When you think of weight lifting, you might picture bulky, muscular body builders. And while some people find that look very attractive, many women shy away from the idea of adding muscle to their frames.

But lifting weights isn’t all about body building competitions! Lifting even light to moderate weights carries a number of health benefits for all women.

It’s good for your heart. In one study by Appalachian State University, people who performed 45 minutes of resistance exercises (strength training) lowered their blood pressure by 20 percent.

It’s good for your joints. You might think that lifting weights would be hard on your joints. On the contrary, strengthening the muscles around your joints is the best way to protect them! Just don’t start off lifting uncomfortable amounts of weight. Think less weight, and more repetition.

It strengthens your bones. Your bones actually react to strength training by creating new bone cells, making your bones stronger and more dense. This is especially good news to women who worry about developing osteoporosis later in life.

It’s good for your mental health. Strength training actually boosts your confidence levels, and makes you feel more mentally strong and prepared in all areas of life. Many women find weight lifting to be empowering!

You will burn more calories around the clock. Ever wonder why men can get away with eating far more calories than women, without necessarily gaining weight? It’s because men’s bodies are typically more muscle-dense, which causes them to burn (and need) more calories. Even when you aren’t exercising, adding muscle to your body will increase your overall calorie burn.

Get rid of that spare tire. While aerobic exercise burns calories from both fat and muscle tissue, weight lifting burns almost exclusively fat. So any time you’re engaging in strength training, you’re blasting fat away from your tummy, thighs, and hips. This is especially important for people who tend to carry weight around their mid-sections, the type of fat that is most dangerous to the heart.

Just remember, you don’t have to start out lifting uncomfortable amounts of weight, nor do you need to add a lot of bulk to your frame. Talk to a personal trainer about developing a routine that boosts your muscle tone while helping you reap the benefits of weight training.