I often tell people they should be doing resistance training. Lifting heavy things turns on genes in our body that just plain produce healthier human beings. Our overall health and longevity can be dramatically improved by incorporating some resistance training into our health protocol. Our bodies crave the action of lifting and being able to lift things in movement like squatting, pressing, and pulling.
People often find excuses not to lift, like not wanting to get “bulky” or getting “too big”. This comes from a place of misunderstanding how the human body works. Our bodies actually have safeguards in place that prevent us from building too much muscle. We have an enzyme called GDF-8 that controls a chemical called myostatin. Myostatin controls the amount of muscle we have and how much we develop. It will not let us develop too much bulk in relation to what our body can handle. There is no amount of activity that will cause a person to put on too much muscle. Women often have this fear of looking “bulky”, while men sometimes don’t want to look like bulldogs. The reality is that is that the only people that become “bulky” actually lack proper myostatin function.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about why having more muscle is better than having less.
Muscle Keeps You Metabolically Healthy
Many people focus on cardio because of the protective benefits against heart disease and the hopes of raising metabolism and controlling blood sugar. Unfortunately a myopic focus on cardio often results in a lowering of metabolic health over the long term. Blood sugar and insulin control suffers, resulting in weight gain and a decline in health.
The reality is that muscle is the primary organ targeted by insulin. Meaning, the more muscle you have the better insulin control you have. A study was done recently looking to see if more muscle correlates with better metabolic health, signified by improve blood sugar, lowered C-reactive protein, improved lipids, and lower insulin resistance. Not surprisingly, participants with more muscle mass were much less likely to have a decline in metabolic health through lifespan.
Lifting Triggers More Of A Response Than Conventional Cardio
Conventional wisdom recommends us to primarily focus on running. The reason for this is almost sound. The best type of exercise is the type that activates the most muscles at once. Running activates the largest set of muscles we have, the legs. Unfortunately this is where the logic ends. Running only activates 1 of the 4 types of muscle fibers we have, and will never activate any others in the legs or anywhere else in the body. It is an exercise with little potential for variation on muscles activated. Running
Running activates our type 1 muscle fibers. These are needed for doing activities for long periods of time. It does not activate our type 2 muscles fibers, which help us in performing high-force efforts for short amounts of time. Lifting activates these fibers. The beautiful thing is that heavy lifting activates both muscle fibers. When we work more forceful fibers we have to work the less forceful fibers. Lifting works all the muscle fibers at once, triggering much more of a response from the body.
Lifting Weights Burns More Fat
All of that time people are putting into running? Spend half of that lifting weights a couple of times a week and more fat would be burnt with much less effort and time put in. Like I said above, cardio trains our type-1 muscles fibers and largely ignores the type-2 fibers. It turns out that by ignoring our type-2 muscle fibers we are putting ourselves at a serious disadvantage in the capability for our body to be lean.
A study done on the activation of type-1 verses type-2 fibers and their effects on body composition showed that growth of type-2 fibers controlled total body metabolism and improved insulin resistance. This translates to more fat being burned and better control of insulin and blood sugar.
Lifting Weights Reverses Aging
Aging is often associated with a decrease in muscle mass as the fibers shrink and become weak. This is due in large part to what is happening in our mitochondria. Mitochondrial function decreases over time. Practices that increase the function of mitochondria are associated with increasing longevity. Practices that make generate more mitochondria and make them work better include a ketogenic diet, sauna, and fasting.
It turns out that lifting weight is a major player in reducing degradation of our mitochondria as well as reversing damage.
A study done on seniors showed the following: “healthy older adults show a gene expression profile in skeletal muscle consistent with mitochondrial dysfunction and associated processes such as cell death, as compared with young individuals. Moreover, following a period of resistance exercise training in older adults, we found that age-associated transcriptome expression changes were reversed, implying a restoration of a youthful expression profile.” Thats right. Strength training not only improved the health of mitochondria, it reversed aging.
Thats it for this week! Go out and get under a barbell. Lift some heavy things. Check out my article on building muscle over here for more tips on building muscle. Sign up below for a free copy of our ebook and weekly tips on health, wellness, and personal development!
Elliot Steele is a Primal Health Coach based in Chelan WA. He strives to empower those looking to regain their health after a lifetime of misinformed practices. This is the essence of Steele Back Your Health, to truly learn how to be healthy with sustainable habits. Check out the coaching and blog page for more info!