Strength Training Twice a Week May Literally Save Your Life

Jamie Sukroo - 29 Jul 2020

Strength Training Twice a Week May Literally Save Your Life

In my teenage years I focused heavily on weight training – I guess because I was trying to bulk up and build muscle!

Later on in life I mixed it up and combined cardio with weight training, Until most recently I dropped the weights only to return to weight and strength training in the last 18-24 months.

Lucky I did as I read a New Scientist article the other day espousing the benefits of strength training and even suggesting that it’s more important than cardio for your long term health:

Why Strength Training May be the Best Thing You can Do for Your Health

Below is a summary of the main points in the article:

  • Muscle strength peaks in your 30’s and then slowly declines (on a similar trajectory to Human Growth Hormone and Collagen). Mother nature is progressively crueller to those above 30! Around the age of 30, we start to lose up to 5 per cent of our muscle mass each decade, and this accelerates greatly from the age of 70.
  • The following quote from the article sums it up nicely – “no decline with age is more dramatic or potentially more functionally significant than the decline in lean body mass. Why have we not given it more attention?”
  • As we age “type two” fibres (able to bear heavy loads but for short spells), are slowly being replaced with more “type one” fibres (more efficient over long periods but less able to carry weight). Our muscles also stop using protein as efficiently and so are less able to repair themselves. This alters the levels of hormones such as testosterone, and produces a reorganisation of brain cells that control movement (Parkinsons?).
  • Having stronger muscles decreases your chance of getting cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and may improve your memory and prevent cognitive decline (Alzheimers, dementia etc).
  • Strength training is important at any age but more so if you are over 30 – so much so that the government has emphasised weight training over aerobic workouts in their latest physical activity guidelines. In 2011 the government recommended that all adults should perform muscle strengthening activities at least 2 times a week. Amazingly – only 25% of the UK population get enough strength exercise.
  • Muscle with the help of insulin, soaks up glucose from the blood and stores it in the form of glycogen. Bigger muscles mean a bigger sink for glucose and a higher number of cells that transport and clear glucose from the body, which all helps ward off type 2 diabetes.
  • Strength training burns a stack of calories. Bigger muscles require more energy to fuel their tissue maintenance. So simply having more muscle mass uses more calories. Second, in the short term, lifting weights causes tiny tears in your tissue that require a relatively large amount of energy to remodel. This increase in energy demand can last three days after a workout! This means you are burning calories even after your weight session.
  • Strength training places stress on the bones, triggering the activity of osteoblasts and inhibiting osteoclasts, helping us to maintain, and even build, denser bones. This significantly lowers the risk of osteoporosis, which causes around 1.66 million hip fractures globally every year.
  • Strength training is also good for your brain! Older women who lifted weights once a week for a year had significant improvements in cognitive tests of attention, compared with women who performed balance and toning classes. Strength training seems to trigger the release of several brain chemicals, including one called BDNF, that support the health of neurons, helping them to communicate, grow and resist age-related decline, all contributing to a healthier brain.
  • Advice from the American College of Sports Medicine couldn’t be simpler: it says that adults should perform strength exercises on all major muscle groups – legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms – at least twice a week. If you exercise a particular group of muscles until it’s tired, it doesn’t really matter how heavy the weight is or how many times you lift it. The benefits for a non-athlete are broadly the same whether you lift a light weight 20 times, or a heavy weight five times.
  • Advice from the American College of Sports Medicine couldn’t be simpler: it says that adults should perform strength exercises on all major muscle groups – legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms – at least twice a week. If you exercise a particular group of muscles until it’s tired, it doesn’t really matter how heavy the weight is or how many times you lift it. The benefits for a non-athlete are broadly the same whether you lift a light weight 20 times, or a heavy weight five times.
  • Anything is better than nothing, and little things squeezed into your everyday routine can make a big difference, without the need for any equipment!

Personally speaking (in case you get any benefit) – I perform High Intensity Interval Training on a stationary bike twice a week and I stand up all day at a stand up desk while working. This takes care of my leg muscles and perhaps my hip muscles too.

In addition to this I do 3 sets of push ups, sit ups, barbells and tricep curls twice a week. I find this easy to incorporate even when I’m away as a heavy bag/suitcase can substitute for the barbells.

 

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