDL (bad cholesterol) levels and increase your HDL (good cholesterol) levels while also lowering your blood pressure.

This is a result of the anaerobic training effects associated with weight training. As muscles contract, blood is pushed back up to the heart. The heart will then recirculate this oxygenated blood back to the muscles. According to Irv Rubenstein, PhD, an exercise physiologist, this process improves the overall health of your cardiovascular system.

6. You will reduce your risk of getting diabetes.

If you already have diabetes you will be able to control it better. About one in nine women will contract diabetes.

Women are at higher risk (than men) of other diabetes related complications such as blindness, kidney disease, heart disease and depression.

Diabetes can also cause vaginal dryness, painful intercourse and other symptoms normally associated with menopause. Weight training, increases your muscles ability to store glucose, thereby making your body better able to regulate blood sugar levels.

If I could only choose one form of exercise for women, would it be yoga or progressive resistance strength training?

I have to go with progressive resistance training. That being said, what is always the very best training choice for women? Answer: A well-balanced training schedule which includes strength training, yoga and cardiovascular conditioning.

Please join me every Saturday at 10 a.m. at my SpineFit training studio located on the second floor of FitRepublic (2565 Lake Tahoe Blvd.) for Stick Yoga. Stick Yoga is an amazing blend of yoga, tai chi and body weight training that will increase strength, flexibility, improve your reaction time and make you feel happy.

For more information, call 530-544-4400.

Dr. Adam Spindler is a practicing chiropractor with over 19 years of experience specializing in chronic conditions and sports injuries. He has also been a personal trainer and strength coach for over 40 years, with a certification as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist. Through college and beyond he competed in bodybuilding shows, and powerlifting competitions throughout the New England circuit.