Thursday, April 19, 2012

Health benefits of weight lifting

In my workouts this month, I have been trying to take the metabolic conditioning (intense circuits involving jumping, lifting, etc) down a notch and focus on my strength training.  I have even been taking some yoga classes to enjoy more of the restorative benefits of exercise (more about that later).

I once read that your strength in middle age is the strongest predictor of mortality.  In other words, the stronger you are, the less likely you are to die.  That's some pretty serious stuff.  Since getting into CrossFit, I have also read many articles on the huge importance of weight lifting.  For a previous cardio-addict like myself, this took some serious convincing, but from a biochemical standpoint, it really does make sense.  When you are doing long workouts, your body automatically revs up its production of cortisol to keep you going.  The chronic presence of cortisol is detrimental to the body.  It can raise blood pressure and lead to diabetes.  These are not things I am trying to accomplish by working out.  So get off of that elliptical and treadmill and hit the weight room.  Especially the ladies.  Here's why:

  1. Increased muscle (lean body) mass.  Muscle mass can increase your resting metabolic rate.  This does not mean you can eat more or unhealthily, but it will help you drop the body fat you already have.
  2. Increased sensitivity to insulin and decreased risk of diabetes.
  3. Decreased risk of osteoporosis.  Many believe lifting weights wards off osteoporosis better than taking calcium supplements (most of the paleo crowd does not even believe in calcium supplements, actually...)
  4. Decreased risk for coronary artery disease.
  5. Decreased risk for high blood pressure.
My workout today featured my favorite lift:  the Squat Snatch.  Six months ago, the thought of doing a snatch terrified me.  Seriously.  It is an advanced movement, but the lift is a full body workout, all in one.  Upper body, back, abs, and legs.  What more can you ask for?  I leisurely did 14 rounds of:  10 lat pull downs, 8 squat snatch.  I had as much time as I wanted between rounds, and never got too out of breath.

Here are some extra resources on weight lifting...

Mark Sisson's basics on getting started in weight lifting
Want to learn more about the snatch?
Whole9's "Beware of the Sexy Met-Con"

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