Unknown to most people, one of the most debilitating health problems that plague each and every adult is the loss of skeletal muscle tissue. Some experts consider the loss of muscle tissue as our No. 1 fitness problem. After the body’s growing processes have halted (age 25 to 30), we lose one-half to one pound of skeletal muscle tissue each year. Surprisingly, being physically active does little to slow muscle loss and absolutely nothing to halt or reverse it. In extremely active people, such as marathon runners and triathletes, muscle loss can be expedited.
When skeletal muscle tissue is lost, it’s physically impossible for most of the other fitness components to be improved. For example, if one loses muscle tissue, he or she can’t increase muscle strength, improve cardiovascular efficiency, increase muscular endurance, enhance flexibility, or permanently increase metabolism. The facts are simple. Only proper strength training—resistance training—can halt and reverse muscle loss.
Although strength training has long been accepted as a means for developing and maintaining strength, endurance, power, and muscle mass, its beneficial relationship to health factors and chronic disease has been recognized only recently. Prior to 1990, the American Heart Association (AHA), the American College of Sports Medicine, and the majority of health and fitness organizations didn’t even recommend it as part of an exercise or physical rehabilitation program. During the 1990s, strength training became recognized as an important component of exercise and rehabilitation programs.
However, in 2000 the AHA Science Advisory said, “Resistance training can promote substantial benefits in physical fitness and health-related factors…offers greater development in muscular strength, endurance and mass (as compared to “aerobics”), …assists in the maintenance of basal metabolic rate (for weight control),…promotes independence and helps to prevent falls in the elderly,…is particularly beneficial for improving the function of most cardiac, frail, and elderly patients, who benefit substantially from both upper-body and lower-body exercise,…is strongly recommended for implementation in primary and secondary cardiovascular disease-prevention programs,…can be beneficial in the prevention and management of other chronic conditions such as low back pain, osteoporosis, obesity and weight control, sarcopenia (loss of skeletal muscle mass that accompanies aging), diabetes mellitus, as well as the prevention of and rehabilitation from orthopedic injuries.”
Performed properly, strength training can provide more health benefits than any other single form of exercise. The late Dr. George Sheehan, a cardiologist known as the Guru of Running and former medical editor of Runner’s World magazine, declared, “Physical health is metabolic health.”
The largest portion of our metabolism is represented by skeletal muscle tissue. This positive support for strength training is a big step in the right direction. But beware––not all strength training is safe or productive. IBI