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January 20, 2017

Health Benefits of Weight Lifting

woman dumbbells

The health benefits of weight training have been proven in study after study, yet people, especially Baby Boomers, continue to remain largely inactive and susceptible to a host of preventable diseases and conditions.

Before we get to the list of great benefits you will receive if you do it, we need to address the question of why you aren’t already.

Why?

Obesity has been at epidemic proportions for some time and is getting worse.  Overall, 38 percent of Americans are now obese — 40% among women — and the crisis is growing among our children. Plus, another third of US adults are considered overweight. That’s the majority of the population.

Doctors don’t fare tons better than the rest of us. According to the Physicians Health Study (2007), 40% of doctors were overweight and 23% were obese. A majority.

Global Advances in Health and Medicine points out:

“While physicians are less likely than average Americans to be overweight or obese, they are not immune to our national obesogenic tendencies. Indeed, as a medical oncologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, Edward Creagan, MD, so aptly put it, ‘More of us commit suicide with a fork than any other instrument.’ Physician obesity rates likely have radically important implications.”

Doctors are not prepared to help

Doctors are not properly trained in exercise or nutrition. Our medical system is built around a “fix it with a pill” approach that relies on medicating us when a health issue arises.

So our exercise health is pretty much left up to us to figure out. You can change your body and dramatically improve your health, but don’t expect your doctor to lead this effort for you.

And the fitness industry is filled with tons of conflicting information and baffle-gab sales pitches. It’s enough to discourage anyone.

We need to own this

It’s clear the problem stems from us eating too much and exercising too little. Genetics is often used as an easy excuse, but researchers say the fact that each new generation has become progressively fatter than the last for the past 30 years rules out genetics as the cause.

It’s on us and how we live: staring into video screens all day, texting, gaming and posting as we eat too many of the wrong foods while sitting on the couch.

Heart disease, diabetes and cancer are among the diseases associated with obesity. Obesity-related diabetes alone “will break the bank of our healthcare system,” according to Dr. James O. Hill, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, as quoted by WebMD.

Clearly this battle is being lost

What could turn the tide?

Weight lifting. Strength training. Call it resistance training if you prefer. It’s all the same thing: using resistance against your muscles to make them stronger. It can be done with body weight, inexpensive resistance bands, free weights or machines, at home or in a gym.

Here are the benefits. This can change your life:

  • Reduce obesity and manage your weight. Strength training is better than cardio at burning calories. While cardio burns slightly more while you’re doing it, strength training burns calories for hours after you’ve finished. Plus, muscle burns calories even while you’re resting.

Building muscle and reducing fat will help protect you from these diseases and conditions:

  • Sarcopenia – the age-related loss of muscle that rob you of half your muscle mass over time and leave you frail and weak
  • Diabetes – recent studies show strength training can actually prevent Type 2 diabetes and can better manage the disease for those who already have it, according to Web MD
  • Heart Disease – the American Heart Association recommends strength training at least 2 days per week
  • Arthritis – the Arthritis Foundation recommends circuit strength training
  • Back Pain – can be reduced by strengthening core muscles, like the glutes, according to Web MD
  • Anxiety and Depression – studies have shown strength training reduces both

On that last point, it’s worth noting that many people are coping with anxiety and depression. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America says 40 million people suffer from Anxiety and more than 15 people will experience clinical Depression annually.

Being overweight is no fun. Feeling strong and in better shape feels good. I realize that’s oversimplification, but honestly, if you are fighting those things, strength training can be an avenue to a happier outlook. The goal isn’t to be perfect but to feel better about your health and appearance.

 Consider these points from the Mayo Clinic:

Regular exercise probably helps ease depression in a number of ways, which may include:

  • Releasing feel-good brain chemicals that may ease depression (neurotransmitters, endorphins and endocannabinoids)
  • Reducing immune system chemicals that can worsen depression
  • Increasing body temperature, which may have calming effects

Regular exercise has many psychological and emotional benefits, too. It can help you:

  • Gain confidence. Meeting exercise goals or challenges, even small ones, can boost your self-confidence. Getting in shape can also make you feel better about your appearance.
  • Take your mind off worries. Exercise is a distraction that can get you away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed anxiety and depression.
  • Get more social interaction. Exercise and physical activity may give you the chance to meet or socialize with others. Just exchanging a friendly smile or greeting as you walk around your neighborhood can help your mood.
  • Cope in a healthy way. Doing something positive to manage anxiety or depression is a healthy coping strategy. Trying to feel better by drinking alcohol, dwelling on how badly you feel, or hoping anxiety or depression will go away on its own can lead to worsening symptoms.

We can win this fight!

Clearly, there are overwhelmingly positive reasons to take up strength training.

But studies have shown that some people are intimidated to join a gym, or can’t afford it. If you can afford it, I would highly recommend trying one of these gyms out

If you can’t join a gym, here’s a post I wrote on how you can get started with a Simple Workouts at home using inexpensive Resistance Bands as your gym gear. The article also shows dumbbells and and a bench, but those aren’t necessary to get you started. You could follow this workout plan at the gym, too.

I hope, especially if you are dealing with overweight or obesity, that you will give this a try. It really can change your life.

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or drop me a line: Brian@BoomerMuscle.com. I’d like to help you get started!

 

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Brian

I've been resistance training for nearly 50 years. As a younger man, I used to believe in using ever-increasing amounts of weight. Until one day in my mid-50's, my aching joints could not take the punishment any more. I had to develop a new way of working out that was effective, but free of pain. I found it. It works great. I'd like to share it with you.

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