As the years go, so do our bones, if we are not eating properly and lifting weights. Sure, you can supplement with calcium and vitamin D, but it's the strength training that helps pull those essential vitamins and minerals into the bone and slow the loss of bone density.
When we lose bone mass, we are far more susceptible to fractures. Studies show that 16 weeks of strength training (for seniors, this is easily found in a SilverSneakers program) can increase hip bone density and blood levels of osteocalcin by 19 percent, which is an indicator of bone growth.
Lift weights and you will increase lean muscle, which burns more calories at rest than fat does. In fact, challenge your large muscles (quads, glutes and shoulders), and you will raise your metabolism (the rate at which you burn calories) post-workout for 39 hours! So do more than cardio if you want your body to become a lean, mean, calorie-burning machine.
Physical activity, including strength work, reminds your brain to stay the course in terms of the food you eat. After all, few of us want to work our butts off and then toss the benefits aside by pulling into the fast-food drive-through. Researchers found that those who trained for at least three hours a week were less likely to go over their daily, allotted calories and/or eat unhealthy snacks.
Between the ages of 30 and 50, we lose about 10 percent of our muscle mass. Even worse, if we are not actively building muscle, this loss will be replaced by fat, which takes up about 18 percent more space. Try fitting 18 percent more of you into your jeans. Never a good look.
The studies agree that weight training about three times a week will decrease anger and improve one's mood considerably.
Think only cardio training helps your heart? Think again, because challenging your muscles can really help your blood pressure. Research shows that people combining cardio with weights three times a week reduced their chance of stroke by 40 percent and their chance of heart attack by 15 percent.
The most positive study for me was learning that total-body strength was associated with a lower risk of mortality from cancer and cardiovascular disease. Researchers found that people who preserved their strength as they aged were much more likely to live to the age of 85 free of a major disease.
If these findings aren't enough to lure you into the weight room, perhaps there is a reasonable explanation. Research shows that challenging muscles consistently improves cognitive function, long-term and short-term memory, verbal reasoning and attention span. Think about it.
Cindy Boggs, wellness presenter and author, is an ACE-certified instructor/trainer. Send your questions about fitness, training or health to cindys...@aol.com. Look for her award-winning fitness advice book, "CindySays ... You Can Find Health in Your Hectic World" on her website, www.cindysays.com.