Remarkably, resistance training has been shown (at any age) to add muscle tissue; increase resting metabolic rate; decrease body fat; reduce lower back pain; decrease arthritic discomfort; increase functional independence. . . the list goes on.
With respect to physical health, our nation is not doing very well.
According to the bodyweight statistics that use the body mass index, approximately 65 percent of American adults are too heavy, with more than half of these individuals classified as obese.
Unfortunately, the BMI data do not provide a true picture of the situation because the only two factors analyzed are height and weight. Consequently, BMI’s figures typically underestimate the amount of fat in middle-aged and older adults. This is because adults who do not perform regular resistance exercise (strength training) lose approximately 6 pounds of muscle tissue every decade.
For example, a 20-year-old man who weighs 200 pounds may have 170 pounds of lean (muscle) weight and 30 pounds of fat weight. If he weighs the same 200 pounds at age 50, he most likely has on 152 pounds of lean (muscle) weight and 48 pounds of fat weight.
His BMI would be exactly the same, because his bodyweight did not change. However, he has actually lost 18 pounds of muscle and added 18 pounds of fat for a 36-pound change in his body composition.
Like almost 85 percent of middle-aged and older adults, he has too little muscle and too much fat to be considered healthy or fit.
As fitness professionals assess body composition, this gentleman has gone from 15 percent body fat to 24 percent body fat, which is highly undesirable and clearly increases his risk of numerous health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, back pain and various types of cancer.
From a medical perspective, there are simply not enough physicians to deal with all of the Americans who are experiencing degenerative processes and related health issues.
Due to the increasing rate of obesity, it is estimated that by the middle of this century one of every three adults will have diabetes. We simply cannot let this happen as our health care system could not possibly respond to a diabetes epidemic of this size.
To me, it would seem essential to place as much emphasis on preventive medicine as we do on corrective medicine.
This may be particularly helpful because the majority of degenerative diseases in our culture are largely preventable.
The premier professional organization in the arena of exercise science is the American College of Sports Medicine. Comprised of both medical doctors and fitness professionals, the ACSM is conducting a nationwide campaign called Exercise is Medicine, and the research overwhelmingly supports the accuracy of this slogan. I recently wrote an article for the medical research journal Current Sports Medicine Reports in which I reviewed studies on strength training and health.
Remarkably, resistance training has been shown (at any age) to add muscle tissue; increase resting metabolic rate; decrease body fat; reduce lower back pain; decrease arthritic discomfort; increase functional independence; improve glucose use; resist diabetes; reduce resting blood pressure; improve blood-cholesterol profiles; enhance vascular condition; increase bone density; facilitate gastrointestinal transit; improve cognitive ability; increase self-esteem; decrease depression; and reverse aging factors in skeletal muscle.
This is pretty impressive list of health benefits resulting from 20 to 30 minutes of strength training, two or three days a week.
The problem is most adults are unaware of these facts. They do not know why it is important to perform regular resistance exercise, or how to do to in a safe, effective and time-efficient manner.
That is why we need many more certified fitness professionals to work with adults (youth, too) in personalized physical conditioning.
Most people want to look better, feel better, and function better, but simply don’t know how to do so sensibly and successfully.
A recent national study revealed that fewer than 5 percent of Americans older than 20 attain even 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five days a week.
On the other hand, more than 50 percent of American adults are presently pursuing low-calorie diet plans that have repeatedly produced more than 90 percent failure rates.
Dieting without an appropriate exercise program simply does not provide desirable or lasting results.
If you have an interest in the science of exercise, as well as a desire to help people attain better health and fitness, I challenge you to consider a career as a personal trainer or exercise specialist.
The field of exercise science is wide open, with certified fitness professionals attaining positions in YMCAs, health clubs, exercise centers, recreation programs, workplace wellness programs, nursing homes, senior centers, golf clubs and as personal trainers in a variety of venues.
Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., teaches Exercise Science at Quincy (Mass.) College and consults for the South Shore YMCA. He has authored 24 books on physical fitness and strength training.