It’s my favorite time of the year. It’s still summer, but the monsoons have brought delightful relief and cool nights. If you’re like me, you’ve spent most of the last few months outside biking, hiking and running, and you’re probably in pretty good shape after all that fun.
But with the changing of the seasons comes a change in activities and the challenge of how to maintain that fitness through the winter, especially when the holidays arrive.
We Flagstaff folk tend to be a pretty healthy bunch, but even we fall prey to the slow march of time, the slowing of our metabolism, and the inevitable creaks and moans in our joints. Often, we try to fight the battle of the bulge with increased cardio activities and exercise. However, (sadly) as we age, these efforts are less effective than they once were.
As we age, our metabolic rate slows down. We tend to lose muscle mass and gain body fat – a metabolic double-whammy. Why is it a double-whammy? Muscle is metabolically ACTIVE, which means muscle actually burns calories when you’re not doing anything. Fat is NOT very metabolically active, so it just sits there, taking up space, barely burning any calories at all. As we age, we need fewer calories to run our body and we’ve begun to lose what calorie-burning muscle we used to have.
Men, I hate to break the news to you, but you tend to experience a greater loss of muscle mass than women. This may have to do with the fact that men already have a relatively greater muscle mass to start with. Nonetheless, men lose that calorie-burning muscle, too.
An excellent way to maintain your strength and muscle mass, keep those joints healthy and strong and stave off those unwanted pounds is through resistance training (not to be confused with a resistance to training)! Simply put, resistance training is moving your body against resistance, such as moving just your body weight against the resistance of gravity, or using additional weight for greater resistance (weight training/lifting). Why is resistance/weight training so effective?
Resistance training is the best way to regain muscle mass. Resistance training is anaerobic exercise that is done in a short timeframe, is intense and burns lots of calories during the session; however, resistance training can’t be done or maintained for long periods of time, which often makes people think it’s not a good way to lose weight or lose fat. Fortunately, just the opposite is true: the calorie-burning effects last long after you set down the weights.
Immediately following a weightlifting or resistance-training session, the body has to replenish the energy consumed and repair the muscles. This means a person is burning calories (and fat) for several hours afterward. In addition to the immediate feel-good result, you are building muscle, which further boosts your metabolism.
Studies show that resistance training for as little as 23 minutes a day, three times a week for 10 weeks (that’s right around Thanksgiving!) will increase your lean body weight (weight due to muscle, not fat) and reduce abdominal fat. Want to be ahead of the curve when that pumpkin pie rolls around? Lift weights!
Resistance training also improves leg strength and walking endurance, important components of physical function. Want to be a faster biker or stronger hiker next summer? Lift weights! Want to ski the bumps better this winter? Lift weights!
Is there a history of diabetes in your family, or has your doctor said you are pre-diabetic? Lift weights!
For those who have insulin resistance (a precursor to diabetes), resistance training increases the effectiveness of insulin, helping delay or prevent the onset of diabetes.
And for the women who might be thinking, “I don’t want to be bulky, I just want to look toned.” Trust me, you won’t get bulky. Women don’t have sufficient amounts of testosterone to build huge muscles, but we do have enough to build shapely legs, glutes and some pretty impressive guns. The casual female weight lifter will not “look like Arnold,” but she can sure lift like him!
So, as the summer draws to an end, consider incorporating resistance training into your exercise regimen. Your joints will thank you, your waistline will thank you and I challenge you to pass a mirror without posing for a flexing selfie! FBN
By Michelle Grua, M.D.
Michelle Grua, M.D., is a board-certified anesthesiologist with Forest Country Anesthesia. Dr. Grua specializes in pediatric sedation, and also cares for surgical patients who need any level of anesthesia or sedation – from local anesthetic to regional anesthesia such as a spinal or epidural to full or general sedation. She and her family made Flagstaff their home in 1999. When she is not working, her interests include raising her three children; playing guitar and writing her own songs; running every river possible; part-time river guide in the Grand Canyon; teaching Wilderness First Responder courses; and volunteering for the Whale Foundation, a non-profit group dedicated to providing free or low-cost mental healthcare to Grand Canyon river guides. In her free time, she enjoys yoga, mountain biking, writing and quilting.
To learn more about Dr. Grua and Forest Country Anesthesia, visit ForestCountryAnesthesia.com or call 928-773-2505.