We know. You don’t want bulging biceps or thunderous thighs. But that doesn’t mean you should skip the weight room. Lifting weights has some surprising perks that you can’t get from cardio alone. Research shows that just two strength-training sessions a week can help you burn more fat, sculpt lean muscles, feel more energized, and so much more. Ladies, here are a few reasons why you should start lifting today!

1. You’ll Burn More Calories – Although cardio burns more calories than strength training during your 30-minute sweat session, lifting weights burns more overall. It all goes back to building muscle. It takes more energy (calories) for your body to maintain muscle cells than it does fat cells. So by lifting weights to add more muscle mass, you’ll boost your metabolism and turn your body into a more efficient fat-burning machine.

2. You’ll Maintain Muscle – Research shows that between the ages of 30 and 70, women lose an average of 22% of their total muscle. What’s even more upsetting is that over time, the muscle void is often filled with fat. One pound of fat takes up 18 percent more space than one pound of muscle, so even if the number on the scale goes down, your pants size might go up.

3. You’ll Build Stronger Bones – Lifting weights can be your best defense against osteoporosis – a disease affecting 10 million Americans, 80% of which are women. When you lift weights, you engage muscles that pull on the tendons which, in turn, pull on the bones. This added stress makes bones stronger.

4. Your Heart Will Be Healthier – It may seem counterintuitive that weight training can help lower blood pressure, since blood pressure actually goes up during and immediately after your strength session. But research shows it can be a powerful way to protect your ticker in the long run. As muscles contract, blood is pushed back up to the heart. The heart then recirculates this oxygenated blood back to the muscles, which keeps the cardiovascular system in better working order.

5. Your Diet Will Improve – Exercise helps your brain stick to a diet plan. One research study showed that out of 169 overweight adults, those who didn’t follow a 3 hour a week training regimen ate more than their allotted 1,500 calories a day. The reverse was also true – sneaking snacks sabotaged their workouts. Both diet and exercise likely remind you to stay on track, aiding in your weight-loss goals.