The Verdict Is In: This Is the Best Exercise for Women

A glance at some of the biggest fitness trends of the last five years reveals aerobic exercises tend to steal the limelight. From SoulCycle and barre workouts to Zumba and precision running, the most popular routines all share common characteristics: whole-body movement and a playful approach to aerobic activity. The issue, as Time points out, is that one crucial type of exercise has become increasingly unpopular: strength training.

While roughly half of Americans meet the government recommendation of 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week, only 20% hit the goal when it comes to muscle-strengthening workouts. Women, in particular, tend to avoid it.

If you’ve typecast weightlifting as a muscle-pumping workout, it could drastically impact your health. A new study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise reveals those who incorporate strength training into their routine reap long-term benefits.

“Women who reported participating in any amount of strength training were more likely to have a lower BMI [and] more likely to engage in healthy dietary patterns,” the authors wrote, drawing on data from almost 36,000 women. Additionally, those who incorporated strength training into their routine also had a 30% lower risk of type 2 diabetes and 17% lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

So what is the best workout for women? Aim for 120 minutes of aerobic exercise per week with some strength training. Researchers found that this combination led to a 65% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Inspired to change up your fitness regimen? Add these weights to your next workout.