Strength And Conditioning, Health
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Why You Should Lift Weights
Many people who exercise regularly focus exclusively on cardio.
In the past, I was one of those people. For more than a decade, I worked out just about every day, but my workout always consisted of a 30-minute run in the morning.
This daily run produced terrific mental and physical benefits, and I assumed it was all I needed to maintain my health.
I thought lifting weights was only for gym rats and muscle heads obsessed with vanity.
I was mistaken.
Now, don't get me wrong — aerobic exercise is incredibly important for health and longevity, benefiting everything from your cardiovascular system to your immune function to your brainpower.
But cardio alone is not sufficient for optimal health.
A recent study was conducted comparing aerobic activity and strength training. Its purpose was to determine the relative association between exercise and lifespan. In the look at the link between physical activity and mortality, close to half a million adults in America were participants.
Follow-ups in the study were conducted after 9 years, revealing that the greatest survival benefits were enjoyed by people who engaged in both aerobic and strength training.
The Activity Guidelines for Americans call for at least 75 minutes of vigorous or 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week—or an equal blending of both. Also reinforcing the importance of muscle strengthening—moderate or greater intensity—is recommended by the guidelines two days or more each week.
The combination of aerobic and strength training as the guidelines suggest the study found, was associated with 40% lower all-cause mortality.
Standing alone, people who only followed the aerobic routine got a 29% reduction in risk of death and those just doing strength training were at an 11% reduction.
Adding strength training to aerobics is even better as it's shown that strength training has been shown to especially protect against chronic lower respiratory tract diseases, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.
However, among the 479,856 US adults included in the study, only 15.9% (76,384) fully met the guidelines of combined aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities. That means there is a huge opportunity for most Americans to reduce their risk of dying simply by exercising a bit more.
We’re talking about an average of only 30 minutes per day. That’s only 3% of your waking hours.
Most people know how to get in some aerobic exercise, with activities such as brisk walking, jogging, cycling, or swimming.
But strength training can be a bit more mysterious. The reality is you don’t need to go to a gym or lift heavy weights to work out your muscles.
Simple bodyweight exercises such as push-ups, pull-ups, burpees, squats, sit-ups, and planks can be just as effective for strength training.
You don’t need a gym membership or expensive equipment, although I have found an adjustable set of home dumbbells to be a great investment, especially during these recent stay-at-home months.
My aerobic workouts these days include a rotation of running, walking, rowing, tennis, squash, and yoga. My strength training consists of one home weightlifting session and one bodyweight workout per week. In addition to the long-term health benefits, I find strength training improves my mood and confidence daily.
Overall, a great formula to maximize health and longevity is to exercise 6 days per week. Do aerobic exercise on 4 of those days, for just 30 minutes per day at a moderate intensity. Do strength training on your other 2 days, lifting weights, or doing bodyweight exercises.
It doesn’t take much exercise to drastically reduce your chances of dying, including all the chronic diseases that precede it.
Combining aerobic exercise with strength training will help to prolong your life and make it more enjoyable along the way.