Column: Why lift weights?

Published 6:24 pm Tuesday, June 29, 2004

By Staff
In our world of health and fitness there is a different synopsis and cause for controversy in everything we read.
One doctor believes this and the other believes the opposite; one study will say one thing with another saying the total opposite.
One of our greatest disputes is over the subject of resistance training. Resistance training (weight training) is all over our televisions, magazines and newspapers. Fortunately more and more people are finding out the important benefits of resistance training. The downfall is that people are exposed to so many different "expert opinions." If we were to ask 10 doctors or trainers the same question on resistance training, it is a pretty sure bet that each one will in some way have a different opinion.
So why lift weights? In the past we have been told that cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise is the best way to go. It was only the "big" men who were in power lifting contests that would lift weights. Women were scared of getting big like the men, so it was pounded in their heads time after time to do aerobic exercises. Up until the past few years the popularity in weight lifting has always been centered on men. Let's take a look back into time and see why this misconception of weight lifting may have evolved.
In the beginning of the 1900s the only people who really lifted weights were the strong men from the circus. It was practically impossible to find women, children and older adults lifting weights. By the 1930s the strong men acts disappeared when amateur competitive weight training began to rise. By the 1960s athletes began to really experiment with the weight training and some universities and sports teams began the hiring of strength coaches.
In 1963, the San Diego Chargers hired Alvin Roy, who was the first strength coach in professional sports. For those who were Chargers fans back in the '60s you may remember that that same year they won the league championship, which was correlated with the forming of the team's strength and conditioning tactics bringing success on the field. With this prognosis, teams all over scrambled to find "experts" to guide them with their weight-training program.
This leads us to the reason why there are so many misnomers with the area of health and fitness. Since this was all so new, people did not have the training to be strength coaches. These experts just went off anecdotal evidence, which led to exercise prescriptions and theories that were not always accurate and true. The bad thing for us is that they have stuck with us throughout today.
Here are some answers on why to lift weights?
Increased bone density – Resistance training has shown to help increase bone mineral density. This is important because it helps in the treatment of osteoporosis.
Improved body composition - Weight training increases your percent of lean body mass which is a positive, considering more than 50 percent of Americans are overweight.
Increases metabolism - For every pound of lean muscle mass you gain it is estimated that you will increase your metabolism between 30 and 40 calories. This is a pretty good deal. If you were to gain five pounds of muscle, you could increase your caloric intake to a possible 250 calories per day. But beware; if you stop resistance training and lose those five pounds of muscle, then you are down those 250 allowable calories per day.
Improve your functioning capacity – Once again weight strengthening is not just for those big body builders. Weight training can help the average everyday person with everyday tasks such as lifting groceries, doing housework and carrying around grandchildren.
With all of this in mind there is no reason why we all should not be doing some type of resistance training. Of course you still need to keep up the cardiovascular routine and the healthier eating routine. This all might seem like a lot to do, but just imagine how much better you could feel. For all of us who are too busy, you can do a beneficial routine including both resistance training and cardiovascular training within one hour. That is not a big price to pay for your health.
Thought of the week: Take time to work, it is the price of success.
Reference: Personal Fitness Professional