As you consider your 2012 fitness plans, may I humbly suggest weights? I spurned them for years and years, persuading myself that it was enough to heft children and grocery bags. I was excellently addicted to cardio, but did basically no strength training at all. Then, last month, came my day of reckoning: a fitness assessment that found that all my cardio had paid off with a healthy pulse, but that I could do only three — count ’em, three — full sit-ups. And my overall strength performance was decidedly mediocre for a woman who has been called “strapping.” (And by Russians, who know from strapping women.)
Those three lonely little sit-ups woke me up. Whatever I thought I was getting away with, I wasn’t. Shades of junior-high humiliation. But we are grown now, and we do not wallow in angst — we take action. I started using the weight machines at my gym, two times a week, two tough circuits each time. And to my own shock, I like it. A lot. I’m stretching on a few of these, but here are 12 reasons, from the scientific to the trivial, why you may want to join me:
1. Mood. I’m feeling oddly good lately. Could be hormones. But there’s some evidence that lifting weights lifts your mood (though nothing like the mountain of evidence on aerobic exercise.) Here’s a study about improving mood post-heart attack, covered on WebMD; and from Slate, here’s what positive psychologist Todd Kashdan told Gretchen Rubin of “The Happiness Project” fame when she asked him which activities most comforted him: “There are workout sessions where I lift weights, grunt, and temporarily shed the other layers of my existence. My equanimity hinges on my ability to be a warrior in the gym.”
2. Your heart and blood pressure: Recent research suggests that aerobic exercise has no monopoly on heart benefits. Example: A study last year from Appalachian State University in which subjects did 45 minutes of moderate weight training. The university reported that Dr. Scott Collier ‘found that the resistance training resulted in as much as a 20 percent decrease in a person’s blood pressure, which is as good as or better than the benefit of taking anti-hypertensive medication. ‘And exercise has no adverse side effects,” Collier said.”
Men’s Fitness translated the study into the headline, “Get heart healthy by lifting weights.”
3. A great many other health benefits. They range from bone-building to body mechanics to reduced risk of falling as you get older. You can read about some of them on everydayhealth.com here.
4. Music. Continue reading