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Five Important Reasons To Exercise

People who start lifting weight regularly will tell you how much more fit, powerful, and energetic they feelÖ. but enough about feelings. Thereís plenty of good, solid evidence that strength training does all that and more. We bet that at least one of the following reasons will get you to hoist some iron.

  1. Stay strong for everyday life
  2. Keep your bones healthy
  3. Prevent injuries
  4. Look Better
  5. Speed up your metabolism

Stay strong for everyday life

People who donít exercise lose 30 to 40 percent of their strength by age 65. By age 74, more than one-fourth of American men and two-thirds of American women canít lift an object heavier than 10 pounds, like a small dog or a loaded garbage bag. These changes arenít the normal consequences of aging. Theyíre a result of neglect -- of experiencing life from your lazy boy recliner and the front seat of your Winnebago. If you donít use your muscles, they simple waste away. This gradual slide toward wimpiness can begin as early as your mid-twenties.

Fortunately, strength is one of the easiest physical abilities to retain as your get older, certainly, you can do a lot more to halt strength loss than you can to prevent wrinkling skin, fading eyesight, or increasing. Once study, which included men up to the age 96, found that by lifting weight, most seniors can at least double -- if not triple -- their muscle power.

So if you rarely lift anything heavier than a cell phone, itís time to build enough brawn to get along in the real world. Increased strength is what you need to unscrew the top of a stubborn jar of pickles, hoist your kid onto the mechanical horsy, and close a suitcase thatís too full. Even if you have the stamina to sprint the full length of an airport to catch your plane, itís not going to do much good if you canít lug along that overstuffed luggage.

Keep your bones healthy

25 million Americans have osteoporosis, a disease of server bone loss that causes 1.5 million fractures a year, mostly of the back, hip, and wrist. About half of those who break their hips never regain full walking ability, and many of these fractures lead to fatal complications. When bones become extremely weak -- picture them like chalk, porous and fragile -- it doesnít even take a fall to break them.

Osteoporosis isnít something that happens to you overnight, like becoming eligible for a senior discount at the movies. We all start out with strong, dense bones -- imagine them as poles of steel. But around the age 35, most people -- men included -- begin to lose about Ĺ to 1 percent of their of their bone each year. (For women, bone lose accelerates after menopause -- 1 to 2 percent a year for the first five years and then about 1 percent annually until age 70. Then the loss slows back to Ĺ percent a year.) If you do everything right, however, you can decelerate this bone loss significantly -- by about 50 percent. If you have already lost a lot of bone, you may even be able to build some of it back. Strength training alone cant stop bone loss, but it can play a big role. Also important are calcium, vitamin D, and aerobic exercise such as walking and jogging. (Swimming and cycling donít work because your body weight is supported, either by the water or the bike; when you have to support your own self, your bones respond by building themselves.)

Strong muscles and strong bones go hand in hand. The more weight you can lift, the more stress you can put on your bones; this stress is that stimulates them. The first astronauts to spend time in space experienced significant bone density loss. In space, your weightless, thereís no load placed on your muscle and bones. Todayís astronauts prevent bone loss by exercising several hours a day.

Prevent injuries

When your muscles are strong, your less injury prone. Your less likely to step off a curb and twist your ankle. Plus, you have a better sense of balance and surefootedness, so youíre less apt to take a tumble during a weekend game of touch football. Research shows that one out of every three people over the age of 65 falls at least once a year. Almost 10 percent of older people who fall are hospitalized for an injury, and about half of those cases involve broken bones.

Look Better

Now letís talk about pure, unadulterated vanity. Aerobic exercise burns lots of calories, but weight lifting firms, lifts, builds, and shapes your muscles. A marathon runner may be able to go the distance, but he wont turn any heads on the beach if he has a concave chest and string-bean arms. (he might also be a faster runner if he pumped up a bit.)

We want to be clear here: Thereís no such thing as spot reducing Ė that is. Selectively zapping fat off a particular part of your body. But you can pick certain areas, such as your butt or your arms, and reshape them through weight training. And if you have wide hips or a thick middle, you can bring your body more into proportion by doing exercise that broaden your shoulders and back.

Weight training also makes you look better by improving your posture. With string abdominal and lower back muscles you stand up straighter and love more svelte even if you havenít lost an ounce.

Speed up your metabolism

Metabolism is the fitness buzzword of the moment. At gyms, health food stores, and juice bars you can buy pills, powders, and "thermogenic herbs" touted to rev up your metabolism (and thereby help you burn extra calories with trying). All these claims are bogus. The only way out to increase your metabolism is to build muscle,which you can best accomplish by lifting weights.

How does this work? First, a couple of definitions: Your metabolism refers to the number of calories youíre burning at any given moment, whether youíre watching The Weather Channel or riding a bike. But when most people use the term, theyíre referring to your resting metabolism, the number of calories your body needs to maintain its vital organ functions. Your brain, heart, kidneys, and other organs are cranking away 24 hours a day, and your muscle cells are constantly undergoing repair. All these processes require energy in the form of calories simply to keep you alive.

Your resting metabolic rate depends primarily on your amount of fat-free mass Ė everything in your body thatís not fat, including muscle, bones, blood, organs, and tissue. The more fat free mass you have, the more energy your body expends in order to keep going. You canít do anything to increase the size of you liver or brain, but you certainly can make yourself more muscular.

Just know, that packing on a few more pounds of muscle isnít going to turn your body into a calorie-burning inferno. For every 2 pounds of muscle you gain, your body may burn an extra 20 - 30 calories per day. Thatís not a lot, especially if you compensate by eating one extra Hersheyís Kiss (24 calories) per day However, in the long run, even that small metabolic boost can be significant. If you burn an extra 25 calories per day, you can burn 9,125 calories per year Ė enough to lose nearly 3 pounds, or at least prevent a 3-pound weight gain.

If thatís not impressive, consider the flip side: If you donít lift weights, your metabolism will slow down every year, as your muscles slowly waste away. And with a more sluggish metabolic rate, youíll gain weight even if you eat the same amount of food. Howís that for an incentive to hit the weight room.

One final point: The metabolism-boosting benefits of weight training are particularly important for people who are cutting calories to lose weight. Dieting alone tends to cause a loss in muscle as well as fat; if you lift weights while cutting back on your calorie intake, you can preserve muscleóand maintain your metabolism Ė while losing fat.

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