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Put on Some Weight for the Holidays

As these stressful and overindulgent holidays approach, turn to resistance training for weight management, stress reduction and improved overall health.

| November/December 2017

  • If you want to retain strength and balance, avoid muscle loss and reduce stress, resistance training is for you.
    Photo by iStock/ferrantraite
  • Free weights enable you to customize exercises to your specific body.
    Photo by iStock/adamkaz
  • Weight-lifting allows you to continue to add weight to your workout as you grow stronger, but body-weight exercises require no equipment or memberships.
    Photo by iStock/mmjimenez
  • It's crucial to use a weight level that allows you to maintain proper form throughout every rep.
    Photo by iStock/gradyreese
  • Keeping muscles toned helps make everyday activities easier.
    Photo by iStock/Halfpoint

It wasn’t an energy bar or power drink that propelled me up the steep south rim of the Grand Canyon. It was barbells. One squat, lunge and deadlift at a time, I had built the glutes, legs and confidence I needed to achieve my bucket-list goal of doing the challenging 24-mile hike from the north rim of the Grand Canyon to the south.

When we think of weight-lifting, the first thing that pops into many people’s heads may be a pumped-up bodybuilder with biceps the size of hams. But that image is outdated in the world of modern fitness knowledge. “Strength training gets a bad rap,” says Shawn M. Arent, Ph.D., director of the Center for Health & Human Performance at Rutgers University, who has spent his career studying the impact of resistance training on mental and physical health. “People are afraid they will get big and bulky. But it’s not as easy as you think to put on that much muscle.”

Resistance training isn’t just for folks who want to look like superheroes. It’s for everyone, whether your goal is to run that 5K, look better in your jeans, or improve your overall health. Bulking up to the level of bodybuilders requires much more than weight-lifting — it involves a complex program of diet, exercise and often supplements. The average person is not going to transform into a bodybuilder without putting in a lot of specific effort toward that goal.

However, if your goal is to maintain a trim waistline; retain your strength and balance as you age; avoid weakening bones and muscle loss; and reduce stress, resistance training may be for you.

So why do resistance training? “I would answer that with a second question: Why not? There are so many benefits,” says Arent, a fellow with the American College of Sports Medicine and with the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Here are a few.

Reverse Muscle Loss

Lots of things can cause our bodies to lose muscle mass, Arent says. Aging is one prime culprit: After age 30, physically inactive people begin losing as much as 3 to 5 percent of their muscle mass each decade. But even those of us who are active can experience muscle loss. Thankfully, we have a silver bullet: a dumbbell.

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