Let’s be honest, no one is going to say that it’s a bad idea to exercise. However, I think it’s important to remind ourselves what working out can do to help maintain motivation on those days where we just don’t want to hit the weights.
Live Longer, and Healthier
A study completed in 2014 from UCLA showed that there seems to be a correlation between muscle mass, and premature death. While the researchers themselves admit that this may be more of a correlation than causation, the study was promising. Another study in 2015 in The Lancet found that grip strength accurately predicts death from any cause, and according to a 2017 Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care study, lean muscle mass better measures a person’s overall health compared to the standard BMI measure.
Weightlifting has also been shown to greatly help the elderly stay in shape by keeping the brain active and the nervous system and body attune to the coordination of movement. All of the above help to prevent Sarcopenia, the loss of muscle mass that begins in our 40s.
Sleep Like an Angel
People who identify as exercisers reported better sleep than those who consider themselves non-exercisers, according to a National Sleep Foundation survey, even when both groups actually get the same amount of sleep. This would suggest that the quality of sleep actually improves after a good workout.
Sleep literally impacts every facet of your life, from the day to day ability to focus all the way to an increased risk of cancer. This is a topic I plan to write more about, especially as it relates to hypertrophy. After all, that’s what we’re all here for right? If you want to learn more, there’s a great study published in 2017 that explains the short and long term impacts of restricted sleep. You can find that here. If the only thing I convince you of through this blog is to sleep more, I would still feel accomplished.
Positive Effects on Metabolism
It’s widely known in the scientific community but might not be well known to everyone, an increase in muscle mass will increase your basal metabolic rate (BMR). This is essentially the amount of calories your body would burn by laying on the couch all day.
One pound of fat at rest burns about 1.2 calories per hour, but one pound of muscle burns 6.5 calories per hour! This means that the more muscle you have, the easier it becomes to lose weight.
If that didn’t make sense to you, muscle burns 5 TIMES as many calories as fat. That means if you lose a pound of fat and replace it with muscle, you’ll be able to eat 128 more calories per day without gaining an ounce of fat. How fun is that??
It Makes You Feel Great
There’s a great article from psychology today that talks about the benefits of lifting, and they talk a little bit about the increase in hormones and neurochemicals that make you feel great. Runners high tends to get all the credit, but the good stress from lifting weights triggers the release of growth hormone, lowers cortisol, releases endorphins, adrenaline, dopamine, and endocannabinoids. For those that don’t know about these chemicals in your body, I encourage you do to some googling. To sum up what you’ll find, the release of these chemicals make you feel fantastic.
Exercise has also been linked to a reduction in depression and anxiety, which is source of my motivation for my first real adventure into exercise. Initial data even suggests that exercise can serve as an alternative to standard treatments for panic and generalized anxiety disorders (GAD).
My pessimist may be showing, but with our increasingly sedentary population this may be a cause of growth of widespread depression and the actual solution rather than a proposed treatment…
You’ll Look Great Naked.
Let’s be honest, after working out for a while, you’ll most likely look a lot better naked. While I assume this is why most people start trying to get fit and diet, how you view your own body can be life changing. Self esteem & body image issues can be improved with exercise, even if nothing actually changes.
Of course lifting can impact body composition and physique, but research, including a 2015 Journal of Extension study of middle-aged and older women, shows that consistent strength training improves body image and perceived physical appearance – no matter the actual aesthetic results.
Improvements in mental health and energy levels, as well as feelings of accomplishment, are the likely catalysts for improved overall body image, according to researchers.
While all of the other factors can have an incredible impact on health and fitness, your identity and perception of self has huge implications on wellbeing and satisfaction with life.
When you’re faced with the decision to hit the gym, or go back to bed, remember that you’re at a crossroads. The best time to start your fitness journey was 10 years ago, the second best time to start is now.
No matter what started your journey to fitness or brought you to this blog, whether it be weight loss, cardiovascular health, mental health, competition, longevity, or just to look good naked, I hope you found what you were looking for.