Why Muscles Rule

Women, in particular, are full of preconceived notions about muscle that are just plain wrong—that they'll look bulky and masculine, have to spend hours at the gym, etc. It's no wonder then that so many shy away from strength training. But according to fitness expert Sarah Robichaud, a bit o' muscle on your bones can provide a bounty of health benefits, especially as you age.

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Boosts Metabolism

One pound of muscle burns six calories a day, while a pound of fat only burns two. Also, muscle takes up much less space on the body thus giving you a leaner, more streamlined physique. Post-workout, as your muscle fibres recover, your metabolism stays revved up for another 36 hours!

Keeps You Young

After 40, we begin to lose about half a pound of muscle per year and, unfortunately, tend to replace that loss with fat. More muscle will keep us looking and feeling younger.

Improves Brain Function

Research has found that women between the ages of 65 and 75 who did strength training once a week improved their cognitive ability by 12.5 percent. It seems that strength training helps increase blood flow to the brain and requires the brain to incorporate new circuitry to master new moves.

Reduces Cancer Risk

A University of Florida study found that subjects who did just three strength-training workouts a week for six months greatly reduced oxidative cell damage as compared to non-lifters. (These damaged cells can lead to cancer and other diseases.) Strength training also speeds up the transfer of food through the large intestine by 56 percent, which decreases the risk of colon cancer.

Builds Stronger Bones

Weight-bearing exercises can help maintain and improve bone density and strength. As we age, we lose bone mass; the more fragile our bones are, the more at risk we are for fractures and breaks.

Decreases Pain

This is most notable in the knees and back because stronger muscles give the joints a break from excess pressure due to too much body weight, a common cause of pain.

Makes You Tough

With more muscle, everyday activities become much easier and injury is less likely.