From the Publisher
"This terrific book, which has changed the lives of so many women, is now even better."
Robert N. Butler, M.D., International Longevity Center, USA, Ltd.
"You can begin to get strong even if you wait until you are 90and without taking hormones! Strong Women Stay Young is an inspiring and motivational program."
Christiane Northrup, M.D., author of Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom
What a joy to find the perfect beginning strength-training book aimed at
older women! So many books on strength training for women seem aimed at
either making us macho (unrelated to most women's goals), keeping us wimpy
(downright dangerous for all of us), or misleading us with useless, harmful,
inappropriate and/or silly information. This book by Tufts University researcher
Miriam Nelson and her lively co-writer Sarah Wernick is what you've been looking
for if you're a woman who wants to stay vital and active in later years --
especially if you don't know what strength training has to do with that.
Nelson is one of the famous group of Tufts University researchers who made
startling discoveries about the ability of older people to radically increase
strength, balance and independence through weight-training programs. Nelson's
own research involved middle-aged and older women. The bottom line: Whatever
your age, a careful, progressive strength-training program will help you get
dramatically stronger in much less time and with much less work than you
think. Nelson's subjects also improved balance and flexibility, halted bone
loss, and even restored bone, reducing the risk of osteoporotic fractures. They
looked better, felt better, had more energy, and got firmer and trimmer.
Strong Women Stay Young presents the concepts and practical program
developed at Tufts. The take-home message is that you can enhance your strength
and quality of life -- and delay the aging process -- whether you're 40,
50, 70 or 90. Could you ask for more from a program that only takes two
40-minute sessions a week?
The illustrated strength-training program here is a surprise: just eight
basic exercises to hit the major muscle groups, each needing only dumbbells or
ankle weights. Each exercise clearly presents the point of the exercise, the
steps, where you'll feel the effort, appropriate posture, how many to do, and
tips for knowing you're doing it right. Each exercise is well-explained and
illustrated with drawings of normal women, not bodybuilders. A bonus chapter
presents six more strength training options to add or substitute later, so your
program grows and stays fresh as you get stronger. If you decide you want to
join a health club, there's a chapter on how to use some typical machines you'll
find there. There's also plenty of information about muscles, bones and
Many women respond fearfully to the idea of strength training. They don't
want to "bulk up" -- they just want to "tone." They recoil from the grotesque
look of overdeveloped bodybuilders and think strength training leads to loss of
femininity. They don't realize these essential facts about muscles:
Strong Women Stay
Young is a scientifically-based strength-training
book for women of all ages who want to get strong and stay strong
for the rest of their lives. For more information, visit their web site at
( http://www.strongwomen.com ). Get two copies -- one for yourself, and one for your mother.
- If you don't use 'em, you lose 'em. Muscles don't just stay the
same with disuse -- they lose strength and, eventually, function. Women who
don't exercise start to lose bone and muscle mass starting about age 40.
- If you do use 'em right, you can gain strength, function, balance,
energy, independence, stronger bones, flexibility, and a trim-and-tight
physique -- even if you're out of shape when you start out.
- You can make dramatic gains in muscle strength with two sessions a
week, but you must use weights or other resistance heavy enough to force
the muscles to get stronger. Dozens of repetitions using the lightest weights
will minimally improve muscle strength. Soup cans just won't do it. Weights
heavy enough to make the muscles react will do it.
- It isn't enough to do aerobic exercise. Muscles need site-specific
attention. You can run or hike all day long and still lose arm, back, shoulder
and chest strength.
- You will not get the female bodybuilder look from strength training
-- only more shapely. The women in Nelson's study wound up smaller, not
larger. They had bigger muscles, but less body fat, and since muscle is denser
than fat, they looked trimmer. Women who get masculine-looking from weight
lifting use monstrously heavy weights, work out many hours a day, diet
stringently, have more testosterone (male hormone) than normal, and often take
Studies have shown that weight-bearing exercise improves bone density, crucial to preventing osteoporosis in women. Nelson's research at the School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University, the results of which were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, proves that strength training also improves balance, increases energy, and helps to control weight, especially when used in conjunction with regular aerobic activity. This book presents a program for strength training based on a graduated schedule of weight-lifting exercises. The exercises can be done either with free weights or on a weight-lifting machine. In addition, Nelson provides suggestions for maintaining one's motivation and finding the time for exercise. Well done and easy to follow, this would be a useful purchase for public and health libraries.
-- Susan Hagloch, Tuscarawas Cty. Public Library, New Philadelphia, Ohio
Read an Excerpt
Maida Lois used to stop her mother, also named Maida, when she started to lift something heavy. "Let me carry that," she'd say; "After all, I'm younger." Maida Lois is 39 and she runs five miles five days a week. The older Maida is 66 and until she began strength training, she had never been physically active.
Recently the two Maidas took a series of tests to compare their strength. Maida Lois didn't hold back. "I got competitive," she admits; "I tried hard."
It didn't help: Maida outscored her daughter on three of the four tests. These days, she does her own lifting. "After all," she tells Maida Lois, "I'm stronger."
• * *
In high school, Evelyn wore a size 16. At age 30, she had her first child and her weight climbed to over 200 pounds. Then she came to work at Tufts University. "I started doing aerobics and got down to 160 pounds. I was thinner, but complete flab," she recalls. What's more, her weight loss stalled. Inspired by her colleagues' researchand the success stories all around herEvelyn started strength training, and dropped the last 30 pounds.
Now 38 and the mother of two, Evelyn recently attended her twentieth high school reunion. She recalls a thrilling evening: "Some of my girlfriends never got back in shape after having kidsand there I was in a slinky black evening dress, size 6."
Miriam E. Nelson, Ph.D., author of Strong Women Stay Young, is one of the Tufts University scientists who developed this remarkably successful exercise program. Her research created news worldwide when the results were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Dr. Nelson's study followed 40 postmenopausal women for a year. All were healthy, but sedentary; none was taking hormones. Half the volunteersthe control groupsimply maintained their usual lifestyle. The others came to the Tufts University laboratories twice a week and lifted weights.
Most women begin to lose bone and muscle mass at about age 40; in part because of this, they start to slow down. And that's exactly what happened to the women who didn't exercise. One sedentary year later, their muscles and bones had aged, and they were even less active than before.
The women who lifted weights changed toobut in the opposite direction. After one year of strength training, their bodies were 15 to 20 years more youthful.
* They became strongeroften even stronger than when they were younger.
* Without drugs, they regained bone, helping to prevent osteoporosis.
* Their balance and flexibility improved.
* They were leaner and trimmer, though eating as much as ever.
* The women were so energized, they became 27 percent more active.
No other program has ever achieved comparable results.
What strength training can do for you:
A challenging, progressive strength-training program can build muscles and increase strength in women of all ages. But Miriam Nelson's study proved that the benefits go even further. Besides the great gains in strength, here's what strength training does:
* Halts bone lossand even restores bone
Each year after menopause, a woman typically loses one percent of her bone masseven more during the first five post-menopausal years. Over time, she may develop osteoporosis, a condition in which bones become so porous they easily break. Strength training stopped the clock here too. The women who didn't exercise lost about 2 percent of their bone density over the year of the study. But the women who strength-trained not only didn't lose bone, they gained 1 percent.
* Improves balance
Our ability to stay in balance declines with passing years. As a result, falling becomes a significant hazard later in life, especially if bones are weak. The women who didn't exercise showed an 8.5 percent decline in balance over the study period. In contrast, the women in the strength-training group improved their balancing abilitytheir test scores went up by 14 percent.
* Helps prevent bone fractures from osteoporosis
The improvements in strength, bone density and balance have special significance for women because they dramatically reduce the risk of fractures from osteoporosis. This is a serious problem: a woman of seventy faces 30 percent odds that she will break her hip if she lives another twenty years.
Hormones, calcium supplements and medications offer a degree of protection from bone loss. However, strength training not only builds bone, it cuts the risk of fractures by improving strength and balance to help prevent falls. What's more, all these benefits come without worrisome side effects.
* Trims and tightens
Participants in the JAMA study were asked to maintain their weight over the year. Though the scale didn't change, their appearance did. Instead of dropping pounds, the women who exercised lost inches.
* Helps control weight
Strength training is a dieter's best friend. First, it promotes aerobic activity, which burns calories. Second, it boosts metabolism. That's because muscle is active tissue and consumes calories; stored fat, on the other hand, is inert and uses very little energy.
* Energizes and revitalizes
After a year, the non-exercise group became 25 percent less active. But the women in the strength-training program were 27 percent more active than before. It makes sense: The stronger you are, the easier it is to move.
The most exciting part of this study was something harder to measure: the transformation of the volunteers. They didn't expect their bodies could change much, not at their age. But after just a few months they were stronger, trimmer and more energetic than they ever dreamed they could be againand they were thrilled. Who wouldn't be?
Features of this book
Strong Women Stay Young is based on a scientifically-tested exercise program developed at Tufts University, so you can rely upon its safety and effectiveness. The book will be helpful even if you've done strength training before. Unless you received accurate information, you may not be getting the full benefit you deserve for your efforts. For instance, many women, misled by popular advice, faithfully lift soup cans in hope of improving their muscles. Or they work out with three-pound weights week after week in a "Tone and Firm" class. Sadly, these approaches don't make you stronger. Weights must be considerably heavier than soup cans to make a difference. And if you don't systematically increase the load as your muscles develop, you won't progress very far.
Before you begin, you'll answer a few simple strength-assessment questions to determine a safe starting point. As you grow stronger, you'll add weights. No matter how fit you are now, no matter how quickly or slowly you progress, the program will always be right for you.
The Strong Women Stay Young program features:
* Eight simple exercises done standing or sitting downno sweat, no special clothes.
* Fully illustrated step-by-step instructions that you can customize to your needs.
* Important new information on muscle, bone, balance, and fitness.
* Progress logs for the critical first twelve weeks.
* Bonus: complete strength-training program to do at the gym.
Is this book for you?
* Have you lost strength over the past decade?
* Do you ever say, "I know I should exercise, but I just don't have the energy"?
* At the end of a normally busy day, do you feel tired and worn out?
* Do you notice fat where there used to be muscle?
* Do you feel older than you'd like?
* Is it more difficult to maintain your weighteven though you're eating less?
* Are your favorite sports harder and less fun than they used to be?
* Do you look at your older female relatives and worry that someday you'll be just as limited physically as they are now?
For many women past 35, these changesthe loss of strength, the lack of vigorare painfully familiar. If you're experiencing them, you may have figured it's all an inevitable part of getting older. Wrong! Scientists at Tufts and elsewhere now know this isn't true. The main reason most people slow down when they get older is that they lose about a third of their muscle mass between ages 35 and 80. Yes, aging plays a role. However, inactivity is a major factorand that's something you can address.
If you've lost strength, you can regain it.
If your energy has sagged, you can raise it.
If you've lost muscle and gained fat, you can reverse it.
If you've become flabby, you can get trim.
If you feel old, you can feel younger, stronger and more vigorousperhaps better than you've ever felt in your entire life.
Strength training, we have learned, is a fountain of youth.