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Strength Training – The Fountain of Youth
In the sixteenth century, the famous explorer Ponce de Leone set out to discover the Fountain of Youth. He wholeheartedly searched for a panacea that could miraculously restore life, and set out on a voyage to pursue his dreams. But as we all know, his quest proved futile; there was no fountain of youth. Alas, poor Ponce passed away at the age of 61, looking perfectly fit for his age.
Nearly 400 years later, people are still searching for a magic youth potion, and they’ll pay almost anything for a product that promises to turn back time. Shameless peddlers continue to capitalize on this insane desire, peddling everything from bee pollen to rhino horn as youth-enhancing formulas. Sadly, these products are nothing more than snake oil, and those who are scammed into buying them end up disappointed.
However, there is one tried and true remedy that can really reverse the aging process: strength training. Yes, lifting weights is the answer to rejuvenation! Without a doubt, no other activity has a greater impact on your overall health and well-being. Of course, cardio is important. It regulates the cardiovascular system and helps to speed up caloric expenditure. All things considered, however, nothing beats the myriad benefits that can come from a dedicated strength training program.
Unfortunately, some people still think that strength training is reserved for strong bodies with bulging biceps and six-pack abs. But rest assured, pumping iron isn’t just for bodybuilders: it’s for everyone. No matter your age or current physical condition, lifting weights can help improve your quality of life. If you don’t believe this fact, consider what strength training can do:
Increased strength: After age 35, sedentary people can lose up to 1% of their muscle mass each year. As a result, their ability to perform everyday tasks, such as lifting packages or moving furniture, gradually decreases. As they become older adults, just getting out of bed can be a real chore. Doctors refer to this condition as sarcopenia—the progressive wasting of muscle tissue. Weight training is the only activity that can counteract sarcopenia, help regain lost muscle and restore strength. Positive results were seen even among older adults, regardless of previous training experience. Research has shown that sedentary nursing home patients (ages 80 to 90) can increase their strength levels by 50% in a matter of weeks when they undergo a structured weightlifting program! Therefore, specialized strength training can help preserve the golden years rather than debilitating them.
increase bone density: Healthy bones are often taken for granted. As with muscle, people lose up to 1% of bone density per year after age 30 and double it at menopause. Ultimately, this can lead to osteoporosis—a debilitating disease that deteriorates bone tissue from the inside out. Osteoporosis is not uncommon, affecting more than 25 million people each year. In severe cases, bones can become so brittle that they can snap with a simple sneeze! Bone loss can only be counteracted by regular weight-bearing exercise. By promoting the formation of new bone mineral, bone density gradually increases. Osteoporosis can be completely reversed over time, resulting in strong, healthy bones.
boost metabolism: Muscle is the most metabolically active body tissue. Research shows that for every pound of muscle you gain, your body burns 50 more calories per day at rest. To put it in perspective, by adding just 5 lbs of muscle (a feat achievable with months of dedicated strength training), you’re burning 250 more calories per day, 7 days a week! In contrast, aerobic exercise is primarily about burning calories during athletic performance. Only minor carryover effects and little to no effect on resting metabolic rate. In fact, when calories are restricted, aerobic exercise actually causes catabolism (breakdown) of muscle tissue, which slows down your metabolic rate. All things considered, the evidence is clear: strength training is more beneficial than cardiovascular exercise for achieving long-term weight management.
promotes better posture: Your posture says a lot about you. Poor posture can slack you off, leading to a tired, haggard appearance. This can have a profound effect on how other people see you and can make you look older than you really are. Instead, the upright posture projects a youthful energy that transcends age. With your head held high, you project an aura of confidence that command respect in your professional and social endeavors. Fortunately, targeted strength training can do wonders for your posture. Stabilize the shoulder blades (scapulae) and restore postural integrity by focusing on the muscles of the shoulder girdle (teres major, rhomboids, trapezius, etc.). Other conditions such as lordosis (sloping back) and kyphosis (hunchback) can also improve with focused effort.
improve self image: As the saying goes, “When you look good, you feel good.” There is no doubt that your appearance has a major impact on your psychology. There’s no better way to transform your body than through regular weight training. While aerobic exercise helps shed excess body fat, it has little effect on muscle tone. Instead, weight training helps to sculpt your muscles for a slender figure that exudes sex appeal. Whether you’re young or old, skinny or overweight, a few months of pumping iron will put your body in good shape. Inevitably, your self-esteem will improve, leading to renewed confidence in your abilities.
relieve pressure: Strength training is very therapeutic. It provides an outlet for your aggression, allowing you to channel stress and relieve anxiety. Plus, when you train, your brain starts secreting endorphins, opioid chemical messengers that promote “high-intensity exercise.” Until recently, endorphins were thought to be only associated with cardiovascular exercise. However, newly published research shows that after strength training, endorphin levels increase by more than 60%. As a result, high-intensity weight training can leave you feeling revitalized, even refreshed, and your mind unblocked.
improve sports performance: More and more people maintain an active lifestyle in their golden years. Golf, tennis, skiing, and other activities are becoming more and more old-school. Whether you’re a weekend warrior or an aspiring pro, weight training is one of the best ways to improve your athletic performance. In fact, every sport requires good muscle strength, and a targeted training program can be developed to maximize this effect. Significant improvements in performance can be seen by training in a sport-specific manner.
In conclusion, if you are not currently participating in a strength training program, start today. Don’t wait! The sooner you start, the better off you will be. It’s the closest thing we have to the fountain of youth. Remember, it’s never too late to start.
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