So you spend your spare time in the gym, trying to get bigger. You spend hour after hour straining every fiber and sinew in search of that elusive pump to inspire shirt stretching growth, strip fat, and thrust veins closer to the surface. But, why?
Truth be told, for most of us, it’s the iron bug that drives us to continuously devote our lives to straining and honing our bodies. We may have started lifting to improve our physiques, gain more confidence, excel at sport… attract members of the opposite sex… but now it’s just the love of the weight room and the buzz of those final, hypertrophy stimulating sets that keeps us going, week in, week out.
Aside from the aesthetic boost, the physical benefits of lifting weights are well known.
The Psychological Benefits of the Iron Bug…
Alongside the physical plus points, there are a whole host of psychological reasons to hit the gym. The first is an obvious one. If you feel better physically, you’re going to feel better mentally. Having the energy to power through your day is a great feeling. While those around you are flagging and complaining, you still feel as perky as the second you lifted your head from the pillow. This makes you more likely to complete your tasks for the day. Why put things off when you have the energy and drive to get them done? Tearing up that completed to do list and tossing it in the bin is one of the best feelings you can have.
Getting things done and having your life in order is a great stress reliever. Everyone needs time to kick back and relax, but many just don’t make it. Stress is a product of unfulfillment, and it can lead to everything from ulcers to aneurysms to heart attacks. It’s a real killer, and many don’t realize until it’s too late.
Getting a big workout done and hitting the showers gives a massive sense of achievement, and it never gets old. No matter how many big deadlift sessions you get under your belt, that post-workout endorphin rush is just heavenly. You’re tired, and you ache, but the smile is always there. You feel like you can take on the world… right after a good sleep.
And there’s another excellent health benefit of weight training, better sleep. Getting an adequate amount of good quality shut-eye is hugely important for both physical and mental health. During sleep you recover and grow, but it is also when your mind works things through and files all of those individual thoughts, worries, and puzzles into their rightful place.
Ever say “I’ll sleep on it”? Well, it turns out it’s truer than you might think.
Psychiatrists generally agree that, during healthy, deep sleep, the mind makes sense of problems and essentially works like a filing system, putting things into perspective. In fact, scientists have shown that without this deep sleep, we would literally come apart at the seams. An ordered mind is a more capable mind. Being able to think clearly improves the outcome of every task you throw at your brain, whether it be driving or an astrophysics assignment.
Taking Sheer Sleep can enhance the quality of your slumber by gently working with the body to promote a healthy sleeping pattern. Actually containing melatonin, the sleep hormone, Sheer Sleep is especially useful for those who work nights.
By reducing stress hormones and raising endorphins, weight training can also help in the prevention and even treatment of depression. The social aspect of working out is excellent forging new friendships that are important for confidence and happiness.
Now, back to sex again. Working out helps to regulate the sex hormones, particularly testosterone. Testosterone is an extremely potent little beast inspiring confidence, vitality, healthy sleeping patterns, focus, and drive. But, while testosterone has potent psychological effects, it is essentially a physical substance, so…
Where Mind and Body Meet
Both the mind and body are extremely powerful entities, capable of affecting each other far more significantly than many people realize.
Our thoughts and feelings can have drastic effects on blood chemistry and organ functions, leading to both positive and negative changes. Money worries can lead to gastrointestinal problems that impair digestion, as well as elevated stress hormones leading to muscle wastage.
Similarly, the physical activities we indulge in can alter hormones and many other systems, which can produce potent psychological modification. If we overtrain and push our bodies into the red, our mood drops, and we lose motivation and focus.
So, where exactly do the mind and body meet? Where does the physical world that we can see and relate to on a real and solid level, come face to face with our internal realities?
Well, the answer is simple. They meet in the tissues of the brain itself.
This complex system of tissues and electrical activity is our central computer, Without it we are nothing. If our brain stops, we stop; if our brain slows down, we slow down. Every sensation we feel, every thought we experience, every sight we see, are all processed by the most advanced clump of tissue on the planet, the human brain.
Probably the biggest threat to brain health comes not from our thoughts, or even from the vast network of nerves that surrounds and permeates it, but from our cardiovascular system.
A sedentary existence and poor diet, as well as other unhealthy lifestyle choices, causes the arteries to stiffen over time. This stiffening causes an increase in pulsatile pressure, leading to a chiseling effect at the target organs, including the brain.
This chiseling eventually breaks down the tiny capillaries and slowly damages the associated tissues. For the brain, this means microscopic pieces of vital brain matter are killed, permanently. It only takes a slight increase in blood pressure and arterial stiffness to set this chain of events in motion. As we get older, we become more susceptible to this, but it can begin at a surprisingly young age.
Weight training helps regulate blood pressure, as well as giving the arteries a good workout, helping keep them supple and healthy.
In fact, a new study has shown that lifting weights as little as twice per week can drastically lower the progression of white matter lesions in the brain, a leading product of aging.
Breakdown of the brain tissue leads to one of the most common psychological symptoms of old age, memory loss, and eventually chronic dementia for many. The knock on effect of progressing dementia is a gradual decline in physical health, generally caused by falling motivation, coherence, and confidence, eventually leading to a total lack of mobility in many cases. Mobility is vitally important for older people, to maintain muscular strength, bone density, and cardiovascular health.
So, lifting weights helps you lead a long, healthy, happy, and fulfilling life. The way you treat your body today is setting the foundation for the decades to come. Look after your body and you are looking after your brain. With all of the experiences that life has to offer, don’t grow old and forgetful, grow old and wise.