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Living A God-Glorifying Life Through Good Health.
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When I was growing up in the '50s and '60s, there was no obesity epidemic, and children were not developing old-age maladies such as heart disease. Cancer, Alzheimer's, and autism were virtually unheard of. Living a healthy lifestyle was a lot easier. More...

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Strength Training is For EVERYONE


Mention Strength training and many people conjure up huge powerlifters or weightlifters or maybe even bodybuilders in their minds. Nothing could be further from the truth. Strength training only implies an activity which builds strength or muscle power in an individual.

With the advent of labor-saving devices, strength training has become a necessary but neglected part of the 21st century. Next to nothing is done manually anymore. We don't have to open doors, car windows, climb stairs, scrub clothes, or dozens of other activities that my father and mother had to do with pure muscle power.

Don't get me wrong. I am not saying that there is anything inherently evil about labor-saving devices. There isn't. But unfortunately most people haven't compensated for the lack of the muscle stimulus that manual labor provides.

And what is the effect of neglecting to strength train? Obesity is climbing out of control with no end in sight. Many of our senior citizens are confined to nursing homes, or need some type of assisted living. Many of them wind up in nursing homes due to falls in which they have broken their hips.

Dementia is on the rise too. This is no more apparent than in the scary statistics about the projected rise in the development of Alzheimer's disease in the coming years.

You are probably asking yourself what does strength training, or I should say the lack thereof, have to do with Alzheimer's disease or obesity or breaking a hip? Unfortunately, much. I'll go into detail later.

Strength Training Is Invisible

Unlike bodybuilders or powerlifters, you can't look at an individual and tell if he or she strength trains. Strength training is invisible. Bodybuilders train for strength as well as for large muscles and a proportioned body. Powerlifters train for maximum lifts and many resemble bodybuilders.

On the other hand, a person can strength train and be 90 years old. But looking at that individual, you'd be hard pressed to realize he strength trains.

Strength training is not done in order to build huge muscles. Bodybuilders, weightlifters, and powerlifters all train differently and specifically towards their indiviual objectives.

Your objective in strength training is to strengthen bones, muscles, and your immune system. The training will allow you to function independently well beyond the years a typical person is active.

So, if fear that you'll become a muscle-bound anomally is holding you back--not to worry. What will happen though is that your body will become toned. Weak and flabby body parts will become hard muscle which you can flex.

Strength Training Is More Important Than Aerobic Training

Uh-oh! I may be opening a can of worms here. But hear me out. Aerobic or cardiovascular training is important, but strength training is its foundation.

In order to be mobile--walk and maintain your balance--you need muscular strength. This is especially true as you begin to enter your senior years. Due to the fact that most Americans do not incorporate an effective strength training program into their schedules, muscle atrophies as they get older.

If a person has problems walking and/or balancing, they cannot engage in any cardiovascular activity. They would even have problems using the vast array of aerobic equipment available such as a stairmaster. Walking at a pace or for length of time that would be effective for conditioning is therefore out of the question.

Aerobics cannot take the place of strength or weight training. And it should not be done at the expense of strength training. However, aerobics can be incorporated into a strength training program. This program is known as circuit training.

In circuit training a set would consist of several exercises, say for the legs, back, chest, and arms. When one exercise is finished, you would proceed on to the next one. The set is completed when all exercises are done. You rest then.

Signs of Muscle Decline

The signs of muscle decline or atrophy are not limited to the obese or overweight, or even to senior citizens. If anything mentioned here applies to you, you need to consider adding weight training to your agenda. Even if nothing mentioned here applies to you, you still need to weight train.

How many people can get up from a sitting position by using leg power alone? That means without leaning forward with your hands pressing on your knees, or on the arms of a chair or any other aid. If you can't do that, you need to go on a program of strength training.

Of course getting up without any kind of aid presupposes you don't have a medical condition which won't allow you to utilize just your legs in getting up.

If you are unable to walk a moderate distance with a couple of bags of groceries, weight training is for you. Now I am not talking about a couple of miles--just from the store to your car, and from the car to your house. And I am not talking about bags full of water or other heavy items. Just your normal 'what your parents carried in the 50s and early 60s' type of groceries.

How are you on climbing stairs? Are you struggling to carry your own bodyweight? Or are you 'huffing' and 'puffing' after climbing just one flight? Again, weight training is for you.

Being able to do these things even at the age of 70, 80, 90, or even 100 is important. Who says that just because you are on the far side of 60 you have a valid excuse for sitting in your rocker all day reminiscing about the good 'ol days? Now I am not talking about hard-core, pedal to the metal, lift as heavy a weight as you can. But using just enough weight in good form to perform no more than 8 to 10 reps (repetitions.)

Jack LaLanne and My Buddies At Diamond Gym Are Living Proof of the Value of Weight Training

You probably know the story of Jack LaLanne. He is in his 90s and is a living testament to superb conditioning. No assisted living for him.

I have a buddy who weight trains at Diamond Gym where I have my membership. Gene is 83 years old and still goes to the gym to lift weights. Once he reminded me that he has a daughter older than me (I just turned 58 in October, 2009.)

There is no 'woe is me, I am a barely functioning person' with Gene. He has been strength training for well over 50 years!

Gene works out four to five days a week. And he doesn't play around with 10 pound dumbbells either. He uses a moderate amount of weight (free weights and machines.)

There's another senior who I see sometimes at the gym. I forget his name but he is very close to 90 years old.

Studies Validate Strength Training For Seniors

As a person ages, muscle is lost. The technical term for age-related muscle loss is sarcopenia. This includes loss of function and strength. Sarcopenia begins at about the age of 40. It then accelerates at 75.

Researchers in London proved that older adults could rev up their metabolisms to where they were when they were in their 20s. They could also regain the muscle-building ability they had then too. How? By incorporating a program of weight lifting at least 3 times a week.

A recent study has demonstrated that seniors with strong muscles have a lesser risk of developing Alzheimer's disease than those with weaker muscles. Strength training is the only way to strengthen your muscles. Weight training is just as effective with other forms of demetia too.

Strength training, as well as aerobics, increases insulin sensitivity. As you may or may not know, diabetes is on the rise too. Weight training especially increases blood flow to your body's cells. Improved insulin sensitivity reduces your likelihood of developing diabetes. Remember, type 2 diabetics are insulin resistant.

An exercise physiologist has said that strength training can improve insulin sensitivity by as much as 20 percent in as little as a few months.

Want to combat osteoporosis? Weight training is a very effective way to accomplish that. This of course is in addition to good nutrition.

According to statistics, 20 percent of hip fracture patients are permanently disabled every year. In 2008 researchers said that more women will die that year of complications from osteoporosis than from breast cancer.

Using weights effectively stimulates the bones to become more dense. This is especially true for women. Just taking calcium supplements is not enough. And you don't need pharmaceutical drugs such as Boniva no matter what Sally Fields says.

Fragile bones are the leading cause of senior citizens falling and breaking their hips. Weight training will prevent you from getting porous bones, and will give you the balance you need to remain on your feet.

Other Benefits of Strength Training

In cultures where longevity is common, the people are very active. They work hard even into their 80s, 90s, and 100s. They don't have a need to lift weights like most western nations because they are not crippled by machines doing all their work. They work as man was intended to work. This keeps their minds and bodies healthy.

Strength training will help you lose weight and keep it off. By targeting type 1 or fast twitch muscles, your whole body metabolism is under control. Muscle is more active than fat and burns more calories. Weights will keep your muscles from shrinking.

It is shrinking muscles which leads to weight gain through fat accumulation.

Weight lifting will also stop diminishing hormone levels and protein synthesis in their tracks. Hormones such as GH (growth hormone) naturally decline as you get older. And without protein synthesis, muscles cannot rebuild and get stronger.

Human growth hormone (HGH) is produced in the pituitary glands. It controls a number of body functions having to do with aging, and the production of other hormones like DHEA and melatonin. HGH tells the liver to produce insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1.)

The benefits of human growth hormone include fat loss and denser bones. Aerobic exercise for health can double HGH levels in the body. Weight training can increase HGH levels anywhere from 400% to 800%!

Studies have shown that weight lifting benefits cancer patients. One study showed that strength training reduced several risk factors toward developing breast and colon cancer. The women in that study achieved an increase in lean body mass (muscle) and a corresponding decrease in body fat percentage, and reductions in fasting insulin and glucose levels. Studies have also shown that a strength training program can be implemented to prevent a recurrence of breast and colon cancer.

Another study saw men who strength trained reducing their risk of dying from cancer by 40 percent. The men who worked out consistently and had the greatest muscle strength were between 30 and 40 percent less likely to die from a tumor. Even men who were overweight benefited from the protective effects of weight training.

The Effects of Strength Training On Chronic Disease

Research has demonstrated that strength training is an effective measure against disease. We saw above how certain types of cancer are affected by weight lifting.

The American Heart Association (AHA) has put out a statement which says that resistance or weight training in moderation is beneficial for people diagnosed with heart disease. The AHA just cautions that full range of motion be used. All lifts should be performed slowly and with full control. A study says that weight training for people with multiple sclerosis (MS) is important. It should be done at every stage of the disease.

Strength Training Wrap-up

Strength training, weight training, or resistance training--whatever you want to call it--is necessary in today's society. Disease from environmental factors, nutritional deficiencies, processed foods, sedentary lifestyles, and financial pressures are too great to neglect strengthening your body.

The only effective way to combat the 21st century technological advances is by building your body's immune system through proper rest, nutrition, and strength training. Neglect one part and you compromise your health.

No one should go through life just existing. We were put here by our Creator to live and prosper. And that should continue until our end of days. Being slaves to pharmaceutical drugs, crippling diseases, and confinement without freedom of movement is contrary to nature.

No matter what your age, it is never too late to begin resistance training. But if you are new to it, set up an appointment with your doctor first. Get a medical clearance before embarking on any physically demanding program.

Once you have been cleared by your physician, begin slowly and gradually. After all, Rome wasn't built in a day.

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