Six Reasons to Weight Train
Thirty years ago the phrase
“weight training” caused one to conjure up images of a few unusual young men
inflicting various methods of self-torture upon themselves. The elderly were told they would have a
heart attack if they pursued such an endeavor, not to mention the confused,
non-understanding looks they would have to endure at the mention of such a
As 2004 arrives on the
calendar the benefits of weight training are being touted not only for
athletes, but also (possibly most importantly) for America’s aging
population. Researchers are telling us
that the practice of weight training possesses the power to drastically lower
the incidence of the greatest causes of death and suffering in this country.
Here are 6 reasons why you
can’t afford not to weight train:
- Heart Disease: A study appearing in the Journal
of the American Medical Association showed that men who weight
train for at least 30 minutes per week have a 23% reduction in coronary
artery disease, which is the most common type of heart disease.[i] Another study found that men who
exercise for at least 2 hours per week have a 60% lower risk of
having a heart attack! [ii]
- Depression and Mood: Strength training has been shown to alleviate depression and
anxiety to an extent comparable to drug therapy, but without the side
[iv] Strength training is a potent stimulus
for the release of mood elevating hormones. It regulates our body chemistry, gets our energy moving, and
contributes to a positive body image.
Chronic aches and pains are alleviated and we feel strong,
competent, and able.
- Arthritis: A recent study on people
with arthritis of the knee found that strength training led to a 43%
decrease in pain and a 44% increase in function.[v] Other
studies have demonstrated similar findings.[vi] Muscles support joints and guide their
movements. This cushioning and
guidance also protects healthy joints from developing arthritis. People with painful arthritis often
fear that weight training will further damage their joints. The truth is that exercise should be a
first line of treatment.
- Type 2 Diabetes: Muscles
are the main storehouse of glucose in the body. The muscle loss often associated with aging means that not
as much glucose can be stored.
This can cause blood glucose levels to become chronically elevated
resulting in type 2 diabetes. Research
done in individuals with type 2 diabetes has shown that weight training
alone leads to better glucose control and less need for medication.[vii]
addition, weight training is an excellent long-term method of weight
control, and obesity is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Ten pounds of muscle burns 300-500
calories per day at rest!
5. Osteoporosis: Bones grow according to the stresses we
place upon them. During weight training
the bones are stressed both by the weights used and by the pulling of the
muscles. Normally we see a decline in
bone density after menopause, but individuals who participate in regular
strength training can actually increase their bone density.[ix] The gains made in bone density are only
slightly less than those seen with hormone replacement therapy, but without the
side effects of increased rates of cancer, heart disease, stroke, and
- Independent Living: One of
the greatest predictors of independent living is muscle strength. This means that the stronger you are,
the less likely you are to need assistance such as nursing homes or
in-home-care as you age.[xi]
This may be the single greatest reason for you to strength train. Many people fear being dependant upon
others at the end of their lives.
Strength training will not only extend your life, but will give you
the independence to enjoy it!
As we enter the New Year I
encourage to take stock of your current health and to look into your
future. Paint a picture of yourself 20
or 30 years from now. Imagine yourself in
a wheelchair, having forgotten whether you’ve taken your 8 different
medications for your osteoporosis, heart disease, diabetes, arthritic pain, and
depression (who wouldn’t be depressed?) – each with its own host of side
effects. Now imagine yourself vibrant
and healthy, enjoying your retirement while continuing to be of service to your
fellow man, strong in body and mind.
Think it’s impossible? Ask Jack
Lalanne, he’s 89 and loving it. The
choice is simple—set aside 30-45 minutes 2-3 times per week for one of the most
important health-promoting practices you can engage in—strength training.
[i] Tanasescu M, Leitzmann MF, Rimm EB, Willett WC,
Stampfer MJ, Hu FB. Exercise Type and
Intensity in Relation to Coronary Heart Disease in Men. JAMA.
JC. Exercise and Heart Disease. Clin
Cornerstone. 3(5):1-7, 2001.
© 2001 Excerpta Medica, Inc.
[iii] Singh NA, Clements KM, Singh MA. The efficacy of exercise as a
long-term antidepressant in elderly subjects: a randomized, controlled trial. Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological
Sciences and Medical Sciences. 2001 Aug;56(8):M497-504.
[iv] Timonen L, Rantanen T, Timonen TE, Sulkava R. Effects of a group-based exercise program on
the mood state of frail older women after discharge from hospital. Int J
Geriatr Psychiatry. 2002 Dec;17(12):1106-11.
[v] Baker KR, Nelson ME, Felson DT, Layne JE, Sarno R, Roubenoff R. The efficacy of home based progressive
strength training in older adults with knee osteoarthritis: a randomized
controlled trial. J Rheumatol. 2001 Jul;28(7):1655-65.
[vi] Hurley MV. The role of muscle weakness in the pathogenesis of
osteoarthritis. Rheum Dis Clin North
Am. 1999 May;25(2):283-98,
[vii] Castaneda C, Layne JE, Munoz-Orians L, Gordon PL, Walsmith J, Foldvari
M, Roubenoff R, Tucker KL, Nelson ME. A randomized controlled trial of
resistance exercise training to improve glycemic control in older adults with
type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2002 Dec;25(12):2335-41.
[viii] Willey KA, Singh MA. Battling insulin resistance in elderly obese
people with type 2 diabetes: bring on the heavy weights. Diabetes Care.
[ix] Cussler EC, Lohman TG, Going
SB, Houtkooper LB, Metcalfe LL, Flint-Wagner HG, Harris RB, Teixiera PJ.
Weight Lifted in Strength Training Predicts Bone Change in
Postmenopausal Women. Medicine &
Science in Sports & Exercise. 35(1): 10-17; Jan 2003.
[x] Kemmler WG, Engelke K, Lauber D, Weineck J, Hensen J, Kalender
WA. Exercise effects on fitness and
bone mineral density in early postmenopausal women: 1-year EFOPS results. Medicine & Science in Sports &
Exercise. 34(12): 2115-2123; Dec 2002.
[xi] Marcell TJ. Sarcopenia:
causes, consequences, and preventions. J
Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2003 Oct;58(10):M911-6.
[xii] Bassey EJ, Fiatarone MA, O'Neill EF, Kelly M, Evans
WJ, Lipsitz LA. Leg extensor power and
functional performance in very old men and women. Clin Sci (Lond). 1992 Mar;82(3):321-7.