Building up your strength by using weights, elastic bands or using your own body weight, also known as resistance training, can be an effective way of preventing and treating chronic diseases.
"Resistance training is the bastard child of physical activity," Joseph T. Ciccolo, co-editor of a new book, Resistance Training for the Prevention and Treatment of Chronic Disease (Taylor and Francis Group), said.
"It's too often thought of as an add-on" to aerobic exercise, and its benefits are less widely recognized.
Ciccolo, an Assistant Professor of Applied Physiology at Teachers College, Columbia University and director of TC's Applied Exercise Psychology Laboratory; and William J. Kraemer of the University of Connecticut, co-edited the book, a review of existing research in the field (much of it quite new) and a plea for more scholars to study the potential of resistance training and more health care providers to recommend it.
They write that strength training is highly valuable for treating a dozen major chronic conditions - including cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson's, and depression and anxiety.
For example, as he and Kraemer point out in their introduction, the US Department of Health and Human Services' physical activity guidelines, issued in 2008, recommend weekly amounts of moderate or vigorous aerobic exercises and "muscle-strengthening activities" at least twice a week, as these "provide additional health benefits."
Perhaps partly as a result of this marked preference among experts for aerobic exercise, according to the 2011 National Health Information Survey (NHIS), 48.4 percent of American adults met the guidelines for aerobic activity - hardly an encouraging number, but far better than the mere 24.1 percent who met the guidelines for resistance training and the 20.6 percent who met the guidelines for both.