In many ways, fitness/ strength and conditioning have changed by leaps and bounds since the early days of Jack LaLanne, the founder of modern American physical fitness. When LaLanne first opened a health spa in 1936, what we now call a gym, he was called anything but smart. “People thought I was a charlatan and a nut,” he remembered. “The doctors were against me — they said that working out with weights would give people heart attacks, and they would lose their sex drive.” We now know how wrong those doctors were. I would like to think that 80 years later the world’s views have changed enough that myths like these have disappeared but alas, they have all but disappeared. Some myths, like the two above, have slowly faded with only a hint of their existence, while others, like the three below, manifest their ugly heads for the fitness world to deal with like a pimple on prom night.
1. Weightlifting will stunt my child’s growth
I get this comment from parents all the time, and I completely understand the concern. Injuries to children’s growth plates are serious and can lead to stunted growth, but children are more likely to injure themselves playing sports where the likelihood of a collision is high. In fact, growth plate injuries related to the weight room are “primarily attributed to the misuse of equipment, inappropriate weight, improper technique, or lack of qualified adult supervision.” As the benefits and popularity of weightlifting have increased, so have studies on weight lifting in younger populations.
Earlier studies on effects of weight lifting in children focused on athletes in sports where athletes are generally short, i.e. gymnastics, competitive dance, so believing that weightlifting will create small children is like saying basketball will make children tall! More recent studies have shown that weight lifting in younger populations may promote bone growth and bone density, and protect those ever important growth plates!
2. Women who lift weights will begin to look like a man
I’ve been in fitness/ strength and conditioning for over 12 years and have come across women of all ages and backgrounds that lift, and lift heavy. Some even more than me! The vast majority of those women never came close to looking like or having the build of a man. Those that did have been training for years and supplementing with substances that alter their hormone levels, mainly testosterone. Testosterone is the primary male hormone and women’s T- levels are much lower than men, at roughly 5 percent. A lot of companies that produce fitness products or literature geared to women make a living convincing you that lifting heavy weight is bad. The fact is, if you want to tone, strengthen, flatten, feel better, or do more, you need to lift weights. The only time you pick up something heavy shouldn’t be when you carry your briefcase, groceries, or child. Women are much more likely to suffer from osteoporosis than men and studies have shown that weightlifting can promote bone density improvement.
3. I’m too old to starting working out
As long as we have to get out of bed, shop for groceries, walk, carry, push/ pull, then we can and should exercise. We tend to think that exercise is only for enhancing athletic performance or aesthetic purposes, but the most important reasons to exercise is to make everyday activities safer, easier, and to be healthier. Benefits for older adults include improvements in blood pressure, lipid profile, diabetes, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and neurocognitive function. In fact, many of the above issues, and others associated with aging like falling and weakness, are not aging issues. These are issues caused by inactivity. Only one in four older adults exercise regularly, so it’s easy to see why we associate age with weakness or health, but it’s never too late to start.