The Cost of Not Weight Training

I have to say that recently it has been an absolute pleasure taking on new clients who have previously not had experience or at least regularly used weight training as part of their exercise regime. There have been many people who have previously used classes as their sole means of training. Seeing these clients strength and also their love of this type of training grow is incredibly satisfying.

Exercises classes can provide a foundation to a solid fitness level for sure. However, they can often lead to long plateaus with results. This is due to the fact that past a certain point it is tough to include the principle of progressive overload (to make it harder) and especially tough to measure that. This is why weight training offers that simple solution to being able to do exactly that.

There are also lots of people who do lots of cardio and little weight training. Cardio once again is fantastic for a number of things including improve fitness, the aerobic threshold and Vo2 max, improving well-being and heart health to name just a few. However cardio cannot reduce the risk of sarcopenia and osteoporosis as you get older.

In this blog I want to across to you how important weight training beyond the aesthetic benefits that you can get. To clarify quickly however, it is highly unlikely that you will achieve the body that you want by only doing cardio. Cardio types of exercise rely upon Type I (slow-twitch) muscle fibres which are responsible to contract under low loads for long periods of time. On the flip side of that Type II (fast-twitch) muscle fibres are responsible for much more explosive movements which includes weight training and sprinting, they cope with bigger loads over a shorter time frame. The Type II fibres do actually break up into further different types however for this purpose we will not get into that now.

In order to fully activate the Type II fibres you need to complete some form of resistance training e.g. weight training. When you train these muscles over time, these are the fibres that will grow in size and create the shape that you desire.

In this blog however I wanted to talk about what will happen if you don’t weight train. We all know that if you do regularly weight train that you will experience benefits that include but are not limited to improved strength, improved physique, improved posture, flexibility and mobility, improved insulin sensitivity, improved mood, improved all round well-being and even an improved sex drive. Lastly we know that if we hold more muscle we expend slightly more calories at rest than if we had less muscle.

So… What happens to those that don’t weight train?

I did some reading up on the effects on not weight training or weight training less frequently due to the recent lockdown and having limited access to gym equipment. The research suggested that a 20-35 year old male could train a particular muscle group at a moderate intensity once per week and maintain the majority of that muscle mass. However a male aged around 50 and over would need to train that same muscle group 2-3 times per week to have the same effect – maintain the muscle mass. Although it doesn’t mention females in the study, it will be a very similar finding I would imagine.

In both cases this is due to a reduction in certain hormones being naturally produced as you get older. Weight training promotes both the production of testosterone and growth hormone naturally, therefore as you age it makes sense to continue to encourage this process as much as possible especially as these naturally reduce as you age.

If you allow this to run it’s natural course or simply focus on cardio only, you are ignoring the fact that as you get older you are subject to what’s known as sarcopenia, this is what happens as you age and essentially means that your muscle mass reduces. The knock-on effect of this includes a reduced BMR (basal metabolic rate – the amount of calories burned at rest), likely reduced strength and it will impact negatively your body composition. Reduced strength means it becomes harder to perform life’s daily requirements e.g. carrying the shopping, doing the gardening, cleaning up etc. As you grow older and continue to lose more muscle mass, these things get harder to the point where you struggle to get out of your chair or even to walk.

Another effect of becoming older and a lack of weight training is osteoporosis which is essentially where your bones become less dense and more brittle. The risk here is you are more likely to experience fractures. Common places are in the hip, the spine and the wrist.

You can avoid or more likely reduce the effects and chances of suffering badly with sarcopenia and osteoporosis by weight training now. Remember however above I mentioned that in order to at least maintain muscle mass as someone over 50, you need to train that area 2-3 times per week. Therefore the answer to how often you should weight train is exactly that, personally I would always suggest at least 3 times and to make it easy to ensure you hit all areas I would focus on full body movements.

Not got time? I can hear you already saying that, or thinking that…

Well here is something to think about…

If you think you haven’t got time now, you are simply accepting the possible repercussions of your choice to not prioritise weight training.

Your ability to continue to move around freely and safely as you get older I would imagine is high up on your desires. You would like to be able to play with your grandkids and not require help to get out of your chair later on in life… We all want that right?

As I mentioned above I am not trying to sell you the benefits of why you should weight train in this blog. I want to tell you what might happen if you don’t. If you can’t leverage the worry of what might happen later in life to get you to do it now then I’m not sure what would motivate you.

Forget the aesthetics for a minute and think about your long-term health…

Weight Training for the win!

If you would like to know more about weight training or if you are interested in hiring me to look after your training, send me an email with the word ‘BLOG’ so I know it’s from here.

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