Fitness fads for sure, get the best shape of your life or your money back with a refund have been around for thousands of years. In my lifetime I have seen boot camps, Bowflex, CrossFit, hula hoop, Insanity, Jazzercise, kettle bells, P90X, Pilates, pole dance, spinning, Tabata – and this is by no means a complete list. Over the years – centuries in fact – one method will never appear on a fad list, but, despite the lack of hype, it could very well be the most beneficial of the bunch: good old-fashioned weightlifting. Let’s take a look at some of the proven benefits of bodybuilding.
In excessive amounts, testosterone can be problematic. But in normal amounts, it motivates us, gives us energy, helps us take initiatives and gives us a libido (women also have testosterone). Lower than normal testosterone levels have been linked to depression, lack of motivation, problems concentrating, fatigue, irritability, physical weakness, decreased or absent sex drive, problems with sleep, difficulty coping with stress, your overall risk of death, and more. Strength training stimulates the body’s natural testosterone production.
Strength training has been shown to increase bone density (thereby reducing the risk of fractures in the elderly), improve balance (which reduces the risk of falls that can cause fractures), reduce the risk of stroke up to 40%, lowers blood pressure (some studies show that two strength training sessions per week are as effective as hypotensive drugs), strengthen the heart, reduce the risk of diabetes and cancer, and improve longevity. UCLA researcher Arun Karlamangla, MD summed it up this way: “… the more muscle mass you have, the lower your risk of death. So, rather than worrying about weight or body mass index, we should try to maximize and maintain muscle mass.
Strength training helps compensate for the half pound of muscle mass we lose each year after about 30 years. It also increases your strength, flexibility, and endurance. This makes us less likely to injure ourselves while participating in other sports activities. Strength, flexibility, and stamina are also very helpful in maintaining your sex life.
Theoretically, we spend about 30% of our life sleeping. But in reality, many of us are chronically tired. Regularly sleeping less than 6 hours is associated with a host of serious health risks, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, obesity, mental illness, car accidents and general cognitive impairment. (see below). Researchers Patrick O’Connor, Matthew Herring, and Amanda Caravalho found that people with sleep problems who regularly strength-training for 8-10 weeks had a 30% improvement in the amount of sleep. Older people who regularly strength-training reduced the number of times they got up at night compared to those who did not exercise.
By changing your body shape the right way, weight training can improve your self-esteem. Training also triggers a release of endorphins, which help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. A little anxiety is good – it keeps us in the loop, allows us to focus, and gives us the energy to run away from dangerous situations. But too much anxiety can ruin your sleep, cause physical pain, and negatively affect your entire life. O’Connor, Herring, and Caravalho found that people who did strength training and cardio three times a week suffered less from depression than those who didn’t.
Strength training builds strong brains as well as strong muscles and bones. People who lift weights tend to have a larger hippocampus, the part of the brain that helps with verbal processing and memory. According to O’Connor, Herring and Caravalho, resistance training is particularly beneficial for the elderly, especially for memory and memory-related functions. Other researchers have found that weight training improves executive function – the brain’s ability to keep us organized and focused on our tasks.
Like it or not, we are animals. And like most other animals, we have a social structure that in many ways is beyond our control. Here’s how it works: Physically strong men tend to be more confident. Confident (and muscular) men tend to be more respected by others, are seen as better leaders, and more competent in general. As a result, they are able to motivate others to work harder, they get more promotions, and they earn more money. They are also considered to be more attractive than their less confident (and less muscular) brethren. “Studies have shown that people attribute positive personality traits to drawings or photographs of mesomorphic (muscular) men and mainly negative traits to non-mesomorphic men,” say researchers Timothy Judge of the University of Florida and Daniel Cable from London Business School. For example, the traits attributed to mesomorphic men were very positive (i.e., best friend, has many friends, polite, happy, helps others, courageous, healthy, intelligent and well groomed). In contrast … ectomorphic men have been described with a different set of negative traits (ie nervous, sly, scared, sad, weak, and sick).
Future of the species
In addition to making men more attractive to the opposite sex, weight training can influence future generations. Strength training gives our DNA a better capacity to repair itself. It keeps our genes healthy. And since our children receive half of their genes from Dad, at least some of our healthy genes will be passed on to our children, making them healthier. Additionally, a 2004 study of Danish men found that muscular men had more semen volume, more healthy sperm count, and were more fertile than lean or obese men.
Easy to use
Reaping the benefits of strength training isn’t that complicated. While cardio exercise, almost by definition, can be time consuming, many experts say that 30 to 60 minutes of strength training per week is sufficient.
Armin Brott is the author of “Blueprint for Men’s Health,” “Your Head: Owner’s Manual” and many other books on men’s health. Visit it on HealthyMenToday.com or send questions or comments to arminhealthymentoday.com.