Many years ago when I was in my late teens/early 20’s, I was an avid runner who would hit the pavement or trails most days for at least an hour or more. The endorphin rush “runner’s high” that eventually kicked in became an addiction…as did my checking the weight scale daily to see how many pounds I’d lost in those strenuous workouts. At the time, I thought I was being so incredibly healthy and disciplined.
Years later, I developed feet, knee, hip and upper back pain. And often on really hot days, I’d get a pounding headache and sometimes nausea from being overheated. Not fun.
After finally realizing that pain while exercising wasn’t enjoyable nor preferable anymore, I discovered step and floor aerobics with some muscle strengthening exercises on DVD’s. Remember those?? I fell in love with these workouts! Truthfully, I was far more interested in the choreography/dance routines and the heart pumping cardiovascular portions of the workouts and would quickly rush through any pushups, arm exercises and abdominal crunches.
I continued these for many, many years gradually increasing the intensity over time. Not only did this keep me healthy and in shape, I noticed the muscles throughout my body were becoming stronger. No more injury pain like with running. This felt (and looked) very empowering!
Fast forward to these last few recent years and I have discovered yet another passion. Strength training with heavier hand weights (dumbbells) and heavier barbell weights (assuming gyms are open)! Never in a million years did I expect to love this form of exercise. While I still enjoy a heart pounding cardiovascular workout sometimes, the bulk (pun intended) of my workouts are focused on muscle building and strengthening.
And guess what?
My entire body from head to toe likes it too! Here’s what I’ve realized over the last few years about my body and health since embracing more strength training workouts:
- Obviously muscles are stronger, more enhanced and solid. For a female over 40….pretty awesome!
- My metabolism is much more efficient at burning fat and calories. Stronger muscles = Fat burning. Always, always welcomed!
- My appetite has increased: This means I get hungrier sooner after meals. Another snack/meal? Yes please!
- My energy is much greater and more sustainable throughout the day. Less afternoon crashes – Yay!
- My mental clarity and cognitive ability to tackle many projects is better. Not like a 20 or 30 something year old (unfortunately) but still pretty good!
- I fall asleep sooner. Muscle strengthening works the body to point of fatigue. And at bedtime, that’s a positive win.
- Less injuries (most of the time). Stronger muscles, stronger core/back/abs, stronger bones = creates an invincible, powerful piece of human machinery!
Now from a deeper, medical perspective, here are some additional health advantages of consistent muscle strengthening exercises and how it influences your heart as well as the brain:
- Lowered or normalized blood pressure.
- Regulated and reduced heart rate and normalized heart rhythm.
- Healthier, athletic, mightily functioning heart.
- Stronger heart muscles to pump blood to the entire body. The heart is comprised of cardiac muscle, among many other key components.
- Hormones like Human Growth Hormone, Testosterone and Thyroid rise substantially. And this means greater energy, better metabolism and fat burning.
- Reduced body fat, stronger muscles (lean body mass) and in some cases lowered body weight means less stress on the heart.
- Reduced risk of heart attack and stroke, congestive heart failure, cardiomyopathy.
- Increased production of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, both which can improve mood, help with concentration, feel more optimistic and reduce depression risk.
- When your brain is feeling happy, peaceful, hopeful, focused and depression is at a far distance, the heart is significantly less stressed and gratefully responds with healthy, balanced contentment. (For more on heart/brain communication, visit HeartMath.org.)
- Add in other essential ingredients like human love, connection, community, support, friendship, collaboration, empathy, kindness and forgiveness and you’ve got yourself a powerful, generous heart that will relentlessly give you many, many years during your lifetime. 🙂
Need help, guidance, support, recommendations, inspiration on how to achieve a healthier, stronger, balanced body?
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To Your Health,