Not long ago, my Dad was in a motorcycle accident. While visiting him in the hospital, I heard at least a dozen various medical professionals say “It’s a good thing he has good strength in (fill in affected body part) or this could have been much worse.”
Much like the average employee, my Dad isn’t an elite athlete and doesn't hit the gym daily. He works at a desk 50-60 hours per week, occasionally does an at-home workout, and strength trained with me just once per week for the 8 months before his accident.
Even the tiny dose of strength training was enough to prevent much more serious injury in a traffic accident.
The application of strength training as preventative care isn’t confined to an emergency situation. Just think of the number of aches and pains you experience each morning. Compare that to the number of similar issues you had 10 years ago. You suffered less discomfort and movement problems a decade ago, guaranteed. Sure, age plays into the difference but mainly, it's because you were stronger then.
Not sold on strength training yet? Here are the top 5 reasons for you to get brutally strong:
First - let’s talk about what constitutes an injury. Soreness is not an injury. I’m talking about chronic pain, or trauma to a muscle or joint that causes acute pain and prevents healthy, pain-free movement or activity.
Let’s take the knee as an example, since a lot of folks suffer knee injuries. A common knee injury is the partial or complete tear of the ACL - a connective tissue that crosses the knee joint and provides stability during lateral movement. Most people associate these injuries with a collision in football or soccer.
However, 70% of ACL injuries are non-contact. Most are the result of an unexpected change of direction that the ACL is not strong enough to support. Sure, tearing an ACL is possible during a spin move in a flag football game. But, statistically, it is more likely the result of slipping on a garden hose.
When you lift heavy things your connective tissues get stronger. Progressive overload (lifting heavier and heavier weight) in a training plan directly translates to fewer injuries around joints like ankles, knees, hips, lumbar spine (low back), and shoulders.
Speaking of progressive overload; getting stronger makes you capable of easily handling the rigors of everyday life.
Want to take carry your groceries inside in one trip? Want to move furniture? Do yard work without pain? Play with your kids? Get kittens out of trees? With strength training, now you can!
Don’t forget the possibility of an emergency situation - like an earthquake. According to every movie the Rock has ever made, you’ll probably end up hanging from a ledge and you’ll need grip strength and to be able to do one pull up. Slightly more realistically, if someone is caught under something heavy, you need to be able to deadlift that object off of them. Even if all you have to do is kick down a door, you won’t be able to do it if you constantly skip leg day.
Functional strength will also help you maintain your sense of balance later in life. One of the greatest risks to seniors is falling. Good core strength results in better balance and strong legs don’t wobble. Protect your older self - build strength now.
Lifting heavy things promotes healthy hormone production. These hormones can affect everything from weight management to mood.
One common application of exercise is as an antidepressant. While this effect is usually linked to aerobic exercise, the same benefit is possible through strength training. Exercise has proven insanely effective in regulating stress hormones like cortisol and releasing dopamine.
Cortisol’s counterpart - insulin - is also regulated more effectively with exercise and helps with nutrient partitioning, blood sugar regulation, and weight management.
Vigorous exercise increases testosterone, which is the driver of protein synthesis (among other functions). Low T is practically an epidemic in middle aged men these days. Lifting weights at 80% or more of your 1 rep max on a regular basis can help your testosterone numbers climb.
Growth hormone supports protein synthesis too. It also increases bone mineralization (density), immune system function, and promotes fat metabolism. This hormone is also released after strength training.
Challenging physical activity results in better sleep (another side effect of growth hormone production). You will sleep soundly without waking up or tossing and turning.
Everyone I talk to is aware they needed more sleep. Every client I’ve trained (literally every single one) has reported better sleep after getting into a strength training program, regardless of sleep duration.
People over 50 have to be proactive about maintaining bone density. Your doctor will most likely recommend vitamins, minerals, and load bearing exercise.
The body is an adaptive machine. It’s job is to maintain homeostasis (keep you alive and well) with as little effort as possible. If you don’t have to keep your bones strong for a reason, over time the body will shuttle resources elsewhere. Give your skeleton a reason to stay strong, pick up something heavy today.
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