When it comes to healthy aging and exercise, most people think of jogging, endless steps on the elliptical, or hopping on a stationary bike and riding to nowhere. But if cardio is all you’re doing, you’re missing out on a critical component for healthy aging and disease prevention: weight training.
Weight training stimulates increased production and recruitment of key anabolic hormones – namely human growth hormone (HGH), testosterone, and DHEA – that are essential for optimal aging processes and health.
Who’s Doing What at the Gym
Take a look around when you go to the gym: Typically, the older folks are the ones doing most of the cardio, while the younger people are the ones in the weight room pumping iron. If you’re becoming one of the cardio only people, I’ll let you in on a little secret: if you want a better body as you age, and better health overall, you should do the opposite! As you age, weight training becomes more, not less, important.
Here’s Why: The Hormonal Effect of Exercise
Cardio, for the most part, is aerobic exercise, which means it requires oxygen to get done. But weight training, especially heavier weight training, is largely anaerobic, meaning it requires less oxygen. When you do anaerobic exercise, your body uses certain types of muscle fibers not used during aerobic exercise. These muscles fibers (called “fast twitch” and “super-fast twitch” fibers), once activated, kickstart something known as “the hormonal effect of exercise,” through which your hormones are assisting you at a much higher level than in aerobic exercise. Think of the hormonal effect of exercise as your body being “in the zone.” Once it gets there, you’re building muscle and burning fat at a rate nine times higher than with aerobic exercise alone.
How to Maximize the Hormonal Effect: Compound Exercise
The best way to maximize this hormonal effect of exercise is by doing compound exercises, or exercises that use multiple joints and have multiple movements, as opposed to simple non-compound exercises. To envision the difference between the two, picture a squat – a compound exercise in which the muscles in your thighs, butt, calves, and core are working – versus a non-compound exercise like a bicep curl on a machine, where you’re only isolating one muscle in a single vector motion. Compound exercises maximize the hormonal cascade of events in your body, so you’ll build lean body mass and burn fat much faster.
And that’s not their only value: Doing strength training in higher proportion to cardio improves your balance and posture, so you’re more likely to stand tall without that slumped-over look as you get older. And creating muscles also aids skin resilience and gives a fuller, more youthful look.
I’ll often give my clients exercise plans that help them work from the inside out, beginning with core muscles and stability training. Then I’ll move them up to training using only the resistance of their own bodies. This busts a common misconception: that you need a gym membership for your weights. You don’t have to go to the gym to do weight training! Weight training doesn’t necessarily mean using dumbbells and barbells; your own body weight can supply enough resistance for a rigorous workout. In other words, there’s nothing -no gym membership or commute to a fitness center – between you and getting started!
Have Hormones on Board
You will only reap the benefits of weight lifting and the hormonal effect of exercise if you have the right hormones at the right levels on board in the first place. So be sure your hormones are optimized to really see the results you want.
To set up a plan that has you on the right track to hormone optimization and healthy aging, call The Body Well today at (323) 874-9355 and schedule an appointment. Or email us at email@example.com.
is the Director of Intelligent Physical Fitness at The Body Well, where he assesses patients’ fitness needs and creates individualized exercise plans.
Chris has a background in Personal Training and is a specialist in the hormonal response to exercise.