Forgotten Benefits of Weightlifting

Forgotten Benefits of Weightlifting

Pumping Iron - A Lost Practice with Great Benefits

I lift weights two to three times per week. But I no longer lift to look like the Hulk, like in college. I aim to retain muscle mass, strengthen my overall body for the activities I enjoy, and avoid injuries. So, I spend at least half of my workout on my core and legs, areas I never concentrated on in my 20s and 30s when I wanted to max out my bulk. I couple weightlifting with cardio activities - running and singles tennis a few times weekly. I have noticed that weightlifting as an exercise has lost favor with more modern activities over the last 20 years. Given the benefits of weightlifting, I thought it would be worthwhile to discuss them and why the art is still a great form of workout today.

Slowing Muscle Decline in Men

Even before 50, muscle mass naturally starts to dwindle, a phenomenon known as sarcopenia. Men over fifty lose more than 1% muscle mass per year. This steady decline is why men at 70 typically have lost most chest muscle tone. But weight training helps fight this tide. Challenging your muscles with progressive resistance triggers muscle protein synthesis, coaxing fibers to rebuild and strengthen. You also stay energized and metabolically efficient in this process, clawing back your youthfulness.

In Women, Strong Bones for the Long Haul

While osteoporosis might seem like a distant threat in your thirties and forties, bone health is like a retirement account: the earlier you start investing, the stronger your foundation will be as you age. About 13% of women in their 50's develop osteoporosis in the US. And the percentage jumps to 70% by age 80. Weight training, mainly exercises that work major muscle groups, such as squats, lunges, push-ups, rows, and overhead presses, stresses the skeleton and boosts bone mineral density, making your bones denser and more resistant to fractures. This is especially crucial for women approaching menopause when bone loss accelerates. So, consider weight training has a role for women in their 40s and 50s just as it does for men.

The Mental Muscles of Weight Training

As an early riser, I typically work out for about 30 to 45 minutes in the morning. This is when I have my highest energy level throughout the day. About halfway through my workout, I typically feel a pleasant "workout buzz" that energizes my brain from any slumber not lifted from my coffee. Studies have shown that lifting weights can be a potent mood booster, reducing stress and anxiety. A great combination of a challenging workout, the surge of endorphins, and the increased confidence from feeling stronger all contribute to a happier, more balanced mental state. 

Taking the First Step: Building Your Weight Training Habit

Starting weight training can feel intimidating, but the first step is the hardest, like many things. I prefer to work out in the solitary area of my basement and have crafted a routine from many YouTube videos, selecting those that fit my bodily needs. But this solo workout might not be for everyone. I know many people who prefer a trainer for guidance, motivation, or to ensure commitment to the workout. A personal trainer can help you craft a safe and effective routine tailored to your fitness level and goals. Whether you choose the gym, group, home equipment, or even bodyweight exercises, the key is to start gradually and listen to your body. Focus on proper form and controlled movements, gradually increasing the intensity and weight as you gain strength. Consistency is key – aim for two to three sessions per week, allowing adequate rest for muscle recovery.

Why Has Weightlifting Gone Out of Style?

Pumping iron has given way too many other forms of exercise. Today, many more exercise options exist, including yoga, CrossFit training, and even tai chi. While all these are great forms of exercise, none offer the muscle mass increase and related benefits of weightlifting. This muscle mass increase specifically fights against muscle mass loss in adults, which is tough to match with other forms of exercise. This article does not diminish other forms of exercise, as each has its own merits. This article merely reminds us that weightlifting has unique benefits that seem to be overlooked in recent years.

Weight training in your thirties and forties is not just about aesthetics (although this is undoubtedly a benefit) but about building a foundation for a stronger, healthier future. It is an investment in your physical and mental well-being, a shield against injuries. So, ditch the doubts, embrace the iron, and watch as you improve your physique, strength, and mindset. 



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