Women of Steel

By By Ana Breton

By Ana Breton

When women in the United States think of iron, they will no longer be referring to taking the wrinkles out of clothes.

A federal study shows women are pumping more iron, with one in five working out twice a week.

The research was conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and published in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

In 2004, about 20 percent of U.S. adults were doing strength-training at least twice a week, up slightly from the late 1990s, when about 18 percent of adults were.

The study, however, found that younger women improved the most. About 17.5 percent worked out twice a week during 2004, up from 14.5 percent in 1998. Men, on the contrary, held steady at around 21.5 percent.

Ashley Nelson, a second-year graduate student in physical therapy, said the motivation behind her workouts is the fact that she has to be in shape for her job.

“I feel like I need to be strong for my profession since I am going into therapy school,” said Nelson, who works out five times a week. “It’s only right that I practice what I preach.”

The leaders of the study said the desire for a better-looking body, along with worries about bone loss, contributed to the trend.

Magazines celebrating women’s bodies, such as Oxygen and Shape, are part of a cultural shift that has led more women to embrace weightlifting, some fitness experts said.

“I do read Shape magazine once in a while,” Nelson said. “It gives me ideas because working out can get boring without motivation.”

Mary Bohlig, director of Campus Recreation Services, said a change of environment could also positively influence women’s workout habits.

“In my perspective, where you work out contributes a lot to how often you do it,” she said. “Moving the weight room to an open area like the Field House has made a difference.”

Use of the Field House by all U students, not just females, was up almost 50 percent last year.

Part of the success was because of the $100,000 free-weight set that was added to the Field House last fall.

The U.S. government has set a public health goal that by 2010, at least 30 percent of American adults will be doing strength-training at least twice a week.