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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Rockman

Beyond Aesthetics: 10 Reasons to Embrace Strength Training

Look, aesthetics are cool. I get that. But as far as motivations go, it's a pretty weak extrinsic push that will ebb and flow: sometimes you'll feel great when you look in the mirror and sometimes you'll feel horrible; that doesn't change when your body changes, that's a mental thing that everyone feels. Using how you look as motivation also implies that once your body looks good you don't need to exercise anymore. This is like telling Kathy Freeman she doesn't need to run now that she's won a gold medal; it's missing so much of the point.

So rather than purely equating going to the gym with how you look, try thinking about these 10 reasons instead.

1. Improve your strength and fitness

Why carry only 2 bags of groceries from the car when you can do them all at once? The stronger you get, the easier this will be. Strength training has great carry-over to activities in your everyday life. Not only will you have a higher capacity for carrying shopping bags from the car, but carrying them will have less of an impact on you so you won't be as out of breath afterwards. Neat! Now while that example was a bit of fun, there are plenty of more important scenarios where this makes your whole life significantly easier: climbing stairs without feeling out of breath, playing with your child with no hesitations, lugging your heavy suitcase into and out of awkward spots without hurting your back, I can't count the number of times a client has said "Hey I can't believe it, I find X really easy now!"

2. Reduce your risk of a heart attack

The heart is a muscle after all. When we do any form of exercise we challenge not only our heart which pumps the blood, but our lungs which help oxygenate it and all the tiny little blood vessels which carry the blood around the body. Did you know that when you exercise your body forms new veins and arteries? It's a process called angiogenesis and is the equivalent of building lots of side streets for the blood to turn down once it is off the major highways/veins in the body. That makes it easier to pump the blood which helps the heart as well as the local tissue. This all, of course, reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease such as a heart attack or stroke. I don't think I need to explain why they are a bad thing, do I? On an anecdotal note, my hands used to turn purple in cold weather, since starting resistance training they have much more blood supply and only turn the usual white.

3. Improve your bone density

Why wouldn't you want the capacity to smack your bones against things harder without them breaking? Bone density is very closely related with how likely you are to break a bone when you fall. While falling may not be a worry for you yet, accidents can happen at any time and without warning. Why wouldn't you wanna be prepared for that? We all know someone who is always smacking into things and never getting hurt and we all know someone who can hurt themselves climbing into bed. One of the differences could be bone density which is something that strength training will improve. Bone density is also something that becomes increasingly important as we get older, which leads me into my next point...

4. Fight the good fight against Sarcopenia!

Sarcopenia is the loss of muscle mass and strength we experience when we get older. It will make things like getting out of a chair and walking to the bathroom a lot harder for you. After working in a few aged care settings believe me, nobody is an exception. Sarcopenia is significantly slowed down by exercising at this age. But even better than that, you can increase your baseline strength when you are younger and "in your prime" to give you a bigger reserve for later in life. That's right, the strength that you build now will help you out big time when you get a little older. Below is a graph showing the difference between an active lifestyle and an inactive one. Our ability to build strength peaks around the age of 30 but it's very important to note that you can start at any age and it will all have huge benefits on you being able to live your life how you want.

5. Maintaining is easier than building

It is SO much easier to maintain the strength that you have now than trying to build it back up later. In fact, some research suggests it requires 3 times less exercise to keep your current fitness than it takes to build new fitness. Imagine that, it will cost you one push up now to keep your fitness or 3 push ups later just to get back to where you were. My advice? Take the easy option, maintain what you got now.

6. Mental health

We all know that exercise releases the happy dolphins (endorphins), but did you know that exercise is as effective as antidepressants for dealing with depressive symptoms? There is a lot of research into this at the moment but it seems that it doesn't matter what type of exercise you do, and even light intensities for a short time can be really beneficial. Interestingly, the higher the intensity, the more benefits you seem to get! So go out there and get your runner's high, lifter's lift or exercise euphoria.

7. Build your routine

It's something that all the punchably smug CEO's of mega corporations do, but they do it for a reason. Exercise in the morning will have a positive impact on your day. I'm sorry to tell you but that's a fact. Even small things like having a stretching routine or going for a walk can help you focus. Have you ever had a problem at work then went for a walk and figured out the answer? Building exercise into your routine will help you have more productive days and avoid distractions. Make it a habit and you won't even notice doing it.

8. Eat more food

Eat more food, with less negative effects! Hands up all my food lovers reading this 🙌 When you exercise you burn calories, and who wouldn't want to eat more calories? The average adult burns about 2000-2500 calories per day, and going to the gym burns about 300 calories per hour (highly variable and assuming you're actually working out while there). Great, your total calories just went up a little bit higher. NO, IT DOES NOT UNDO YOUR WORK IF YOU EAT A TREAT!!! It really irks me when people proclaim that. "Oh that brownie looks magnificent, but it would totally undo all my hard work this morning. Oh well mmm". No. You just did a good thing, you deserve to treat yourself. You still get all the benefits of the exercise you just did. That brownie's sugary calorific "oh God that's good" goodness helps rebuild all the glycogen stores that your muscles used up. It's still not healthy, don't get me wrong, but if you were going to eat that brownie anyway, you might as well make it work for you. The body gets a higher capacity for eating the foods you like. Which leads me to my next point...

9. Fight metabolic diseases

Diabetes be gone! That's right, one the best ways to fight the man-made behemoth of a disease that we call diabetes (type 2 of course... type 1 is genetic) is to keep exercising. Diabetes is the body struggling to take energy out of your bloodstream and into your muscles due to a resistance to insulin, which is like the key to get energy into the exclusive club "muscles". BUT, there's another way in: exercising opens another entrance into the cells to let the energy party away the night. That's right, resistance exercise directly combats the mechanisms that cause diabetes. Losing weight can be beneficial, but building muscle is full of health benefits regardless of weight loss.

10. Because you want to

The most important factor in any training regime is adherence, and the best way to adhere is to do something that you enjoy. What is life without finding things that bring you joy? Find a form of training that you find fun: working out with a friend, blasting your favourite songs, pushing yourself to your limits or just having a boogie with some weights involved. Do what feels right. Do what you can, because you can. Do it for all the people who don't get the opportunity, the time and the knowledge that you have. Do it because you want to!

Strength training is so much more valuable than just for vain aesthetics. Stop relying on the man in the mirror to motivate you, and find some intrinsic meaning in one of these 10 reasons to keep you training longer and stronger. Training will help you stay fitter, stronger, reduce chances of a heart attack, improve your bone density, fight sarcopenia, maintain your strength by doing less, improve your mental health, build your routine, eat more of the foods you love, fight diabetes and most importantly, find what you like doing.

Stay Strong!

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