If you want to be a healthy human, learn how to lift

We’ve heard it time and time again from our fit friends, giving out unsolicited advice on how to ‘turn our lives around’:

You should work out if you want to feel better.

Start hitting the gym.

Just start exercising, you’ll feel great!

This is all sounds nice and idealistic, and we’ll definitely get around to it, but…

Let me just sleep in a little bit longer, and…

I swear I’ll start when it gets warmer outside, and…

I’m just so tired when I get home from work, maybe I’ll pick it up when my schedule eases up, etc., etc.

For the average person, developing consistent exercise habits is pretty difficult. Not only is the motivation for committing to such a strenuous endeavor hard to come by, but knowing what kind of exercise to actually do is a battle in and of itself.

Should I run two miles three times a week? Maybe do 100 pushups every night before bed? Will doing curls increase my effectiveness talking to random women at bars?  And sweet grandmother’s spatula, I don’t even know what half the machines at this gym are supposed to do. Please, all powerful lord of GAINZ, help me find the path of swole!

So yeah… it’s confusing.

Fortunately, as with all confusing issues, the government has an answer. Sort of.

The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends that, at the very least, the average active adult should do:

Okay. Walking seems easy enough. But “muscle strengthening activities?” What’s that all about?

Well, it’s pretty much what it sounds like. Lifting weights is probably the most straightforward way to go about this*.

Here’s the big takeaway: based on modern day knowledge, lifting weights is as basic to maintaining your health as walking.

Lifting weights is also quite difficult to learn how to do correctly.

With the wealth of knowledge available online, you can get a good head start. Unfortunately, if you are self-taught you are more likely to ingrain habits of performing exercises incorrectly because no one is there to watch and correct you. Technique, posture, and form are a bit difficult to monitor on your own while you are simultaneously exerting yourself.

Ideally, it’s best to start training with someone guiding you along. For those who have never lifted before, I recommend doing at least 3-5 sessions with a trainer.

Besides personal trainers, Crossfit gyms**, yoga studios, and barre studios are some of the outlets that can provide you with an opportunity to receive direct instruction and feedback on muscle strengthening exercises.

Perhaps the largest hurdle for those individuals interested in training is the pricetag. It can be quite expensive.

But ask yourself this:

Would you rather form lifelong habits of lifting/moving incorrectly OR

Make a small investment up front and gain knowledge applicable to basic maintenance of health for your entire life?

Healthy habits formed from a young age will increase your longevity and ability to function as a human well into old age. People who are physically active generally live longer and have a lower risk for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, some cancers, and obesity1 .Translation: you’ll live to see your kids grow up, have grandkids, be able to play with those grandkids, and maybe even see their kids.

The benefits of exercising (especially lifting) extend into every aspect of life, physically and mentally. You will feel increased energy, more confidence, and more empowerment. You will be better at your job, more present for your friends and family, and happier.

There is only ONE thing we are forced to take with us our entire lives. It’s not our house, our car, or even our friends. It’s our body. So why not learn how to maintain that body correctly from someone who already knows how to do it?

1 From 2014 State Indicator Report on Physical Activity
* Yoga and other bodyweight exercises can also strengthen your muscle groups.
**Obviously, the quality/safety of each Crossfit gym is variable depending on the actual trainer. Same goes for other types of exercise studios.
Title photo credit: flickr