America doesn’t have an “over-fat” problem. America has an “under-muscled” problem. You can be overweight, but if you carry enough muscle, you can still be healthy. Over the past several decades, mainstream health experts have sold us a bill of goods by vigorously promoting aerobic exercise as the best activity. Despite that, we are a nation of fat and physically weak people. Aerobic exercise not only has a dismal track record at producing fat loss, it has been shown to cause fat gain, muscle loss, and hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis).
Strength training—also known as weightlifting or resistance training—has distinct advantages over aerobic exercise when it comes to improving health. Strength training has a much greater ability to burn fat, build muscle mass, and improve strength. Studies have shown that strength is a far more accurate predictor of longevity and quality of life as you age compared to aerobic capacity (cardiopulmonary fitness). Furthermore, strength training, done correctly, dramatically increases aerobic capacity.
Besides a smaller waist and less body fat, greater muscle mass and strength translates to less cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. And while aerobic exercise increases aerobic capacity, it does almost nothing to combat two hallmarks of aging: sarcopenia (loss of muscle) and osteoporosis (loss of bone density). Strength training can halt and reverse sarcopenia and osteoporosis, and can stop older adults from becoming frail and can keep them independent and out of nursing homes. Furthermore, recent studies have shown that strength training promotes cognitive and functional brain plasticity, improves memory, and reduces the risk of dementia.
Everyone should exercise with strength in mind. Whether you are young or old, strength training has far more to offer than any other exercise. There’s simply no better way to fight obesity, diabetes, cancer, dementia, and frailty, and to impart self-confidence and get an attractive physique. If you’re not getting the results you want from your aerobic exercise, you should take up strength training instead.
Published October 13, 2017 by Dr. Daniel Thomas, DO, MS