Unpopular truth: YOU NEED TO PRIORITIZE STRENGTH TRAINING FOR REASONS OTHER THAN ALTERING BODY COMPOSTION , MUSCLE GROWTH AND IMPROVING STRENGTH.
Resistance training is so much more than a modality to build strength and alter body composition. It’s a modality that improves your quality of life, and increases vitality and longevity. Resistance training cures you of the bad and leaves you with the good while physically transforming your body. It empowers you. It provides you with the knowledge that you’re bettering yourself. It keeps you coming back for more and provides long term sustainable results that contribute to your heath and well-being.
As the American lifestyle became more sedentary and the rise of decreased health and longevity as grown over the past decade the promotion of physical activity has become more encouraged. At this point, I think we all know that exercise is crucial to living a heathy life. It decreases risk of disease, improves sleep, reduces stress and the list goes on. However, the initial emphasis was placed on aerobic training as the primary method for weight loss and benefits towards health. Aerobic training is great for metabolic health (i.e. reduce stress, insulin sensitivity, blood pressure, lipids) and does play a part in maintaining and optimizing good health. Implementing a combination of aerobic and resistance training is optimal and advised. However, when you use resistance training as a primary method for exercise you’re directly working against one key factor: the natural progression of aging.
As we age there are specific factors that interfere with our ability to maintain aesthetics and optimize our health (hormones, fat storage shift, sarcopenia/muscle loss, osteopenia/bone strength, decreased elasticity and collagen production). It’s an inevitable part of life that our bodies are going to change, internally and externally. So the question relies heavily on how to maintain a heathy body composition and simultaneously contribute to our health. When understand this it becomes easier to shift our efforts towards methods that reverse aging and improve these health factors.
We’re are seeing a paradigm shift towards resistance training as a primary exercise method. Over the past decade new research and studies are emerging with the benefits it can provide to improve our quality of life. The general population has started to realize that resistance training is more than building muscle and altering body composition, which is amazing.
The goal is to get your desire results but in a way that feels good by providing confidence, knowledge, energy, stamina and strength. I’ve outlined below specific factors that hold the most value towards moving well and feeling good, for as long as possible:
- Hormonal balance / influence (decreases fluctuations / optimize hormonal profile and fat storage). Several factors influence the balance of our hormones: aging, stress, nutrition, body composition, insulin resistance, to name a few. Resistance training creates hormonal changes that help both men and woman in building dense muscle tissue and assists with decreasing the shift in fat storage in problematic locations. Strength training can also help regulate sex hormones (testosterone and estrogen) when we age. In men, testosterone levels drop which can affect muscle growth, energy levels and sex drive. In woman, when you reach perimenopausal your estrogen levels are starting to fluctuate and are slowly decreasing. Once menopause takes place there is a significant drop in estrogen causing a shift in fat distribution viscerally (fat surrounding internal organs). Visceral fat is more damaging to your metabolic health compared to fat deposited in your arms or legs for example. In summary, if you want a healthy hormonal profile, strength training – independent of other lifestyle and nutritional changes – is a key component to balance and maintain dense tissue and eliminate problematic fat storage.
- Increases muscle tissue (decreases sarcopenia). Sarcopenia is progressive and generalized loss of muscle tissue. Starting around age 30-35 we start naturally decreasing muscle tissue and overall function of muscle tissue. On a more extreme scale physically inactive people lose 3% to 5% muscle mass every decade. Sarcopenia is inevitable due to aging but we want to slow the progression for reasons beyond appearance. The importance of maintaining muscle tissue is valuable for longevity by maintaining general strength, stamina, and posture. Additionally, muscle tissue plays a major role in determining your resting metabolic rate (RMR), which is how many calories you burn at rest. Your total resting metabolic rate accounts for 60-70% of your total body expenditure in non-active people, where fat is the body’s preferred energy source at rest. Increasing muscle size through resistance increases RMR, therefore increasing or sustaining fat-loss overtime, which again is more than maintaining healthy body fat but more increasing longevity and living comfortably.
- Increases Bone Density (decreases Osteopenia). Osteopenia is a loss of bone mass and weakening of your bones. The weakening of your bones increase your chances of developing osteoporosis. This bone disease causes fractures, stooped posture, pain and decreases quality of life. It is important to understand that osteoporosis is not a disease in a clinical sense, but a condition. Your bones are in a state of building until the ages 30-35, after that point we lose bone density. Yours bones can also be affected by genetics, sex hormones (que estrogen & hormone fluctuations above), physical activity, lifestyle and even medications. Similarly to muscle, bone is also a living tissue, constantly undergoing renewal, and it responds best when challenged through impact loading exercise to rebuild and become stronger. Resistance training is extremely valuable for building the density of your bones and becoming stronger. By loading the bone through a progression of strength and repetitive mechanical force the bone begins to remodel. This greatly reduces the risk of developing osteoporosis or bone weakening. Also, incorporating Vitamin D naturally or through supplementation is also valuable for prevention.
- Metabolic Health / Long term weight control. Only 12-15% of Americans are considered metabolically healthy. Metabolic health translates to many valuable health concepts that are transferrable to longevity and decreased risk of chronic disease. In order to be considered metabolically healthy this means having ideal levels of blood sugar, triglycerides, cholesterol, blood pressure and waist circumference. Your muscle cells will burn more calories than fat cells will. When you build muscle mass, you are also improving your metabolic health by boosting your resting metabolic rate. Increased muscle tissue and density in your skeletal system plays a vital part in metabolic health by regulating insulin, oxygen, blood, and improving detoxification.
- Optimize Fat Storage (decreases inflammation & visceral fat ). Excessive body fat (primarily viscerally) is associated with many risk factors such as elevated blood pressure, high cholesterol, increased insulin sensitivity and increased inflammation – these are the culprit to chronic disease. As we age peripheral fat tends to shift viscerally. There is countless studies stating increased fat in the abdominal cavity is the cause of underlying disease and decreased health in general. By implementing resistance training it can significantly decrease likelihood of visceral fat in older men and women. The emphasis is heavily on the decreased likely-hood of fat storage viscerally in pre and post menopausal woman (which is common due to drop in estrogen). By shifting fat away from the abdominal cavity it decreases inflammation, increases resting metabolic rate (RMR), improves insulin sensitivity, and enhances sympathetic activity.
As you can see there is a lot of similarities between these concepts. Each of our bodies systems are interconnected and dependent on each other. All of your body systems work together to keep you healthy. Your bones and muscle tissue work together to support and move your body freely and comfortably. What is good for one is often good for the other. Resistance training does just that by taping into these various body processes. It is a viable long-term method to prevent weight gain, deleterious changes in body composition and optimize your health in the process. You do not need to lift like a body builder or weightlifter to reap these benefits. Nor do you need to strength train six days a week. Implementing resistance training two times a week can bring positive change to your life. There is no better feeling than becoming stronger, fitter while optimizing your health and well-being. It’s never to later to start, and anyone at any fitness level can do it. So what are you waiting for?
In simple bullet form here is what I outlined above and what will improve:
- improve bone density
- improve joint & ligament health
- improve insulin sensitivity
- improve posture
- Improve balance
- improve sleep and energy levels
- improve sex drive
- improve self-esteem
- improve cognitive resources
- improves blood pressure
- improve metabolic health (increase RMR)
- improve muscle tissue (decrease sarcopenia)
- decrease visceral fat
- decrease inflammation