“I don’t want to feel sick anymore. I want to feel better!” That was my constant lament during the years of suffering with non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Those of you who have suffered from any debilitating illness understand the meaning behind those words. However, since engaging in a daily walking program for 8 years, radically changing my diet (paleo for 3 years & gluten free for 12 years), forcing myself to get proper rest, and reducing stress, I have recovered significantly.
I now have newfound energy and no longer suffer from constant muscle fatigue. My old lament is gone. I do feel much better, and I am extremely thankful for that. However, I am still suffering from the aftereffects of a prolonged illness. Because I was unable to exercise my upper body and core for so long, I ended up losing a good deal of muscle mass and strength. My shoulder joints also became very weak. Even though I felt much better, my body was still weak and was refusing to do the things I now felt well enough to do. If I wanted to get back to living a productive life, I would have to get stronger. Getting stronger meant adding another element to my health plan.
Three months ago, in order to help my body continue to recover, I began a resistance training program (also known as strength training). Here is a good source explaining what resistance training is and how to get started. My main goal was to gain strength and build up my muscles. What I didn’t realize though when I began resistance training was how important this missing piece of the puzzle was for my over all well-being.
Resistance Training Improves Muscle Mass
Last week, I wrote about how a sedentary lifestyle can accelerate age-related muscle mass loss (sarcopenia) and how resistance training, if continued, can slow it down and improve muscle health well into old age. See my in-depth article here. This was my main reason to start lifting weights. Resistance training, however, has so many additional benefits for our health.
Let me share some more ways in which resistance training can help your body and well-being. I know I promised last week that I would share my workout routine this week, but these benefits are so amazing that I wanted to mention them first.
Resistance Training Helps to Build Strong Bones
If we don’t stay active after the age of 40, a combination of age-related changes, a sedentary life-style, and poor nutrition can work together to reduce bone mass at the rate of 1% per year. This loss of bone mass is known as osteoporosis. As bones become more fragile, the danger for fracture becomes more acute even after minor stress.
Consider these statistics from the U.S. American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) concerning osteoporosis:
- In the United States alone, 10 million people have osteoporosis, and 18 million more are at risk of developing the disease.
- Eighty percent of people who suffer from osteoporosis are females.
- Each year, 1.5 million fractures are attributed to osteoporosis, including 350,000 hip fractures.
- Seventy percent of those suffering fractures from osteoporosis do not return to their pre-injury status.
These statistics are expected to get worse. There is hope, however. Research has clearly shown that resistance training can help to reduce the pace of bone loss. Some studies have even demonstrated that such training can actually help to build bone. See here.
The AAOS reports, “For older adults, prolonged intense resistance training can increase muscle strength, lean muscle mass, and bone mass (emphasis mine) more consistently than does aerobic exercise alone.” They go on to say, “The consensus in the literature, including recommendations by the American College of Sports Medicine, advocates for a combined physical activity regimen for all adults encompassing resistance, endurance, flexibility, and balance training.” So if we want healthier, stronger bones, then resistance training is one way to achieve them.
Resistance Training Helps to Control Glucose Levels
It is estimated that 29 million Americans suffer from diabetes, and an additional 86 million have pre-diabetes. These numbers are staggering. Again, resistance training can help. Researchers have found that resistance training can improve glucose tolerance and reduce insulin responses to oral glucose. See here and here.
Resistance Training Helps Keep the Mind Sharp
As you age, what would you fear more: diminished physical ability or a loss of mental capability? A poll conducted in 2005 revealed that 62% of Americans feared losing mental capacity as they aged as opposed to losing physical ability. Another poll found that 60% of adults are very or somewhat worried about memory loss.
The good news is that the brain is a dynamic organ, and there are ways to increase its function especially in area of cognition. Researchers have found that people who suffer from mild cognitive impairment can experience improvement with resistance training. Several studies have shown that resistance training improves both memory and language skills. A more recent study at the Georgia Institute of Technology also showed that resistance training is effective in increasing long-term memory in general. See here. So if we want to help our memory and boost our cognitive skills, resistance training should definitely be a part of our overall health plan.
Resistance Training Produces a Better Sense of Well-Being
Not only does resistance training help us physically, it also does wonders for our emotional and psychological states. Researchers have found that resistance training helps increase both self esteem and self confidence. Resistance training is going to make us stronger, healthier, and give us the confidence to do things we didn’t think we could do before. Legendary strength coach Mark Rippetoe once remarked: “Strong people are harder to kill than weak people and more useful in general.” I’m in for that! Further, studies have suggested that resistance training can also help people suffering from depression and anxiety.
Resistance Training Encourages Fat Loss
When I first started to train I had no idea there would be this many significant health benefits. Oh wait, there are more. See here. Having learned that I can improve not only my physical health but my mental energy as well, I have even more of an incentive to make resistance training a main part of my exercise routine. Think of the positive impact resistance training can have on your personal lives and professional careers.
I hope I have shed some light on the benefits of resistance training. Obviously, it has a lot more to offer than just looking good. Not that that is not a good reason to do it too. Of course, if you are considering resistance training, always do so with your doctor’s approval. This article by the ACSM has some good questions to consider before beginning.
I haven’t forgotten my promise to post my work out schedule, and I will definitely share it next time.
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