Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Missing Element: Part I

"Tell me about your exercise program."  I must say this two dozen times per week.  The answers from my clients vary widely.  Some clients exercise for hours each week and some exercise not at all.  But among all my clients (and I would argue for most members of the community at large) they know two things about exercise: 1) It's good for you -- it promotes good health, disease prevention and weight control and 2) You should do aerobic type activities at least 30 minutes most days of the week.  Leading health promotion organizations like the American College of Sports Medicine have done an excellent job in promoting awareness about the health benefits of moderate intensity aerobic activity, and almost all of us (exercisers or not) are familiar with the guidelines. 

But rarely do my clients (and again, I'll argue members of the larger community) realize that strength training exercises are equally (if not more) important for their fitness and overall health.  The ACSM Guidelines in fact include recommendations for strength training exercises at least two times per week.  But for whatever reason, the focus in public health has been almost exclusively on aerobic activities.  As such I meet very few people, especially women, who engage in any kind of regular strength training activities.  This is a shame, no, not a shame, a tragedy!

Most of my clients are women.  When I say to them, "Tell me about your exercise program", the majority (who are physically active) tell me they do some form of cardio exercise, usually walking/jogging, several times per week.  I have yet to meet a woman who comes in for a consultation and tells me about her squat, press and deadline routine. 

Why don't more people, especially women, engage in a regular strength training program? 

1) They don't realize it's included in the Guidelines and is a critical component of fitness.

2) In a time-crunched world, strength training takes a backseat to aerobic activity.  If a client only has 30 minutes a day, I find they focus on the cardio thinking they are getting the most out of their time.

3) They think only aerobic activities promote weight loss.

4) For women, they think if they do strength training exercises they will "get big" and end-up looking like a masculine, professional body builder.

5) They think a strength training program involves many different exercises, scary looking machines and many hours in the gym.

In this week's blog posts I am going to put your misconceptions about strength training to bed.  By the end of our series you'll understand that lifting heavy weights -- regardless of your gender -- is critically important for health, weight loss and aging.  But more important than the fact that you will know why you should be lifting heavy weights, I'm going to tell you how to do it using basic equipment and exercises.

So c'mon, let's get strong! 

Posted by Rachel L. May, M.S.
Adjunct Faculty, College of Health Sciences


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