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Why Strength Train?

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We’re hitting week two of the six week strength training focus at the gym this week, how are you doing? There are a lot of benefits with strength training beyond just getting strong. When I saw this list from 180 Degrees of Health, thought the emphasis on some of the ‘other’ reasons to lift were food for thought. There are citations & notations in the article and you’ll have to use the link above if you want more details/depth on those.

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Strength Training can reduce your body fat, even if you don’t lose weight.

Strength training builds muscle, and if you increase your muscle mass while maintaining your weight, your body fat will drop proportionally. We’re all familiar with the aesthetic result of reduced body fat, but there are significant objective health benefits as well! Excess body fat produces estrogen1 and may contribute to estrogen dominance symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain, infertility, depression, and, some say, metabolic dysfunction and even cancer. Body fat also produces pro-inflammatory cytokines and hormones that drive chronic inflammation.2 More on the risks of chronic inflammation in a moment.

Strength training can mitigate the pain and dysfunction of arthritis.
Both Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis have been shown to respond favorably to strength training protocols. Just 8 weeks of strength training can produce significant improvements in pain, function, walking time and muscle torque.3 Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis can experience similar, significant improvements in pain, strength and fatigue.4

Strength training can increase your bone mineral density and slow or prevent osteoporosis.
As we age, our bones can begin to demineralize and weaken. Hip fracture is a leading indirect cause of death in older women, and weakened bones are far more likely to fracture in a fall. Strength training, by stressing the bones, can significantly slow or even prevent the process of bone deterioration and it’s subsequent risks.5, 6

Strength training can increase your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR).
Your RMR is the amount of energy your body expends at rest. Strength training, by increasing your muscle mass (which burns more energy at rest than fat mass does), raises your metabolic rate. One small study done on older adults showed a 15% increase in RMR after only 12 weeks of strength training.7, 8 A 15% increase in energy expenditure can translate to 300 calories a day for an average adult woman. The effect on younger adults would presumably be even greater, as younger people build muscle faster due to higher levels of human growth hormone.9  The immediate benefit of all this is pretty obvious (you get to eat more food to maintain your weight. More food: YAY!), but the more significant benefit is that by eating more food, you provide your body with more nutrition. More protein, more micronutrients, more of all the things your body needs to stay healthy and strong. Food is good! More food is better! As Matt Stone would say, Eat The Food!

Strength training can increase your insulin sensitivity.10, 11, 12, 13 Exercise in any form has been shown again and again to improve insulin sensitivity by altering the cells’ ability to respond to insulin and to metabolize glucose, but strength training, in addition to the benefits of the actual physical activity it provides, also works by increasing the body’s total fat free mass, thereby bolstering the body’s glycogen storage ‘tank’.14 In other words, more muscle gives your body more space to put glycogen, so it doesn’t end up running amok in your bloodstream.

Strength training can reduce chronic low-grade inflammation.
Inflammation has been associated with increased risk of a whole host of diseases from heart disease to diabetes to cancer. Strength training can favorably impact levels of C-reactive protein and adiponectin, two biomarkers of inflammation.15 This effect is most likely due to a decrease in body fat levels.

Strength training also has numerous Quality of Life benefits that shouldn’t be dismissed…

Strength training is a potent pain killer. One study showed a significant increase in subjects’ pain threshold after a session of resistance exercises16, and the ability of strength training to reduce chronic neck and shoulder pain has been well documented.17, 18

Strength training, like all forms of exercise, can relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety.19, 20 This is likely due to a combination of factors: increased ease of accomplishing activities of daily living, less pain, increased self-efficacy and confidence, improved body image, and better hormonal function leading to improved health.

Strength training can slow cognitive decline.21 This is likely due to improved glucose control and insulin sensitivity22 (you’ve probably heard Alzheimers’ Disease referred to as Type 3 Diabetes due to the suggested link between metabolic dysfunction and cognitive decline).

Strength training teaches you how your body works mechanically. Understanding how your body moves and how to utilize the power of momentum to do work translates to a real world ability to accomplish day-to-day tasks with greater ease and efficacy. For instance: squatting in the gym taught me how to climb stairs without pain, a skill I share with my senior clients who struggle with arthritis.

Strength training makes you look hot.
Or at the very least, it gives you a perkier butt. This will make your partner very happy.

I know not everyone is enthusiastic about strength training, and some of my women clients are downright resistant to it in the beginning. It doesn’t take much time in the weight room, however, to reap some serious benefits. Just two sessions a week, consisting of just a few compound exercises, can lead to major improvements in functionality, health, and quality of life. You’ll get stronger, age slower, and be able to eat more. Win, win, win!

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