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Muscle Matters, and You Should Care

I can't tell you how many female clients come to me (never having truly strength trained, by the way) fearful that they'll "bulk up" or "get big" if they start lifting weights.

A few that have strength trained in the past - and sworn up and down that "get bulky and put on muscle really fast with heavy weights" - usually have that myth defied by my in-house scale, which shows not only their muscle mass in raw numbers but also as a proportion of their weight (and I've yet to see a strength-training woman suddenly have a spike in skeletal muscle without changing her nutrition, baseline movement, or other huge lifestyle factor).

The reality about muscles, girlfriends, is this: muscles are the key to healthy aging & longevity.

More than that? Muscles stave off diabetes. Muscles boost your metabolism so you can burn more calories at rest. Muscles line and protect your bones from osteopenia and osteoporosis. Muscles keep the vasomotor (read: night sweats and hot flashes) symptoms of menopause at bay. And above all that, muscles are sexy as hell (yeah I said it).

So why are many women still so darn resistant to getting some?

You tell me. Because I'm baffled by it.

Maybe it's hundreds of years of paternalistic culture admonishing us to be smaller, frailer, and weaker. Maybe it's more recent decades of visual and social media pounding the message to be as skinny as possible down our throats; to take up the least amount of space in order to have more value. It might even be that females having visible muscles is so relatively new to mainstream body aesthetics that even women themselves aren't sure how to embrace it.

Whatever the hesitation, I'm asking you, personally and as a health professional, to drop that sh*t. Lean body mass - aka muscle - is the single most important physical characteristic associated with multiple markers of healthy aging and longevity. It is what makes you resistant to lifespan-shortening injuries and falls, healthspan-shortening conditions and illnesses, and metabolic decline and unwanted weight gain. Muscle is the literal fountain of youth - and it's accessible to all of us, at any age, with a little bit of focused effort.

Muscles are what allow you to move freely, without hesitation or pain, not only to complete the activities of daily life (literal baseline things like dressing yourself and using the toilet) but to do valuable real-life things, like picking up and running after your kids, carrying moving boxes up the stairs, sprinting to catch a bus, hiking Machu Picchu on your 25th wedding anniversary, or paddling a board out into the surf on a beach holiday.

If you are saying "no" to intentionally building muscle, you are saying "no" to enjoying life to its fullest. You are saying "no" to being maximally capable and powerful within your own body, and you are saying "no" to your best chance at living a long, comfortable, disease-free life.

Moreover - you are by default saying "yes" to the idea that women dont need to be strong (especially if that strength is, gasp, visible!), saying "yes" to asking for help with even basic strength-based tasks like picking up a piece of luggage or carrying a stroller down a few stairs, and saying "yes" to a narrow and oppressive beauty ideal that does not allow for our bodies to exist in the full, fit, and fierce frames that house a body that is strong & functional.

Make no mistake - it is very intentional that I chose to publish this blog on International Women's Day, a day we embrace equity (this year's theme) and celebrate the achievements and potential of women around the world. In the values of my coaching practice, I stand for the liberation of women's bodies from any sort of judgment on their shapes and sizes, and as a health professional, I stand for the education and encouragement of women to make lifestyle choices that are congruent with their best chances at optimal health and wellness.

Muscle matters, ladies. For me, for you, for feminism, and for our futures.

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