An old comic book ad depicts a bully on the beach pushing a skinny man in front of his novia. A true-life experience for Angelo Siciliano, aka Charles Atlas, he went from “scrawny weakling” to the most popular muscleman of his day using Dynamic-Tension®, a program he developed that pits muscle against muscle. His inspiration? Watching lions face off in the zoo.
Founded in 1929, Charles Atlas Ltd. continues to market a fitness program, but being scrawny is the least of our concerns in today’s national health consciousness. And as we learn more about the benefits, strength training is no longer just for the Schwarzeneggers of the world.
Bennies, stats, and common myths
Strength training is not just about creating a muscular physique. It builds bone mass, lowers cholesterol, improves cardiac and joint functions, and increases metabolism. This is just the short list.
In a 2007 study published in the International Journal of Medical Sciences, strength training was shown to be an effective component of health care for high-risk populations with type 2 diabetes – yes, Hispanics included. Similar research conducted at Tufts University showed that even older Latino adults (ages 58 to 74) with type 2 diabetes benefit from strength training.
Strongly linked to diabetes is obesity, which contributes to approximately 55 percent of type 2 diabetes cases. According to the National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA), Hispanics are 1.5 times more likely to get diabetes as non-Hispanic whites and have a 40-percent higher death rate related to the disease. Their panzas are also growing: Hispanics ages 20-74, male and female, are more overweight – and more obese – than non-Hispanic whites, especially women.
But to be gordito implies healthy and wealthy, ¿qué no? This is a common cultural mindset perpetuated by the well-intended madres, tías and abuelitas who insist you eat more papas. It’s also a delusion to think that if you’re physical at work or with house chores, it compensates for actual exercise. By the way: bodybuilding, weightlifting, or powerlifting are sports, not exercise. Strength training is exercise to keep you strong and healthy.
And it’s beneficial for just about everyone, regardless of ethnic background. It reduces the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, diabetes and obesity; it contributes to your mental well-being and reduces some of the effects of aging (and who doesn’t want that?). It also relieves stress and anxiety and increases your energy and endurance. It even helps you sleep better.
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